Martin Horejsi

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


 

Meteorites 2.0

Meteorites 2.0

We're not in Kansas anymore. Or Nebraska. Or Texas.


Collescipoli

 

Collescipoli, Italy lit up the afternoon sky on February 3, 1890. As the single 5kg stone made it's grand entrance, I wonder if any of my Italian relatives were outside to watch.

Falling only 70km from Rome, I know my Great Grandparents on my mother's side were in the area at that time so maybe my Great Grandmother heard about the event as a teenager. It might be like when I tell my kids about the Peekskill event.

Meteorites 2.0

This month marks one year of writing the Accretion Desk again since I took a year off. When I think back of what it was like to essentially take my fingers off the pulse of the meteorite planet for a year, I feel that when compared to a decade ago, there has been a distinct and definitive change in meteorite appreciation, meteorite exchange, and meteorite education all leading to a new era in the sport we call meteorite collecting. And this new era needs a name to separate it from how it used to be. I call it Meteorites 2.0.

I admit it. I am a diehard Meteorite 1.0 collector. Yet many fellow enthusiasts I meet these days are decidedly Meteorite 2.0 collectors. But what does this mean in the big picture? Let's take a look.

 

Collescipoli

 

A cut surface on Collescipoli reveals a normal internal structure including a blotchy pattern of gray and grayer with rust staining and rich metal flake indicative of an H chondrite.

The crust is amazing. Rich, thick, bubbly and fresh even though this stone fell almost 120 years ago.


 

The Version History of Meteorite Collecting

Now that we are far enough into this new era of meteorite collecting, we can look back with clear vision and see what brought us here. But let's start at the beginning. The beta period of meteorite collecting was from the the first moment of time to the point where humans accepted meteorites as objects of science instead of mere curiosities, say from xBCE to 1803 with the fall of the L’Aigle meteorite.

The next collecting period, one I refer to as Meteorites 1.0, extended from 1803 until the year 1999 when meteorites drifting out of the Saharan desert forcibly changed the collecting landscape. Since the transition from Meteorites 1.0 to Meteorites 2.0 was more relentless than sudden, I used a convenient millennial milestone to plant a firm marker on the transitional timeline of meteorite collecting history.

The incursion of hot desert meteorites into the public collecting arena brought on Meteorites 2.0 with a vengeance, and the collecting world is, and forever will be, a different place. The release of Meteorite 2.0 threw a paradigm boomerang across the bow of the collecting philosophy of institutions great and small.

At first, collectors could not get enough 2.0 meteorites whether for hobby cabinets or major museum holdings. But as rare became common; small became big, and collectors became dealers, a collective chill ran up the spine of Meteorite 1.0 collectors with the realization that we could not generalize 1.0 collecting guidelines in a 2.0 world. Our rules of engagement, if you will, were now obsolete.

 

Collescipoli

 

A closer look at the crust on Collescipoli opens an entire new world that reminds me of the lava fields at Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho.

 

Collescipoli

 

Imagine shrinking to the size of an aphid and wandering the crust on Collescipoli. It might feel like exploring the caves and tubes in real lava fields. Compare the cave above with the cavities in the crust on Collescipoli.

In this photo, Paul Harris, one of the hosts of The Meteorite Times, enters a cave at Craters of the Moon during our visit there a number of years ago. I wish I had thought of the meteorite crust metaphor when I was at Craters. It would have added another dimension to the basaltic adventures we enjoyed that day.

 

Collescipoli

 

The above excerpt is from the final lines of an article titled Collescipoli - An Unusual Fusion Crust Glass from Meteoritics (Volume 14, 1979, Sept. 30).

Given that the authors suspect that the internal glass in the fusion crust "flowed," then the analogy to a large scale lava flow may not be as crazy as it first sounded.


 

Just Living the Dream

A perfect 2.0 storm of classification, size, and abundance pounded the marketplace causing a brief feeling of the second coming of meteorites. Collectors acquired meteorites with reckless abandon regardless of the reliability, or even the existence of any accompanying information. Meanwhile, the availability of Meteorite 1.0 specimens was almost as copious because the floodgates of classic 1.0 collections flew open feeding the frenzy. Who needs two pieces of Ensishiem when you could trade one for a kilo of ureilite? How about a one-to-one trade between some 1.0 ordinary chondrite for and 2.0 carbonaceous material? Or a 1.0 witnessed fall for a 2.0 howardite at five to one?

All the rampant trading led to a global circulation of possibly the richest meteorite spoils ever to land on the hearts and wallets of the collecting public. Of course it could be argued that hints of a Meteorite 2.0 version was on the horizon as the cold deserts of Antarctica delivered ever more stones and irons. But given the highly-controlled distribution of Antarctic material, the detailed documentation of each find, and the reluctance to apply the term main mass, at best I’d give the Antarctic contribution a Meteorites 1.2.

Collescipoli

 

Being an H5, Collescipoli is considered ordinary, and its internal structure supports this.


 

Crossing the Void

One major private meteorite assemblage that seemed to smoothly cross the 1.0 to 2.0 barrier was the James M. DuPont meteorite collection. According to a four-author article of 389 words, DuPont amassed the largest private collection of meteorites in the world as he collected his way through the mid 1950’s up until God forced him to quit in 1991. DuPont believed he had over 1000 recognized meteorites in his possession along with many more unclassified ones.

