The Beardsley, Kansas Chondrite:
Pulling its Weight in Science
Beardsley, Kansas H5 chondrite put on quite a show when it fell on
October 15, 1929, but only two pieces were recovered anytime soon after the
fall. Although Beardsley is not a terribly illusive meteorite for
collectors, complete individuals and pieces over 100g are almost never
available. But through trades and purchases over the past year my collection
has grown by three wonderful Beardsley pieces, each of which enriches the
collection in its own way.
Three Beardsley stones pose for a family picture with two
Nininger documents. Their peaceful travels through space and
time were rudely interrupted by the earth, but once again
the stones are reunited. Now they can share stories about
their wanderings on this planet. Two of the stones got
tattooed while the third stuffered an injury.
The stone on the left is a complete individual with Monnig
Collection number; the center half-individual is more than
170g; and the individual on the right carries a Nininger
Collection specimen number matching the AML specimen card.
According to an
article from American Mineralogist, Vol. 17, No. 12, December 1932, the
journey of Beardsley from cropland to collection was an interesting story,
and once again we owe our Beardsley specimens to the perseverance of H. H.
by H. H. Nininger, Denver, Colorado.
To the long list of Kansas meteorites this will add another, bringing the
total number up to 22 falls for that state.
On October 15, 1929, the residents in the vicinity of Beardsley and
surrounding villages to a distance of 40 miles or so were startled by a
dazzling light followed by the usual thunderous sounds about 11:30 p.m.
Those who were abroad at that hour saw a fire-ball pass from E.S.E. to W.N.W.
and disappear at a considerable altitude. Unfortunately no scientist visited
the locality until almost two years later so that the data are not as
definite as they might have been.
In the village of Beardsley Mrs. Ray Gaines leaned out of the open window on
the north side of the house and heard distinctly the fall of two stones, one
of which seemed to fall in the yard. A whizzing noise was heard preceding
each impact. A search was made by the Gaines' during the next few days and
two stones were found, one of 4 oz. about 20 meters east of the house was
evidently on of those heard to strike. The other was found some 40 rods to
the east and a little south of the house. This one weighed slightly less
than 2 lbs. and lay on top of the lately sown wheat ground. It is very
doubtful if this was the second stone heard by Mrs. Gaines who is quite
certain that the one she heard fell to the north of the house.
The writer was in central Mexico at the time of this occurrence and word did
not reach him until his return in late December. By this time the two stones
had been sold to a collector in the east who was making an effort to recover
any other stones which May have fallen, hence the writer did not visit the
locality until August 1931, after being informed by the party that the two
stones constituted in his opinion the entire fall.
On August 10, 1931, I instituted a search by a visit to the village of
Beardsley and during the next 60 days was rewarded by securing six masses
weighing respectively 15, 2.5, 8.4, 10.6, 43, and 328 oz. Some of these had
been in the possession of their finders since October 1929. Others were
found during the autumn plowing which was in progress at the time of my
several visits during August and September.
All but the largest stone were found entirely on top of the ground. Three
were found in pasture land the others on cultivated soil. The large stone
was struck by the plow. Its upper surface lying at a depth of a little less
than four inches.
The stones which were found two years after the fall seemed to be preserved
about as well as those which were picked up within a few days of their
All of the stones are covered with the usual dark slaty grey fusion crust.
Those which have lain exposed on the surface for two years have changed to
almost jet black color where not in contact with the soil.
This closeup of the Nininger Collection piece shows a
rare "nn" letter specimen designation. Nininger began
his quest for meteorites in 1923 so this piece was one
of the few showers that fell shortly after he began
in his article that some inferences could be made about meteorite fall rates
based upon the fall of Beardsley in relation to several other falls:
interesting fact concerning the Beardsley fall is in its relation in point
of time to three other falls within the bounds of the eastern half of the
United States, namely, the North Carolina fall of July 9, 1929; Paragould,
Arkansas, Feb. 16, 1930; and the Miller, Arkansas, fall of July 13, 1930.
These constitute an unusual record of four falls (stones from which were
recovered) within a twelve months period, or to be more exact a period of
369 days. If this area were taken as an index to the number of falls
arriving on the lithosphere within the period under consideration, we should
have to conclude that 532 falls landed on the earth during those twelve
As a matter of fact it is practically certain that less than half of the
falls which occur in any area, such as the eastern half of the United
States, are ever found. It is also possible that those four might represent
an unusual concentration of meteoric impacts."
In 1955, potassium-argon dating placed the
age of Beardsley at well over 4 billion years old.
In somewhat of a piece of synchronicity, the first
attempt to date meteorites, using a helium method, was
in 1929, the same year as the Beardsley fall. The helium
method was unreliable since cosmic radiation can produce
helium thus moving the hands of the geologic clock on
the soon-to-be meteorites.
As the Earth's annual odometer clicks once again, it still remains important
that we also celebrate the science meteorites have given us. Our science had
to start somewhere, and 75 years ago when the Beardsley meteorite fell,
though we did not know it at the time, one more piece of our cosmic puzzle
moved slowly into place.