Smithsonian to Share Erik Hauri’s Rocks with Scientific Community

Leslie Hale (right) and Cathleen Brown, from the Smithsonian Institution National Rock and Ore Collection. Photo: Roberto Molar Candanosa, Carnegie DTM.
Friday, June 28, 2019 

The Smithsonian Institutions’ Department of Mineral Sciences visited DTM in mid-March, late May, and early June to coordinate the acquisition of the late Erik Hauri’s rock collection. The rocks will be made available to the scientific community for research through the Smithsonian’s lending system.

DTM’s Director Richard Carlson emphasized the uniqueness of Hauri’s collection, which was assembled during expeditions to the volcanic islands of the South Pacific, Hawaii, and the Aleutians.

“Erik’s rocks are a nearly unique collection from remote  volcanic islands that is made even more significant as a result of the detailed studies he and colleagues performed on the samples throughout his career,” Carlson said. “We are extremely pleased that Erik’s record of collaborative work on these samples will continue and broaden through the transfer of the collection to the Smithsonian.”

Leslie Hale, the National Rock and Ore Collection Manager at the Smithsonian, visited DTM four days over two weeks to select, catalogue, and pack the samples. With the help of colleague Cathleen Brown and other staff at the Smithsonian, Hale will add Hauri’s rocks to the Smithsonian’s collections and then loan that material out to the international geological community. “The National Rock and Ore collection is like a lending library of rocks of all types,” Hale said.

Erik Hauri's collection to be moved to the Smithsonian includes boxes and containers, as well as oversized boulders from his excursions to volcanic islands in the South Pacific, Hawaii, and the Aleutians. Photo: Roberto Molar Candanosa, Carnegie DTM.

To select which rocks make it to the Smithsonian, Hale and her team consider a rock’s mention in scientific literature.  Doing this helps them assess whether a rock can be used by other scientists to build upon the research on that sample. The selection process also considers whether material might be physically difficult or impossible to recollect. “For example, maybe if it’s been collected in a location inundated by a subsequent volcanic eruption, in a mine that is now closed, or in a remote place like Antarctica,” Hale said.

Hauri’s samples that will go to the Smithsonian include 100 boxes and containers, as well as oversized boulders that Hale is coordinating to move in July. Stored in a small room under DTM’s Cyclotron Building, Hauri’s collection is only part of over 2000 rocks collected by Carnegie geochemists over decades of excursions all over the world.

Leslie Hale points to a xenolith from Erik Hauri's collection at DTM. Photo: Roberto Molar Candanosa, Carnegie DTM.

Hale was particularly excited to see complete boulders of ultramafic xenoliths, fragments of the mantle brought to the surface during volcanic eruptions. “It’s not common to have so many in one piece still in the matrix,” she said. “Often by the time they get here, they are already chopped into pieces.”

In past years, Hale has visited BBR to coordinate acquisitions from other Carnegie scientists, including Joe Boyd and Hatten Yoder from the Geophysical Laboratory. She emphasized the similarities she noticed between the Smithsonian and Carnegie from other visits to BBR. “I remember feeling like it was an institution of a similar age to the Smithsonian, with somewhat parallel missions and goals in terms of scientific gain and sharing that knowledge with the rest of the scientific community and the public,” Hale said.

Learn more about the Smithsonian’s Department of Mineral Sciences collections:

—Roberto Molar Candanosa