January 7th has been designated “Old Rock Day.” A day to celebrate geology, fossils and geologists around the world. We would like to honor two of our favorite ‘rock stars,” Peter Huntoon and George Billingsley who both have collections housed in Cline Library’s Special Collections and Archives. As graduate students in 1970, these two giants of geology came together with six other geologists to complete an assignment funded by the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon Natural History Association and the Grand Canyon National Park to create the first complete geological map of the eastern portion of the Grand Canyon, known today as the “Blue Dragon.” This enormous undertaking took 4.5 years of fieldwork and 1.5 years of production time which led to the highest selling edition of any map in history with all proceeds from it and the 3 subsequent editions going to the Museum of Northern Arizona and the Grand Canyon Natural History Association.
To learn more about the story of how the numerous geologists and organizations came together to complete this enormous project, take a look at the lecture, The Making of the Blue Dragon given by Peter Huntoon and George Billingsley as part of the Grand Canyon National Park, Centennial Perspectives lecture series in June of 2019.
After completing the map of eastern portion of the Grand Canyon, there was still more work to do for these two ambitious scientists. Next, they completed mapping of the west half of the Grand Canyon and were later contracted to produce geological maps of Canyonlands and Capital Reef National Parks in Utah.
George later made it his mission to map the surrounding areas outside of the Grand Canyon. Digital versions of trip logs, fieldnotes, photographs and oral histories about his work and life can be found here in SCA’s digital collections or you can view the finding guide for The George Billingsley papers to see the collection holdings (digitized and non-digitized material). Throughout his career with the United States Geologic Survey, George published 77 maps, multiple articles, a book, and helped train the crew of the Apollo 16 space crew.
Peter Huntoon’s collection includes documents from his professional activities and research involved in mapping numerous areas of the Colorado Plateau, such as geological research files, a research library, aerial and non-aerial photographs, and draft and published maps.
As we celebrate “Old Rock” day, we celebrate the accomplishments and the contributions of two of our favorite “old rock” researchers.