That looks like a mimetolith!

Posted on April 7, 2009


This all began when I took a picture on the beach of a piece of bluegreen Ellsworth shale that had split into layers, “delaminated” as it were.  There’s more shale than sand on the beach these days, and the stuff fascinates me.  


The beach is heaped with it.  It splits, it shatters, it makes a satisfactory clinking sound when you walk on it.  The powdery surface dissolves into a cloudy blue suspension in the water.

Milky shale melt

Antrim shale is black or brown and lies under the Ellsworth shale.  Far under, where the remains of rotting dinosaurs produce pools of oil and natural gas.  I set out to find some authoritative links for you and the next thing you know I was hip-deep in mimetoliths.

R.V. Dietrich, Professor Emeritus (I should think so, else how would he have time for such shenanigans?) at Central Michigan University, describes the mimetolith as: “a natural topographic feature, rock outcrop, rock specimen, mineral specimen, or loose stone the shape of which resembles something else. . . or the surface pattern of which resembles [something else]” such as an animal, a flower, a person.  Dietrich has an entire website devoted to the subject. I am enchanted. 

I collect heart-shaped mimetoliths like this one. 

Heart-shaped stone

Here’s a little sleepyhead.

Sleepy face mimetolith

I spent a week hiking on Isle Royale with a dozen friends, and I was the only one who saw a face in this rock formation.  I can’t believe no one else could see it.  Can you see it?  I can see it.  I can’t not see it.  Profile, looking to the right.  Big nose.  Now can you see it? 

Face in the rocks

Michigan’s lower peninsula—the Mitten— is a mimetolith.

Update June 8, 2011: AND, until today there was a nifty satellite image of the Great Lakes right here in this spot. A correspondent named Mike asked me where it came from. I was not able to answer that question. GACK. The photo is down until I CAN answer the question.