An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
by Jim Tobin

Drawn Back Again

Oil changed and oil filter replaced, air filtered changed, brakes checked, fluid levels topped off. Thatís part of my check list for an upcoming trip to Meteor Crater. Yes I am going back once again. I donít know at this point how many times I have been there. But, I do know that the interval has been way too long since my last trip. And to my delight and surprise this trip was suggested by my wife who has never been there.

I donít know what it is that draws me back. It is like some bizarre migration instinct. Perhaps in one of those early visits I got tiny bits of iron shale in my system, and now they act like a homing mechanism. Whatever, the cause I return there every couple years to look again in awe and wonder at the great hole. Iíll take more pictures. Add them to the hundreds I already have. Iíll take more video to play with later on the computer. But, its the act of getting my shoes dusty with that very special soil thatís most important. Just the tourist hike out the north rim this trip, but it will be enough.

I have talked to hundreds of people over the years about Meteor Crater. Always emphasizing to them that no matter how many pictures they have seen there is just nothing like standing on the edge themselves.

Barely a noticeable ridge from a distance. If it were not for the road signs indicating its location it would never be noted by persons driving down I-40. Close up it is a more impressive feature. Its steep slopping rim with the boulder fields still only rises above the surrounding flat terrain at most about a 150 feet. And the zones of the ejecta blanket can only be distinguished by a trained eye now after 49,000 years. So what is the draw? What brings thousands to see it; many for repeated times? Itís the chasm, the hole.

I almost hear the clack, clack, clack of the chain in my mind as IĎm driving. I feel butterflies like anticipating the first drop. It is a roller coaster thing for me. As much as I donít like heights and open promontory views I force myself around the corner of the building for that first look into the hole. I feel my hand reach out instinctively for the railing by the sidewalk. Eventually, I will make my way down to the platform built out from the wall. Suspended there between sky and crater floor my feet transfer every tiny vibration in the wooden beams straight to my brain.

As craters go, Meteor Crater is a small one. It would be beyond the resolution of all but the finest telescopes on Earth, were it on the Moon. The Earth has impact scars far larger, but few that are nearly as well preserved. And despite its size almost all the features that are diagnostic for impact are found there.

I found some photos a few days ago while looking through a rarely opened drawer. They go back beyond digital cameras to one of the trips from the age of film. I spent some great moment looking through them, remembering the trip. We hurried into Flagstaff to have them one hour processed, so we could see if they came out alright. If they did not we could take some more before we left the next day. How different it was in that silver crystal time. Now we just look at the pictures on the screen and if it's bad take another. After all we can get hundreds on a memory card. I occasionally use my conventional cameras. Mostly for long time exposures of the night sky and its objects. I donít think I have used one for daylight in several years. I miss it sometimes. The setting of f-stops and shutter speeds was great training for getting the most from my digital. Even though the focal point is electronic now not chemical the principals remain the same. My digital camera if off being repaired and I need it to return. In four years I have taken something like fifteen thousand photographs with it. Not having it around for a month has been hard. Enjoy these old pictures. New ones are coming soon.