Images of my Wisconsin Trip to Hunt for Meteorites

 

Search for Chondrites – from the April 14th fireball and fall of meteorites in Grant and Iowa County in Wisconsin.

© Bob Verish 2010

Holding my “Wisconsin” find for the first time.

View is of the find location looking in the direction of the property owners farm,

which is also looking “up the trend” of the strewn field.

Well, the title says it all. This month’s installment of Bob’s Findings will be just a “photo album” of images that I took during my mid-May stay in Wisconsin where I hunted for those chondritic stones that fell from the April 14th 2010 Fireball. And as of the writing of this article, the classification and the approved name for this meteorite have, yet, to be announced by the Nomenclature Committee of the Meteoritical Society. [See "UPDATE" below] There has been a lot of speculation as to what will be the approved name for this meteorite fall. If I were to speculate, I would say that the Nomenclature Committee may be delaying their announcement because they may be in the middle of developing a new process or set of guidelines for the naming and classification of falls. In fact, what may be percieved as a “delay” may only be the result of some recent past falls having been very quickly classified and named. Possibly, in an attempt to avoid any future criticism, the Committee may be taking a slower approach in determining a classification and determining a proper name, given that falls, such as this one, can produce strewn fields that can cover an area that would include several counties, or even several states. The Committee may simply be waiting to see what will eventually be the full extent of this Wisconsin strewn field.

[UPDATE: A name for the "Wisconsin Meteorite" has been approved by the Nomenclature Committee of the Meteoritical Society: Mifflin (L5 S1 W0) as per 2010-09-09 Met. Bulletin Database]

And to that end, trying to extend the limits of this strewn field, was what prompted me to go to Wisconsin. Even though I would arrive in Wisconsin a full month after the fall, and after many dozens of meteorite hunters had already come and gone, I was greatly encouraged by the results of Rob Matson’s ongoing study of the NOAA-NWS Doppler radar weather data that there was a very good chance that more meteorites could be found by expanding the search area. In fact, while I was in Wisconsin, it was announced that Michael Cottingham’s 105 gram find had the effect of extending the known strewn field 3.25 miles farther down-trend to the southeast.

Upon my arrival in Wisconsin, I first went to the area that is between Mineral Point and Darlington, and immediately started my search in an area that was actually in Lafayette County! Also during that first week, I tried to extend the NW end of the known strewn field by searching areas that were west of Montfort and had the same Zip Code as Clifton, WI.

After about a weeks time into my searching, I noticed that the farmers were starting to cut their “grass” (alfalfa fields). This had the effect of exposing new surfaces in fields that had not been hunted, yet. Now the new push was to find these fields and get permission from the farmers to hunt on their property. While searching in these fields it was educational to see how labor-intensive was the farmers work of cutting and “baling hay”. Depending upon which method of “baling” was used, the process could take over a week for each field to be cut, raked, chopped/bailed, and fertilized. This could result in the farmer having to drive their tractors and equipment during this “baling process” a total of 3 or 4 times over every square meter of their hay fields. Even in fields that weren’t getting plowed, the chance that a meteorite stone would get driven-over and pushed into the ground was very high.

© Bob Verish 2010

This style of making bales of hay results in too much waste and the alfalfa leaf litter ends up covering too much of the ground. It was easier searching the ground right after the grass was cut and put into narrow rows, but before it was allowed to dry, prior to being rolled into these bales. Of course, these rows of cut grass would cover a portion of the field, but a good 2/3rd could still be effectively searched.

© Bob Verish 2010

Another farm cutting another field of “grass”. This cut grass was made into rectangular bales. This method of baling grass leaves little litter behind on the ground, effectively leaving the ground more bare and easier to search.

© Bob Verish 2010

The Linden Post Office. This one is located closest to the main mass (as of this writing).

© Bob Verish 2010

The Livingston Post Office. This one is located closest to the location where the first stone from this fall was recovered.

© Bob Verish 2010

There is no post office in the town of Mifflin, but this village is located closest to the middle of the strewn field (as of this writing). [The NomCom opted to name this meteorite fall after this village.]

© Bob Verish 2010

The northwest end of the strewn field is close to the town of Montfort.

© Bob Verish 2010

Less than an hour before I made my find, I took these two images (of what I calculated to be) on the trend line, with this image being a view up-trend in the strewn field, and the next image being a view down-trend. Now, compare this image with my in-situ image at the beginning of this article. And now, compare the next two images…

© Bob Verish 2010

And this is a view in the opposite direction, down the trend line. Now, compare this image with my in-situ image below.

© Bob Verish 2010

An in-situ image of my meteorite find, looking down the trend line. It appears that this find was made right on the trend line. Apparently my trend-calculations were accurate.

© Bob Verish 2010

This image is actually an in-situ image of my find.

I took this image while the meteorite lies still untouched on the ground. This shot was taken at the very same spot where I first spied the meteorite. The purpose of this is to show exactly what I saw – the exact angle of lighting, the amount of vegetation on the ground, the color and shading of the stone, and the distance I was from the stone at the time the find was made. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t spot the meteorite from this distance. Get a little closer by going to the next image.

© Bob Verish 2010

Now that we are closer to the stone, it is a little more visible.

But I have to confess that even at this distance I still hadn’t positively identified what I had found. The reason being, is that just prior to seeing this “object” I had just picked-up from the ground a piece of black tire-tread. It wasn’t completely black, because it had some soil caked on it when it was recently run-over by the tractor that was cutting the grass. Because of its size and shape (and because there were other pieces lying about), I could tell it was a piece of tire-tread even before I picked it up. I picked it up because I wanted to use it as a marker at the end of the row to denote this row as one that had already been searched. In fact, I was still holding this piece of tread when I spotted the object (meteorite) in this image.

