An Article In MeteoriteTimes Magazine

This feature is devoted each month to one of the personalities within the meteorite community. This month we are delighted to share an interview we had with Martin Horejsi. accretiondesk@gmail.com


What or who got you interested in meteorites and how old were you when you got your first meteorite?

I guess the answer to who got me interested in meteorites is that I got myself interested. Along the way, however, several people were gracious with their time and patience while I learned the basics. David New is at the top of the list, followed by Blaine Reed. Others include Marlin Cilz, Allan Lang and a couple college professors. I was in my mid to late 20s when my collecting focus shifted from minerals and fossils to meteorites.

What was your first meteorite?
The first meteorite I ever purchased was a nice etched end section of Mundrabilla. I wanted a large, solid iron meteorite to use in my teaching of earth and space science as I was a high school science teacher at the time. The first 10 meteorite specimens in my collection are as follows:

1. Mundrabilla (Iron, etched end section)
2. Odessa (Iron, etched complete slice)
3. Allende (C. Chondrite, half-individual, polished face)
4. Gibeon (Iron, etched partial slice)
5. Zagami (SNC, polished slice, crust)
6. Henbury (iron, individual, oriented)
7. Plainview (Chondrite, polished complete slice)
8. Esquel (Pallasite, polished partial slice)
9. Murchison (C. Chondrite, polished partial slice, crust)
10. Coahulia (Iron, hexahedrite, polished partial slice)
11. Sikhote-Alin (Iron, etched complete slice, triolite nodule)
12. Canyon Diablo (Iron, individual)
13. Nuevo Mecurio (Chondrite, part slice and individual)
14. Arcadia (LL6, polished partial slice)
15. Bondoc (Mesosiderite, polished partial slice)
16. Park (Chondrite, polished partial slice)
17. Ness (Chondrite, polished partial slice)
18. Gao-Guenie (Chondrite, polished partial slice)
19. Boxhole (Iron, individual, oriented)
20. Orgueil (C. Chondrite, fragment)



Do you still have it?
I do still have the Mundrabilla, and I plan on keeping it. But since I got it, I have added more than 20 more Mundrabilla pieces to my collection.



Do you have special areas of interest that you focus on in regards to meteorites?
Over the years, I have focused on many different aspects of meteorites. Photography of specimens has always been something I enjoy. My pictures have appeared in many locations on the Internet, as well as in the Journal Science, Rock and Gem magazine, and of course regularly in Meteorite Magazine. I also have an interest in meteorite displays and have created a few myself for museums and hallway displays in science buildings. I guess my current focus is the relationship between meteorites and small bodies of the solar system with particular emphasis to those that have been, are, or will be explored with robotic spacecraft. The proposed missions of DAWN ( http://www-ssc.igpp.ucla.edu/dawn/ ), Messenger (http://messenger.jhuapl.edu/ ), Rosetta ( http://sci.esa.int/home/rosetta/index.cfm ) and Deep Impact ( http://deepimpact.umd.edu/ )are especially of interest to me as well as the operating and past missions of STARDUST ( http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/ ), Genesis ( http://genesismission.jpl.nasa.gov/ ) and the many Mars missions.



Does your Family share in your interest in meteorites?
In general, yes. However, while I would describe my interest as more of a passion, my family’s overall interest is more a curiosity. A while ago, I gave my daughter a slice of a lunar meteorite, and we ended up featured in the newspaper. A book she (and my wife) gave me when she was a baby was by Eric Carle and titled “Papa, Please get the moon for me.” So I guess you could say I got her the moon. When the article was published, I sent a copy to the book’s author, and Eric Carle was generous and sent my daughter an inscribed picture card with a drawing of the moon.

Do you have any special approaches to collecting?
Over the years, I have had many approaches to collecting including whole stones, complete slices, a 10g minimum, and ending up with the “one of everything” approach. However, in the past year I overdosed on meteorites. What happened was that was actually acquiring specimens more quickly than I could study them, or even enter them into my collection catalogue. For months on end, I had bids on eBay auctions stacked up like air traffic over LAX. But occasionally I would stumble upon an amazing specimen that would mean more to me than a hundred chondrite finds. I did the math and realized that if I consolidated my purchasing resources into one pot and just sat on it until a great piece came along, I could buy it without hesitation.



