For 35 years as an exploration geologist, I have been looking for my first "cold" meteorite find (meaning a new find in an area where I had no knowledge of any previous discoveries). Certainly, those years were not all equal. For a variety of reasons, my interest gradually grew over time, and my ability to spot and recognize a meteorite also increased. In the last few years I have accumulated a small meteorite collection by purchase, specifically to calibrate my eye. It finally all came together at 11:30 AM, Saturday, October 25, 2003 on a remote Nevada playa.
Few have ever known the thrill of such a moment!
In the course of my daily routine, I came upon a dry lake with easy access. It looked promising, so I decided to dedicate my lunch break to a recon trip. As I set out on the ATV, things felt "right". I had the premonition that this was the time and place. I reset the trip recorder on my GPS to keep track of the distance covered, then started crudely gridding the area. Much of the playa displayed very few rocks---maybe a pebble or two ever 30 to 100 feet. I had covered 14.4 line kilometers of search pattern without finding anything of interest, when I saw a plate of rock that I thought might be a fulgurite fragment (it wasn't---). I was overdue to get rid of the morning's processed coffee, so I dismounted for a stretch. I could see 3 or 4 small rocks within 30 feet, so I decided to check them out on foot. The second one looked good!
I had promised myself that, if and when this day might ever come, I would resist plucking the suspect stone from the ground until I had checked it out and photographed it in situ. I got down on my knees and inspected it with my hand-lense. It still looked good---rounded shoulders, and shrinkage cracking of what looked to be a good fusion crust. Heart pounding, I ran back to the bike for a magnet. It WAS magnetic (and nothing else on the playa was)! Contrary to expectations, I had my camera along. I took the promised pictures (above) and with a GPS (don't you wish----), then snatched it from the sun-baked clay.
|It turned out that what I could see was most of the stone. A broken lower surface was embedded 1 to 3 mm into the clay---but it STILL looked right!|
A quick swipe with a diamond file and some fine-grit sandpaper revealed the anticipated bright specks of metal, and under the lense, I could see some chondrule pits on the broken surface!
The stone is quite small, but is a gorgeous little nicely-oriented nose-cone! 6.5 grams. 21.8 X 17.6 X 11.8 mm. It is just magnetic enough to be picked up by a small neodymium magnet, but not by a weaker stud-finder ferrous magnet. The metal grains constitute 7 to 10 % by volume (per my eyeball estimate), and the specific gravity is around 3.25. The larger metal grains have maximum dimensions of about 0.2 mm. The metals occur in three colors (variations in oxidation???), as bright silver, as a more bronzy shade, and as a darker sub-metallic blue-gray. The chondrules are mostly very hazy bordered where I ground a small window just below the fusion crust, but given the small size of the specimen, I suppose it might be affected by heat from atmospheric transit---if not, my guess is that it's something like an L6 chondrite.
As it turns out, at least 4 other meteorites have been recovered in the same playa, and until the collective group of finders have finished investigating the site and publishing the results, the locality remains confidential.
Here's wishing that all of you (that have paid the dues) might someday have this thrill!