Thursday, November 4, 2010

Stories in Stone

When I was in Boston last September, I stumbled upon the book "Stories in Stone" by David Williams at the Harvard Co-op bookstone. I spent a few hours reading it in the store, pouring over the first chapter, "The ugliest rock ever quarried." I bought the book immediatly after I realized that where I was sitting was within walking distance of one of the author's favorite examples of brownstone. I wandered over to the Harvard Campus (pronounced Haaaahhhhhvard) where I wandered the historical university's angular paths until I found Harvard Hall.
Sandwiched between some brick and granitic blocks was this atrocious to some, beautiful to others, stone. I stared at it intently, thinking of the processes that shaped it. Where I am right now does not allow me to have my copy of "Stories in Stone" handy. Just go buy it. It's a great read.

The next day, I went around Boston with my friend Lindsay, who I was staying with, and explored. She knew of my nerdy by nature attitude and wanted to take me to the Mapparium, a place that she described very vaguely since she had never visited it. This was on a Sunday, and after some touring, we decided to head over there in the afternoon. Unfortunately, we go there too late to see the exhibit (sunday after 4pm, understandable). Fortunatly, I had a chance to discover my own "story in stone."
Next to the Mapparium is the First Christian Science Church, also known as "The Mother Church." The church was either recently re-built or restored, because Lindsey had said it was always covered in scaffolding. Walking around the building, I noticed something familiar in one of the front columns. Fenestrae Bryozoa! I spent last spring break in the Great Basin looking at carbonates, and between all of the crinoid "cheerios" were some wonderful examples of what I was staring at in this column! I was so excited! I started looking around the columns and noticing flow indicators, the same "cheerio" neighbors I saw in the great basin and discrete paleosurfaces.

After I returned home to California, I was so amped on my unrban geology in Boston, that I felt I had to tell the author my story. I e-mailed David Williams and told him my story of finding his book, exploring Harvard then finding the columns. Here was his response.

"Greetings from Seattle. Thanks kindly for your engaging and thoughtful note. It made my day! I can relate to many of your experiences: geeking out on stone in front of somewhat skeptical friends, seeking out good geology books, and seeking out good bookstores. I think that the stone you saw at Ms. Eddy's maparium is the Salem Limestone."

I have to admit, I am now taking the time to look up the Salem Limestone 3 months after I e-mailed Mr. Williams. Now, here is my own story in stone. The Salem Limestone (also called the Indiana Limestone) is a grainstone quarried out of Indiana represents a Missisippian shallow marine environment. The depositional environment was a calm one, with skeletons relatively intact and ooid grains. The little critters common in the Salem Limestone include bryzoa, echoniderms and Endothyra (aka. Forams). All in all, it's a critterstone!

The Limestone band trends across Monroe and Lawrence counties in Indiana. Quarrying began in 1827 at the Richard Gilbert Quarry. During the 1800's, Salem limestone was mostly used for local building. In ths 1900's the Salem Limestone dominated 1/3 of the limestone market in the United States. Because the Salem limestone is a freestone (aka, no preferential breaking) it can be cut to many different sizes and even turned on a lathe. The columns at the Mother Church were continuous and HUGE. That explains that!

Buildings like the Empire State Building and the Holocaust Memorial in DC area adorned with the Salem/Indiana Limestone.

Good stuff. I thank the weather in San Francisco for allowing my flight to be delayed and giving me time to work on this post.