IMCA Insights – May 2006
Once upon a time many years ago (at least that's the way some good tales are supposed to start), a large stone (meteorite) was found in Fayette County, Texas. I wasn't even born yet, but that stone was to have a significant effect on my life about a hundred years later.
As I grew up, like many boys my age, I was fascinated by astronomy, looking at the stars, and reading science fiction about traveling to the moon and other planets. No, not the Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars series; I preferred John Campbell's Analog magazine and other similar stories. The Moon and Mars were of particular interest. How many of you remember E.E. "Doc" Smith, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Andre Norton, H. Beam Piper, etc.?
Even now I have several "space art" pictures of Mars, and some Chesley Bonestall prints on my walls (thanks, Kim Poor - NovaSpace, Tucson). I also have a "University of Mars, MMXXVI" shirt.
At various times over the next 30 or 40 years my interest in astronomy would often resurface and I would either dig out an old "department store" telescope and try to see something from my back yard (not much luck in light polluted suburban Houston), or dream of getting a larger and nicer scope. Finally in about 1985 after I joined a local astronomy club, I splurged and bought a 12" (30cm) reflector design telescope. For the next few years I spent many a night out watching stars … and particularly the moon and Mars (not an obsession, just a major interest.) I even went out to some of the "Texas Star Party" events in West Texas near the McDonald Observatory. The TSP is an annual spring-time gathering of "amateur" astronomers from around the U.S. … and some from foreign countries.
OK, so what does all this have to do with meteorites? As it happened, the astronomy / telescope shop where the astronomy club members often congregated when we weren't out with our scopes had a few other items in a display case: some Indochinite tektites, and a couple of Odessa irons (indirectly from Bob Haag). One evening in 1988, I bought a couple of the tektites and one of the Odessa irons (photo) - MY FIRST METEORITE! That got things started - even though it would be a few more years before I really got 'hooked.'
My first Meteorite: a Odessa Iron
Meteorites! How could I have missed out on this all these years. Now I'm not limited to just reading about things in space, I can actually have and hold something from space. It would take one more something to really get me excited and involved, though.
As my collection grew, I started trying to document all my specimens using various sources (remember the old 1985 "Blue Book") and kept the information in a (large and growing) text file on my computer. That got to be too big and cumbersome, so it's now kept in a series of html-pages on my computer (but not on the internet itself) along with photos of all the specimens.
About 1991/1992 as I got older and my night vision started deteriorating (I was just past 50 then) I had to give up the astronomy, but that gave me more time (and money) to spend on meteorites. Things had progressed at a fairly reasonable pace for a few years (thanks Russ Kempton, Bob Haag, Matt Morgan, Sharon Cisneros and several others.)
Hooked on Meteorites
Then in 1993 "the Bluff fell on me." Russ Kempton 'sabotaged' me: I bought a nice piece of Bluff (A) from him (photo). When I received it, of course I had to look it up in the "Blue Book" to add to my documentation. SURPRISE!
WOW! THIS WAS FOUND BY THE BROTHER OF MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER!!
Bluff (A) Meteorite was found by my relative
"GIMME!" THAT'S MINE!! (I wish!) I WAS HOOKED!
Now I really have a reason to get excited about meteorites.
Since then my collection has expanded greatly although about 30% of my specimens are less than 1g, and 70% are less than 10g.
Even though I've never taken a college or university course related to meteoritics, I have read quite a bit, particularly O. Richard Norton's wonderful Rocks from Space and Joel Schiff's Meteorite! Magazine.
Texas (I'm a 'native Texan'), Lunar, Martian (going back to my astronomy interest) … these are my priorities and I try to get at least a small specimen of everything in those categories and have been reasonably successful in this.
Now just about any thing else finds its way into my collection - if I can afford it (and sometimes even if I can't). Unfortunately, where I live (Houston, TX) is very close to the Gulf of Mexico and I have a horrible problem with rust on iron (and stony-iron) meteorites here in "Rust City" so I have cut back on buying iron meteorites. I've even donated some of the specimens to various museums in an effort to preserve them either from rust, or being chopped up and sold in bits and pieces on eBay.
The internet has become a great source of meteorites for me, both through eBay (you just have to be 'careful' - I've only been "burned" a few of times), the various online sales sites … and lots of help from email friends (too many to mention.)
A Special Meteorite
The only meteorite I can claim to have picked up happened when I was on a vacation cruise to Antarctica - yes, Antarctica.
Deception Island - Antarctica
"I picked up a little meteorite on Deception Island". It's TRUE! ME! A REAL METEORITE!
It's a very appropriate place … since I had carefully gotten permission from the tour directors to bring a small stone back to the ship (it's illegal to take stones, artifacts, eggs, or anything else away from a landing site when you go ashore). The stone actually was/is an unclassified NWA I had purchased on eBay (thanks Greg Hupe') … and taken with me to stage this photo.
But what I quoted above IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE. "I picked up a little meteorite," my own 'Antarctic' meteorite, on Deception Island which is in the island chain just off the Antarctic continent itself. Our tour included 8 landings in 4 days, 3 of them on the Antarctic continent itself.
Today and Tomorrow
I'm now a retired college math professor - I retired early in 2001 so as to have time to travel ($$) and have plenty of time for meteorites (even more $$) although not nearly enough money (the usual problem, right?)
A few years ago I even got 'drafted' onto the Board of Directors of the IMCA (gee Thanks, Anne). Then in 2005 and 2006 I made my first trips to Tucson for the fantastic "Gem and Mineral Show" and had a chance to meet many of the wonderful people I had 'met' via the internet. Prior to that time I had met only a few: Russ Kempton, Erich Haiderer, Anne Black and a couple of others. Since then I've also had the opportunity to meet other enthusiasts on my vacation type travels. I hope to make it to the Ensisheim show in 2007 as part of a vacation trip to France. I would try for this year, but I'm already "booked" for my travels in 2006. I'll definitely be going back to Tucson at least for the next few years, though. It's a great "show."
It's been about 14 years now since I last looked through my own telescope, but since then I've found another extremely fascinating interest and made lots of great new friends in the wonderful World of Meteorites.
A special Thanks to everyone who has made me welcome.
Don Edwards, Houston, TX,