Collescipoli

 

But what isn't ordinary is the collection history of this specimen. In addition to an extra helping of crust, this slice contains a painted specimen number from the historic James M. DuPont Meteorite Collection.

Arriving late in the history of the DuPont collection as evidenced by the high specimen number, I suspect this piece was a purchase by DuPont from a meteorite dealer in the 1980s.

But this is hardly a brilliant deduction. This specimen of Collescipoli arrived in my collection along with three specimen cards from prior collections.


 

Listed as merely a December 1994 milestone in the history of the Planetary Studies Foundation, Mrs. Violetta DuPont donated the entire James M. DuPont Meteorite Collection to the Foundation. At the time of the transfer, the collection was considered the 10th largest in the world.

The Planetary Studies Foundation shrunk the collection through a careful inventory placing the number of recognized meteorites at 970. Then through trades, purchases, and embracing the Meteorite 2.0 paradigm, the PSF grew the collection to over 1400 recognized meteorites within a decade. But not without the help of space rocks, both hot and cold.

 

Collescipoli

 

First of all, confirming the identity of my specimen of Collescipoli is a specimen card from the DuPont collection presumably penned by the hand of DuPont himself.

 

Collescipoli

 

I suspect that this is the card that accompanied the Collescipoli specimen when it entered the DuPont collection.

According to the Mineralogical Record's Biographical Archive, the Cureton specimen card style pictured above was in use from 1983-1994.

I really didn't need a website to tell me this. I remember purchasing meteorites from the Cureton's back in the time when the historical specimen card was in use.


 

Now I was not privy to the board meetings of the PSF, but it does appear that the 1.0 DuPont Meteorite Collection seamlessly transitioned into the new Meteorite 2.0 world. Some collecting transitions were not as smooth. More than a few 1.0 collectors, even when pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century still resisted 2.0 material. Others were happy either way. And more than a few thrive in the 2.0 collecting landscape rattling off numbers like stats on a baseball card as if each digit or letter was rich in meaning and history.

 

Collescipoli

 

The next leg of Collescipoli's collection journey landed it in the James Schwade collection. According to the card, Schwade acquired it from the DuPont collection in June of 1995.

About a decade later, I acquired this specimen of Collescipoli from Jim. Now that it is in my collection, I doubt it will be moving anywhere for quite a while. I think three moves in three decades is just too much travel for this old Italian stone.


 

Grek2me

While Meteorite 1.0 collectors were known for sounding like drug pushers making deals on grams of new and exotic sounding narcotics, native 2.0 collectors talk with a whole new meteorite code.

Let’s listen in.


2.0 Collector Bob: “You know Fred, I don’t think N-W-A eleven-ten, you remember, the one parried with ten-sixty-eight, is picritic. And neither is Dag four-seventy-six or S-A-U double-O-five.”


2.0 Collector Fred: “ Ya Bob, but at a one-eighteen-G-T-K-W for eleven-ten and a five-seventy-six-point-seven-seven T-K-W for ten-sixty-eight, who cares?”


2.0 Collector Bob: I do. I already got S-A-U double-O-five and D-H-O zero-nineteen and those bad boys are picritic so I got that class nailed. But I’m ready when eleven-ten turns out to be something new. I’m sitting on over ten milligrams of extra material that will go through the roof when it gets its own class.”


1.0 Collector Martin: “Hey guys, want to see my slice of Ensisheim?”


2.0 Collectors in unison: “What’s an ensishiem?”



Ok, maybe it’s not as bad as this, but I did see a knowing smile on your face as you read it. But poking fun at Meteorites 2.0 collectors is like shooting fish in a barrel. Anyone who joined the collecting ranks after 2000 is unaware of the world that existed before. Sure there is Nininger's biography, and all the chatter about the good old days of paper mailings, phone calls, and wish lists, but to really understand the contrast between yesterday and today, well, I guess you had to be there. Try to imagine a world devoid of the internet, without ebay, lacking any lunar meteorites for sale.

You get the picture.


 

Collescipoli

 

In this excerpt from Farrington (1915) indicates that hydrocarbons are not only from carbonaceous chondrites. According to the author, HCs were also found in Collescipoli and Goalpara.

It's nice to be able to read about century-old scientific studies inspecting the stones in my Meteorites 1.0 collection. Of course there is much more meteorite science today, but the allure of holding historic science in my hand as well as the meteorite brings a special feeling that Meteorites 2.0 has yet to deliver.


 

Meteorites 3.0?

With all this said, upon reflection I suspect we are already into Meteorites 2.1. Through the dedicated searching of temperate deserts, parched lake beds, exhausted strewnfields, and anywhere else worthy, the likes of Meteorites 2.0 pioneers of Ruben Garcia, Sonny Clary and Bob Verish among others, is spreading the original 2.0 paradigm across the dry lands of the Southwest America or SWA.


When looking into my sphere of silicon dioxide, I see visions of a Meteorites 3.0. How? Where? You ask sensing the next big gold rush.

I didn't say it would be easy, but there is still three-fourths of the planet that we haven’t even begun to search. If one had the resources to hunt the ocean floor with the ease of Google Earth 5.0, well now that would be a shift in the old meteorite paradigm!

Until next month.


The Accretion Desk welcomes all comments and feedback.

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