As it turned out, there was another collecting trend wreaking havoc on my “one of everything” approach and that was the unbelievable assortment and seemingly never-ending supply of hot desert meteorites. Back when the Labenne family was the primary supplier of hot desert stones, I acquired many whole piece, main masses, and rare classification. But in today’s collecting market, I get overwhelmed by all the choices, price structures, and lack of classifications and documentation. But what finally pushed me over the edge, so to speak, was that I was working with a planetary geologist on a writing project dealing with some of the more rare classes of stony meteorites. I brought him a sample of an extremely rare class of meteorite that he had never seen in person before. He was excited as I was unboxing it, but when he saw it, his face bunched up and he said something to the effect that it was the most weathered specimen he had ever seen. His excitement turned to frustration at the condition of the specimen, and his enthusiasm waned to a mild appreciation for the effort I made to bring this specimen to his attention. So now I focus mainly on the more historic meteorites, the ones where their story is already written. I also appreciate specimens with collection history including collection numbers and specimen cards. When Allan Lang offered a silent auction at Tucson this year featuring many Huss and Nininiger specimens, I took advantage of the opportunity even though I was not in Tucson.

Here is a picture of what I won.


Do you mind saying how many locations your collection represents?
Last year, I would have said my collection contains well over a thousand pieces representing more than 700 different locations. But now I suspect I am down around 400 or so different locations. Maybe even less than that, I’m just not sure right now.



Is your collection displayed or kept in a dry box or both?
Again, up until last year, I would have answered this as both as well as in museum display cases, in a large and a small glass cabinet in my house, a large fire-proof safe, and in many Rubbermaid boxes scattered around the house. However, today, I have managed to get most of my pieces into the fire safe, the small display case, and two large Rubbermaid tubs. Many of the smaller pieces in my collection are in 2x2 inch display boxes organized in groups of 20 inside 8x10 Kodak photograph paper boxes. I am seriously considering upgrading the acrylic boxes to membrane boxes, but I have yet to find the time.



In what ways do you use your computer for meteorites?
I guess that like most folks who are reading this, I use the computer primarily as my portal for communicating with the world of meteorite enthusiasts. The second most important use for me is the tracking and purchase of specimens, with the third as digital imaging of meteorites that appear in many places including both of the Millennium Meteorite Calendars. Of course I also use the computer to write meteorite articles, sell books, and to organize and catalogue my collection (when I have the time).



Do you ever hunt for meteorites?
I am always looking for meteorites, but I guess my deliberate hunting efforts are in the search for people who have found meteorites or might encounter them in the field. I do quite a bit of education and public outreach (or EPO in NASA lingo) primarily with teachers. I have even distributed magnets on string to schoolchildren who work in the potato fields here in Idaho during the two weeks of harvest when schools are closed in late September or early October.



What is your favorite meteorite in your collection?
The restructuring of my collecting habits leads me to answer this as all my meteorites are my favorites, otherwise I would sell them. But in the spirit of the question, my favorite meteorite at the moment is Ensisheim. Lately, I have acquired several falls from the 1700s, but when compared to Ensisheim, they are not all that old. 1492 was a long time ago, over twice the age of the country I live in. And after that fall, it would still be several more human lifetimes before the seemingly ancient pieces from the 1700s ever fell through the air.



What is your favorite overall if it is not the one above?
A few of my other meteorites that I have a special fondness for include Lost City, Tabor, Krymka, Felt (b), Pasamonte, Peekskill, Orgueil, Murchison, Johnstown, Weston, Haraiya, Eagles Nest, Cumberland Falls, Krasnojarsk, Twodot, Bison, and Millbillillie.


