An Article In Meteorite-Times Magazine
by Martin Horejsi of  Martin Horejsi's Meteorite and Tektite Books
 

 

Ovambo, Namibia:

An L6 Missionary from Space


From what I have read, Evangelical Lutheran Finnish missionaries first set up shop in Namibia in the 1870s. In fact, the oldest still-standing structure in northern Namibia, the Nakambale House, was built the by Finnish missionaries in 1889 which was also the first year Finnish missionaries settled in Ovambo, Namibia. Eleven years later, a chondritic missionary from space arrived in Ovambo with the usual fanfare.

A 10g polished partial slice of Ovambo, Namibia in the author's collection. The small stone this slice came from traveled through many hands during the past century including those of the local people of Ovambo, Finnish missionaries, Professor Wahls, the Helsinki Museum, and at least two US meteorite dealers before landing in my hands.

 

 

The earthly travels of the Ovambo stone began as it made its way from the hands of the locals to the hands of the missionaries visiting from Finland. The stone's travels continued as it made its way from the missionaries into the hands of a Finnish professor half a world away. Such is the story of the Ovambo, Namibia meteorite.

About 18 different meteorites claim Namibia as home, but of those meteorites only two are falls; the L6 named Ovambo with only 56 grams accounted for, and the LL4 named Witsand Farm with only 76 grams preserved. In both cases, it seems that there was more material from the respective falls, but only a very small amount ever made it into captivity.

This lack of meteorite awareness seems strange in a land that holds the world's largest meteorite named the Hoba iron, as well as the famous Gibeon strewnfield. But possibly the reason that much of Ovambo and Witsand Farm escaped capture is that both are stones instead irons, and both fell from the sky rather disrupting the smooth desert sands.

 


Here are two partial entries from the Catalogue of Meteorites (2000):

Ovambo
Amboland, Namibia
Fall 1900
Stone. Chondrite. Ordinary L6
Approx. recovered weight: 56 g
“A 56g stone was found amongst material in Professor Walter Wahl's collection after his death. The available information indicates that after the fall, a stone was found in the possession of locals from which a fragment was removed and passed via Finnish missionaries to Prof. Wahl.”

Witsand Farm
Orange River, Namibia
Fall 1932, December 1, 17:00 hrs
Stone. Chondrite. Ordinary (LL4)
“One or more stones fell on Witsand farm about 35 miles north of Pofadder on the Orange river. The material was broken up and mostly lost.”
 



Earlier this year, a 10g polished partial slice of Ovambo with crust and a painted Helsinki Museum specimen number found its way into my collection. I was most happy to receive the specimen as historic witnessed falls are my collecting specialty, with the lower the recovered weight and the older the fall, the better.

 

This other side of the Ovambo slice shows the scant but present crust, still fresh after a century of careful curation. One can only speculate why the local folks in Ovambo would give this stone from space to the missionaries visiting from Finland. Maybe, as is common with many meteorite falls, a spiritual connection was made between the witnesses and the rest of the cosmos, and sharing the stone was a way to share the experience.

 

 

To say pieces of Ovambo are rare in collections is an understatement. The Catalogue of Meteorites lists three locations where Ovambo is present, and the British Museum of Natural History is not one of them.

It appears that Helsinki, Berlin, and Washington DC are the only places on the planet where one can gaze upon this historic L6 meteorite. And now Pocatello, Idaho can join this exclusive group.
 


 

 
The white clouds of specimen number float gently in the painted blue sky background, with each brush stroke a careful precise addition to the history of this well-traveled stone.

 

 

As possibly the only private owner in the world of a piece of the Ovambo meteorite, more than a century after the fall and fully aware of the chain of custody of this rare stone, I can only wonder if a similar catalog listing for Ovambo will someday (hopefully in the long-distant future) begin with:

 

“A 10g slice of Ovambo was found amongst material in Professor Martin Horejsi's collection after his death. The available information indicates that….”
 

 

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