Students rock in basement hideaway


Adjunct Geology instructor Stephen Lindberg places a box of minerals on a Krebs basement shelf.

Luis Torres, Copy Editor

Over 500,000 minerals of all kinds are kept in obscurity in Krebs Hall’s basement.

The “Catacombs,” as geology instructor Stephen Lindberg calls it, refers to the basement that includes two classrooms, one storage room and one lab.

One classroom has cabinets along two walls, desks and chairs in the center and a board in the front of the room.

Samples of counter-top granite left on the desks by the last class reveal that the room is used.

“This is the realm of geology majors,” says Lindberg.

He walks to the far-end of the room and opens a door that leads to a small storage room; the space is filled with rocks on shelves.

Despite the number of samples of different minerals, Lindberg says that it’s nothing, referring to the small fraction of the total collection the room contains.

He crouches to lift a heavy display-case, full of unmarked Native American artifacts, including stone arrowheads, spearheads and hammers.

“I found this a while ago,” he says, “if we get some more room (upstairs) we’ll put it on display.”

Back in the classroom, the cabinets lining the walls have dozens of drawers, each holding tens of samples for students to examine.

The Mineralogy and Petrography classroom across the hallway has three long desks and one long cupboard. Upside-down chairs and mineral dust suggests that there has been recent activity in the room.

Geology students’ and professors’ endeavors of cleaning and recataloging material in Krebs basement accounts for part of the mess – the rest, is the fault of higher-level geology students, to whom the classroom is often occupied.

Lindberg points to an asbestos sample, and tells a story about how WWII soldiers coated war machines with it to prevent heat, electrical and chemical damage.

ands more mineral samples stay hidden away in the room’s cupboards.

Many samples rest on plastic holders with small plaques that concisely describe the rock. Judging by the dates printed on the plaques, it is apparent that they have belonged to UPJ for a while.

“We probably don’t buy rocks anymore,” Lindberg says. “We have a lot of rocks.”

A door in a corner of the room grants access to the storage room.

Here, high metal shelves hold cardboard cases (many of which read Michelob or Coors) each containing similar rock specimens.

Written on most cases is the origin, date and serial number that refers back to a master catalogue.

On a few shelves, cardboard cases have been replaced by plastic containers with updated labels, as part of the cleaning and recataloging process.

Lindberg, along with fellow geology faculty members and students, hopes to give the room a fresh look.

“You accumulate a lot of stuff over the years,” he says, as he moves a heavy box out of the way. “There is a lot down here. Some (rocks) will be discarded.”

He opens a door that leads to the hallway of Krebs’ basement. Directly across is the geology laboratory.

The room is divided into two sections: The first, containing slab-saws and broken rocks, is used to study solid minerals; the second, in the back of the room, to soil studies.

Lindberg points to a machine that resembles a giant barbeque grill: the slab-saw.

This diamond-bladed saw, according to Lindberg, can cut any rock to pieces as thin as cellophane.

“You don’t want to be in the room when it’s running,” he says.

The Realm of Geology is accessible to students pursuing geology minors or majors, like freshman geology enthusiast Ben Azar.

He analyses a gray rock, attempting to identify and classify it.

“It’s kind of my passion,” Azar says, scrutinizing the rock and identifying it as dolomitic limestone.