Geology

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Entry Category: Geology

Abernathy Spring

Abernathy Spring is a mineral spring located in Polk County, 2.8 km (1.75 mi.) east of the unincorporated community of Big Fork on the north side of State Highway 8. Elevation is 335 meters (1,099 ft.). The spring was owned by Rufus J. Abernathy (1856–1932), who resided at Big Fork and is buried at the Pleasant Grove Cemetery just outside of town and east of the spring. Water from the spring drains into adjacent Big Fork Creek (a tributary of the Ouachita River) and, at one time, was used for domestic purposes, such as for water supply and to keep food cold. There are actually two springs at this location—the primary one is a 75 cm (29.5 in.) diameter galvanized …

Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS)

The Arkansas Geological Survey (AGS), formerly the Arkansas Geological Commission (AGC), is a division of the Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment (ADEE) charged with the investigation of the geology, geologic processes, and geologic resources of the state. It is further charged to encourage the effective management and utilization of the various mineral, fossil-fuel, and water resources with proper consideration of the potential environmental impacts of that activity. The Geological Survey of Arkansas was first established in 1857 with engagement of David Dale Owen as state geologist. He was funded for three years and was only able to publish part of his findings. Owen ultimately published another report in 1860 just a few days before he died. His training in geology …

Arkansite

Arkansite—a mineral that exists in ten U.S. states and eleven countries—is actually brookite, the rarest of the three polymorphs (minerals containing the same chemistry but different internal structures) of titanium oxide. All three polymorphs—brookite, rutile, and anatase—are found at Magnet Cove (Hot Spring County). The brookite crystals found at Magnet Cove are sharp, black, and lustrous as opposed to the transparent or translucent brown/black crystals found elsewhere. This results from the substitution of varying amounts of iron and niobium for titanium in the structure. Charles Shepard (1804–1886) laid claim to the discovery of arkansite in a report he published in 1846. He named the “new” mineral arkansite after the state where the specimen he examined had been found. When a …

Branner, John Casper

John Casper Branner began serving as state geologist for the Arkansas Geological Survey on June 24, 1887, and served in that capacity until the state legislature abolished the position on March 16, 1893. Branner’s tenure was noted for a high standard of professionalism, and he made significant contributions to the economic and geologic resources of Arkansas that lasted for decades. John Branner was born in New Market, Tennessee, on July 4, 1850, to Michael T. Branner, who was a farmer, and Elsie Baker Branner. Educated in the local schools, Branner was an avid reader and developed a deep interest in the natural features of the Tennessee countryside. He enrolled at Maryville College, near Knoxville, Tennessee, but in 1870, after only …

Bromine

Bromine (chemical symbol Br) is a highly corrosive, reddish-brown, volatile element found in liquid form. Bromine—along with fluorine, chlorine, and iodine—is part of a family of elements known as the halogens. Arkansas ranks first in the world in the production of bromine, the basis for many widely used chemical compounds. Bromine, along with petroleum and natural gas, is one of the top three minerals produced in Arkansas. The West Gulf Coastal Plain encompasses most of southern Arkansas. During the Paleozoic era (543 to 248 million years ago), this natural division was covered by seawater. Bromine, which occurs naturally in seawater, was extracted from the water by seaweed and plankton. As these organisms decomposed during the Jurassic period (206 to 144 …

Busey, Samuel Thompson

Samuel Thompson Busey was a 1920s oil speculator and promoter of the Arkansas oil industry. While originally trained as a physician, he later became a geologist and completed the famed “Discovery Well,” or Busey No. 1 Well, outside El Dorado (Union County) in 1921. Busey’s efforts helped usher in the south Arkansas oil boom of the 1920s. Samuel Busey was born in Champaign County, Illinois, on February 10, 1867, and was the fifth of six children of John Simpson Busey and the former Caroline Marie Snyder. Busey came from a family of adventurers and community activists. His father was a farmer until 1845, when he left farming to travel across the United States. His father then took over his own …

Fossils

Fossils are the remains of animals and plants that have been preserved in the earth’s crust. They can consist of the remains of invertebrates (animals without a backbone) or vertebrates (animals with a backbone). The majority of fossils in the fossil record, and from Arkansas, are invertebrate remains. Fossils are found mostly in sedimentary rocks, as compared to igneous and metamorphic rocks, and can form in a variety of ways. Animals living in the water column in the ocean die, and their shells or hard parts sink to the bottom of the seafloor and become preserved in sediments that later may lithify, or change to rock. Other animals crawl on the seafloor through sand and silt or burrow into the …

