An August 1962 Witnessed Fall: Bogou, Upper Volta, Africa
A Life Measured in Iron Falls
Bogou is one of the lesser known iron falls. In fact all iron falls are lesser known except for one or possibly two that pepper the vocabulary of the collectors.
Despite their dramatic appearance in museum displays, the witnessing of an iron fall is a rare event out of rare events.
Under normal collecting circumstances, a 1962 fall would hardly glow my radar, but anything iron whose fall from the sky was captured on the retinas of at least one witness is worth collecting. And in this particular case, according to a 1962 letter from Dr. E. P. Henderson to E. L. Krinov, the fall of Bogou was as captured as follows:
“The eye witness reports that a noise was heard similar to an airplane flying at high altitude.
Seconds later, a second noise was heard, more muffled than the first, then becoming a shrill sound like a rocket.
About the time the sound reached its maximum, a flash was seen.
A crater between 20 and 30 cm in radius, and about 50 cm deep was made."
Sixty-eight iron falls float to the top of a Natural History Museum (London) database search, with plenty of imposters (a.k.a. psudometeorites or "unlikely" candidates) and more than a few with less than complete documentation or even classification.
In fact, it's probably safe to reduce the number of witnessed falls of iron meteorites throughout the past three and a half centuries to about 50 meteorites.
Overshadowed by Zagami et. al.
As a coarse octahedrite, Bogou does not stand out as unusual as an iron, and its fall weight at 8.8kg does not rank it large or small. Falling at 10 in the morning on August 14, 1962 places it as the seventh fall for that year and about a month and a half before Zagami that alone put 1962 on the map.
And even its fall location of Upper Volta on the African continent is overshadowed by another contemporary stone, namely that of the famous Gao-Guenie shower whose collective rain still dampens collections worldwide.
The depth of fusion crust is breathtaking. Imagine a skin of once-molten iron flowing across the surface of the falling meteorite.
As the incredible speed of the bolide dropped below a magic number, the river of metal froze forever preserving the moment Bogou hesitated in its cosmic adventure.
Common yet Uncommon
Oddly, a meteorite of iron is the first thing most ordinary folk conjure up in their brains when the word meteorite is tossed around. Irons attract the ohhh’s and ahhh’s and greasy fingers of the museum crowd, and irons are the likely starting point for most collections. Irons are also the most likely to be dragged home by the curious. Yet irons falling from the sky represent just a few percent of all witnessed falls, maybe five percent at best.
Translated, that means that for every witnessed arrival of an iron meteorite, upwards of thirty stones are seen to fall. And if one figures in the average number of witnessed falls per year between six and seven, then we should expect only one new iron fall every five years.
Proud of its institutional wounds, my humble piece of Bogou holds the scars of aggressive cutting where material loss was of no concern.
The Life of Iron
Bogou fell a little over a year before I was born which makes it a nice placeholder to anchor my lifespan thus far relative to the fall of iron meteorites. It turns out there are at least nine witnessed iron meteorite falls between Bogou's fall and today meaning I am roughly nine iron falls old.
Now iron finds, well, that’s a whole different story for another place and time..
The flowlined fusion crust on my piece of Bogou is a rare treat on any meteorite let alone an iron. Lately, it seems to me that our collective sophistication for quality fusion crust seems to have lost its sharpness as the taste buds of new collectors are nursed on the aged and withered breast of hot desert stones.
Thrilled with a sandblasted skin that may or may not contain any actual fusion crust, some of the desert stone aficionados have begun redefine fusion crust as anything that remotely does not resemble obvious meteorite interior. And those same loose values seem to encompass that of meteorite orientation as well. But don’t get me started on that one!
In the wild, a broken face was the only option. This image shows the inner workings of Bogou complete with the texture of rust staining and the flowing contours of octahedrite crystalage.
Reality is what sells.
As the lovechild of speed and atmosphere, the newborn crust on iron meteorites is as delicate as it is precious.
Unfortunately many, dare I say most of the Sikhote Alin meteorites being passed off today as Sikhote Alin meteorites do have visible crustal elements, but at nowhere near the resolution they once had before they met with the sandblaster, the talc blaster, acids, wire brushes, rock polishers, overcrowded incarceration, and eBay overgrading.
Fresh crust on an iron meteorites possesses almost god-like properties of iridescence, luster, and a rainbows of refraction. Alas, my specimen of Bogou might have some superpowers, but falls short of a seat on Mount Olympus.
Coming from an institutional collection, this piece of Bogou lived in a jar along side other pieces from the same fall. And I do mean along side as in rubbing shoulders, sides and backs. The rough life of scientific servitude has ended for this particular sample of iron asteroid, and today it lives happily in polyester comfort and plastic security in a climate-controlled safe.
Once again, as the sun’s direct rays continue their journey south for the winter, another Accretion Desk folds it tent and moves on. I wonder what September will bring?
Until next time….