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Rock sample has Nehawka connection

Pure Nebraska
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 1:10 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - The “Nehawka Core” is an important resource housed at the state Conservation and Survey Division repository. It’s a rock sample that is the result of an oil drilling operation from the 1920′s.

We visited the repository inside Nebraska Hall on the University of Nebraska Lincoln Campus. Michele Waszgis manages CSD’s collection of geological samples. The Conservation and Survey Division was created by state statue in 1921 as a place to record information about Nebraska’s geologic history. Waszgis give us a closer look at the “Nehawka Core.”

“The Nehawka Core was drilled back in 1924,” Waszgis said. “It was drilled just north of the village of Nehawka. The core we have runs from 31 feet all the way down to 1,828 feet. The original purpose of the drilling was for oil exploration. A man from Texas came to town back then, and started buying leases in the community. They started drilling on March 1, 1924, and they ended the drilling on October 15, 1924.”

What is this core? It is rock that was pulled out of the ground during the drilling process. “Their drill would have had a derrick,” Waszgis said. “It would have looked like a tower. There would have been rods going down from the tower. It would have had a diamond bit on the bottom, and it would have drilled through the ground. It would drill out cylindrical pieces of core. This process drilled through the oldest sedimentary rocks in Nebraska.” Parts of the core are considered to be 1.1 billion years old. “Now, this important sample continues to be studied for structural geology,” Waszgis said. “Researchers are using this to look at the mid-continent rift system.” The core essentially offers a window into the past.

Was oil ever found around Nehawka during the oil drilling operation from 1924? It turns out, there was no oil ever found that was recoverable. But the rock core from the effort is still significant. Again, the core is stored at the Conservation and Survey Division Geological Sample Repository, where you’ll find many other rocks. “We store different collections,” Waszgis said. “We have cuttings, which is a different type of drilling that produces different types of material. We have fossils, we have volcanic ash from Nebraska, we have thin sections taken from core, we have large boulders, we have hand samples, and all sorts of geologic material here that we save for research.” There are five different facilities that house rocks from around the state. “Two of them store rocks from all 93 counties in Nebraska,” Waszgis said. “Two facilities include records.”

“The number one question I get is why are you saving all of this?” Waszgis said. “It’s very important to geological research, because most of Nebraska’s geology is underground, and often times, it requires drilling to see what is under our feet.”

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