Huddleston, John Wesley

John Wesley Huddleston is best known as a struggling farmer who found two diamonds on the surface of his field near Murfreesboro (Pike County) in August 1906 and made himself and his state famous. Soon after the discovery, he was recognized as the first person outside South Africa to find diamonds at an original volcanic source. In the process, he also became the controversial subject of numerous folk tales. A native of Pike County, John Huddleston was born in 1862 to David Fielding Huddleston and America White Huddleston. He had seven siblings before his mother’s death in the early 1870s and gained three step-sisters after his father’s remarriage to Francis Carey. In 1886, Huddleston wed Sarah A. Keys, the mother …

Miser, Hugh Dinsmore

Hugh Dinsmore Miser was a geologist who spent much of his career with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). Over the course of his career, he produced geologic maps of large parts of many states and oversaw investigations of mineral deposits critical to the national World War II efforts. Hugh Miser was born in Pea Ridge (Benton County) on December 18, 1884. He was the third child of Jordan Stanford Miser, a farmer, and Eliza Caroline Webb. Miser’s ancestors were immigrants of German and English descent who moved from Tennessee to northern Arkansas in the early part of the nineteenth century. Miser attended the Pea Ridge Normal School, an academy organized by Benjamin Harvey Caldwell. He entered the University of …

Nashville Sauropod Trackway

The Nashville sauropod trackway, which may be the largest dinosaur trackway in the world, was located near Nashville (Howard County). The most unusual thing about the Nashville trackway is its size, but it also represented, for over twenty-five years, the only evidence of sauropods in Arkansas other than bone fragments found nearby. This discovery has greatly informed the scientific study of sauropods and other dinosaur trackways. A trackway is a path of preserved footprints left by dinosaurs. There are between 5,000 and 10,000 assorted tracks on the Nashville trackway, most of which have been identified as having been made by sauropods. Some species of sauropods are the diplodocus and the titansaur. Sauropods had long necks and long tails and walked on all …

Natural Gas

The earliest natural gas find is reported to have been in Scott County in 1887 during an effort to develop a commercial water well. The second recorded gas well was drilled two years later (also in Scott County) by an oil driller, Harry Kelly, to a depth of 1,600 feet. This was recognized as the first recorded effort to find oil in Arkansas, though “only gas was present.” No other efforts to find oil or gas were reported until 1901–1902, when the Mansfield Pool was developed by Choctaw Oil and Gas Company. While no oil was found, this effort did provide large amounts of gas, with some wells producing as much as 5 million cubic feet of gas per day. …

Novaculite

Novaculite is a hard, dense, white-to-grayish-black sedimentary rock, composed of microcrystalline quartz. It is translucent on its thin, sharp edges and usually breaks with a smooth conchoidal (shell-like) fracture. The word “novaculite” is derived from a Latin word meaning “razor stone.” Novaculite is found in the Ouachita Mountains in formations that are highly resistant to erosion. These formations range from about 250 to 900 feet in thickness. There are two categories of Arkansas novaculite classified by the abrasives industry. The “Washita” stone has the dull luster of unglazed porcelain. It is more porous and less dense than the “Arkansas” stone, which is extremely fine-grained with a waxy luster. There has been recent interest in the fine-grained novaculite as a lapidary …

Purdue, Albert Homer

Albert Homer Purdue was the ex officio state geologist from 1907 to 1912. He published many works on the geology of both Arkansas and Tennessee. Purdue was a renowned geologist and taught at Arkansas Industrial University, which is now the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville. Albert Purdue was born on March 29, 1861, on a farm near Yankeetown, Indiana, to Samuel Leroy and Phoebe (Priest) Purdue. Albert was the second oldest of eight children and spent his youth working on the family farm, receiving only minimal formal education. At the age of twenty, however, he entered the Indiana State Normal School (later Indiana State University) in Terre Haute. He received his diploma on June 8, 1888. Until 1896, Purdue …

Rocks and Minerals

There are three basic classes of rocks: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. Igneous rocks are those that solidified from magma (molten rock). Metamorphic rocks are formed from pre-existing rocks in a solid state by heat, pressure, and/or chemical activity. Sedimentary rocks are made up of particles of sediment cemented together. In Arkansas, the overwhelming majority of surface and near-surface rocks are sedimentary rocks. There are a few igneous rocks and some very low-grade metamorphic rocks, but these occupy little area. Out of Arkansas’s total area of 53,179 square miles, only about fifteen square miles are composed of igneous rocks. In the Ozark Plateau and Ouachita Mountains, there are indications of some very low-grade metamorphic effects on the rocks in restricted areas, …