 Click For Larger Image 


What makes these of special interest?
Most of my ‘favorite” meteorites are because of their scientific or historical importance. While Lost City is just an ordinary chondrite, its photographed fall is quite amazing so it is not really the meteorite that is so special, but rather what it represents. Each one of these pieces has a special place in my collection because it is a substantial contribution to the overall collection. Probably the most unusual reason for one of my favorites is Twodot, Montana. When I was a kid growing up in Missoula, Montana, my dad and I used to go deer hunting in Twodot. I thought the name was hilarious and I would use the name “Twodot” when I needed an example of somewhere in the middle of nowhere. But now it is the only place in the 4th largest state in the USA where a stone meteorite has been found.



What meteorites are currently on your wish list?

Since my collection refocusing, any historical meteorite is on my list. I am interested in upgrading pieces I already have, as well as acquiring rare specimens, especially with a collection history.



What methods have been most successful in building your collection?
This is an interesting question. As far as gaining specimens in numbers, purchasing them from dealers and on eBay is quite effective. But in order to get the really large or exotic pieces, the most effective technique is knowledge. Many of my favorite pieces were part of a trade where I was assisting those parties who were trading the primary material. There several circles one can run in when collecting meteorites. First there is the most public circle that is mainly eBay and mineral shows. Then there is the dealer circle where you must know of specific people, and be able talk the language of meteorites. Then there is the “insider” dealer circle where you make specific requests from dealers and collectors in order to be first in line when certain material comes available, or to have first chance at one-of-a-kind pieces that rarely make it to public lists. Then there is the highest circle where the real big guns of meteorite colleting hang out. I have used my museum connections and meteorite writings to venture into that circle occasionally, but it is not for the faint-of-heart. Big and expensive pieces change hands, and prices usually begin in the thousands of dollars and climb quickly from there. But if one wants the real museum-quality material, one must be able to compete head-to-head with the museums when material is exchanged. But as much as I would like to participate at the highest level with my colleting, I simply cannot put forth the time or money necessary to keep my membership in such an exclusive club. I still get the occasionally call, however, that if I have 10 or 20 thousand dollars to part with, someone has something worth buying.



Do you also collect related materials like impact glasses, breccias, melts, tektites, shocked fossils, native iron rocks etc?
I used to collect meteorite-related materials, but I guess I overdosed on them as well. I had hundreds of books, articles, tektites, impactites, natural glasses, shattercones, etc. Since they were always packed separately from my meteorites, I rarely played with them. In fact, during one move, I packed all my tektites and impactites into a box and actually forgot about them for over a year! It was a pleasant surprise to find them again, but it also taught me that, although they are valuable and important scientific materials, they are not terribly important to me. But there are a few tektites I always kept with my meteorites, and those are ones I enjoy. They include a couple of Moldivites and Indochinites.



Do you prepare any of your own specimens? (cut, polish, etch, etc.)
I do not prepare any of my own specimens. Fortunately, I have a great working relationship with one of the premier private meteorite preparation services in the world, The Montana Meteorite Laboratory ( http://www.ttc-cmc.net/~solrjunk/malta.html ). Should I need a specimen cut, polished, etched, etc. I just ship it up north to Marlin Cilz and he works his meteorite magic on it for me.



Have you had to take any special measures to protect them from the environment?
Even though I live in a desert (the high desert of Idaho at 1500 meters (~5000 feet) and the humidity rarely gets high enough to even register on my outdoor thermometer (which kicks in at 30%), I have imposed the most draconian measures on my meteorites; I have stopped collecting irons except for the most exotic or historic pieces. Stones are my passion and the lower metal content, the better.



One day, I was examining closely some of my iron slices. I could see rust forming in a few spots, and I guess you could say it knocked the wind out of my iron meteorite collecting. I will still collect irons, but only if complete individuals, oriented, holding museum numbers, or contain natural holes as well as the historic pieces mentioned above. But even with my ban on irons and the sale of many of them, I suspect that I still have 50 or more iron localities in my collection. But I am buying silica gel by the pound now.