Revisiting Independence

Way back in the summer of 2002 in this very ezine I wrote a piece about the Independence, Missouri chondrite, an observed fall from 1917. The single 880g mass was recovered shortly after it fell by Edward Keesling who “heard a hissing/buzzing sound, and then observed a dark object falling to the ground on the side of a dirt road.”

One of the few views of the oriented side of the almost-complete mass of Independence, MO.

A scale view of the interior of Independence prior to it’s slicing.

Keesling kept the stone until his death whereby it became property of his son. Some time later, Alan Shaw learned of the stone and was able to purchase it from the family.

Independence is listed as an L6 chondrite, and was oriented in form. In the past decade, much of Independence was sliced up and distributed across the collecting community. I was lucky early on to acquire a nice complete slice of the fall. At the time, it was one of the largest slices of Independence in any collection. More recently, however, I was able to add the “main mass” of Independence into my collection.

The main and largest cut face of Independence denoting one side of the current main mass.

A beautiful mottled patina offering a classic L6 visual texture sprinkled with both occasional round chondrules and ample metal flake.

A few nice larger inclusions grace the massive (for Independence) cut face of this almost-200g main mass.

An oriented stone has a leading edge or side, and a trailing side. The fact that the stone was not tumbling on an axis perpendicular to its direction of travel allows the atmospheric shaping of the stone to become pointed on one end, and flat on the other. Generally the leading or pointed end of the stone is the most exciting, and happily the slicing of Independence preserved the most active portion of its exterior.

A gorgeous leading edge that punched through our earth’s atmosphere with no regard for its own personal safety, or for the sole witness on the ground.

The single flaw in the the exterior of the main mass of Independence; only a mildly natural fracture.

At the moment, the main mass of Independence is just shy of 200g, or about one quarter of the initial mass (assuming a 10% cutting loss). Given many main masses, a twenty-five percent stake in any given meteorite is a serious commitment, but such a large relationship with a historic witnessed fall is truly a match made from Heaven. I cannot say it with certainty, but at the moment I am guessing that “till death do us part” will be when I let go of Independence.

The year 2017 is not too far off meaning that in four years I will raise a toast to Independence celebrating the 100th anniversary of its fall! And also to Edward Keesling who had not only had the good fortune of witnessing a meteorite hit the earth, but also the wherewithal to preserve it for future generations.

 

Until next time….

 

About the Author

Martin Horejsi
Dr. Martin Horejsi is a Professor of Instructional Technology and Science Education at The University of Montana. A long-time meteorite collector and writer, before publishing his column The Accretion Desk in The Meteorite Times, he contributed often and wrote the column From The Strewnfields in Meteorite Magazine. Horejsi is currently a monthly columnist in The Science Teacher, a journal by the National Science Teachers Association. Horejsi specializes in the collection and study of historic witnessed fall meteorites with the older, smaller, and rarer the better. Although his meteorite collection once numbered over a thousand pieces with near that many different locations, several large trades and sales have streamlined the collection to about 250 locations with all but 10 being important witnessed falls. Many of the significant specimens in Horejsi's collection are historic witnessed falls that once occupied prominence in the meteorite collections of Robert A. Haag, James Schwade, and Michael Farmer. Other important specimens were acquired through institutional trades including those from The Smithsonian Institution, Arizona State University, and other universities.
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