© Bob Verish 2010

Yet, still closer!

Even at this distance, I was telling myself, “Don’t get excited. It’s just another piece of rubber. It’s just another heart-breaker!” which is what we call a small piece of rubber that looks great at first, until the magnet stick bounces off of it, and again our heart is broken. Besides, it should be a dark, flat-black color and not this dingy gray. But then I started to take notice of its shape, even though it was obscured by several blades of grass.

© Bob Verish 2010

After I held-down the blades of grass with my hand, I finally realized that what I was looking at all this time was an actual meteorite.

But I was very puzzled by why it wasn’t more black and why it was covered with mud-spots and water-marks. So, I didn’t start celebrating, just yet, and instead, got up and walked around so that the sunlight would be coming over my shoulder, got back down on my knees and examined it with a hand-lens – without picking it up (see next image).

© Bob Verish 2010

And this is what I saw. Confirmed! It is a meteorite.

And clearly, it could be seen that this stone had been driven-over by a tractor (at least once)! Which might explain the camouflaged pattern of marks and mud-spots. The tire-track could still be easily seen in the pushed-down grass, where it traveled right over this stone. But whether this action pushed the stone down into the mud, or whether the stone stuck into the soil on impact, is still a matter of opinion. But there definitely was a subsequent action, because the stone was found partly pulled-out of the ground and pushed-over onto its side. The depression that was made in the once wet soil still could be clearly seen, now that the stone was hinged back over onto its side.

© Bob Verish 2010

In this image I’ve rotated the find ~90 degrees in order to show the bottom-side (“B”-side) of the meteorite. This view shows a broken surface that clearly displays the brecciated fabric of this chondrite. Also visible directly below the meteorite, is the depression in the ground, probably made when the tractor ran over this stone!

Because I was pre-occupied with wondering why the exterior was so dingy-looking, as well as wondering how many times it was driven-over, and where were the other pieces to this fragment, I never really, properly celebrated the fact that after all of this time searching I finally found one! I found a “Wisconsin Fall” meteorite!

I had been hunting for more than two weeks, and on the last day before I was to depart for home, I finally found one.

Then a thought came to me. I remembered that a week earlier (and more than a week into my search effort), while walking all day down one corn row after another, I fantasized what I would do if I were to eventually find a Wisconsin meteorite. I imagined myself whooping it up so loud that every farmer and cow in the township would have to look in the direction of my boisterous celebration to wonder what happened. But now a week later, there I stood, emotionless, and looking down at my find and thinking to myself, “That wasn’t so hard. Why did it take me so long?”

In retrospect, I suppose that I would have been more jubulient if making this find would have resulted in extending the strewn field or resulted in opening-up a new cluster of finds. But when I looked around, I could see that my find wasn’t very far from where other earlier finds had been made, as well as, my find was right on the consensus trend-line and right in the middle of the strewn field. So, I guess that’s the reason I acted unemotional; I guess I save my celebrations for my “cold finds”.

Still, I felt deservedly satisfied with my find. And since then, I know that very few [Mifflin] Wisconsin meteorite finds have been made. And with time, there will be even fewer found.

© Bob Verish 2010

Greg Stanley and I presenting the find to the landowner.

Farmer Randy was very pleased that I had made a find on his property and thanked me for coming back to show him the meteorite. He mentioned in passing that not all of the prior meteorite hunters had come back to show him the meteorites that they had found on his property. That put me in an uncomfortable position, but he quickly changed the subject by asking me if I would be interested in buying his half of the find. I quickly said, “Yes!”

© Bob Verish 2010

Farmer Wade points to where he found his meteorite after he heard it hit his “shed”.

Another farmer that I met that afternoon was Farmer Wade. This is the gentleman that is documented as having witnessed the fall and heard stones falling and hitting his “shed”. It was the serendipitous meeting of Wade and meteorite hunter Terry Boudreaux that “started the ball rolling” in what would become a historic and massive recovery effort of the [Mifflin] Wisconsin meteorite fall.
Greg and I had a great time sharing a beer with Wade as he recounted his story about the meteorite fall and recovery on his property.

© Bob Verish 2010

End of the day “tailgate party”!

After the sun had set, Farmer Wade and Greg and I went over to a neighboring farm where Dana and Keith Jenkerson were staying so that we could see the find that Keith had made earlier that same day. Wade had brought along some cans of beer, and we proceded to have an impromptu “tailgate party”, where we showed each other the meteorites that we had found. And this is how we spent our last night in Wisconsin. The next day, Greg and I would return home to Southern California.


I would like to conclude this article by “reprinting” my earlier “Trip Report”.

What follows is from the Archives of the Meteorite-List and is a reprint of my post reporting on my May 2010 trip to Wisconsin:

"Wisconsin Meteorite Trip Report" Hello List, This post reports on my Wisconsin Meteorite search efforts from earlier this month. The focus of this effort was an attempt to extend the “known” strewn field in both directions – east and west, using images of NOAA-NWS Doppler radar weather data that were generated by Rob Matson. Some of these images can be viewed on my webpage, here: 

http://meteorite-recovery.tripod.com/2010/may10.htm

My May 2010 Article.

These same images and data were supplied by Rob to Sonny Clary, as well, and as it turns out, even though we were hunting independently, we were conducting our searches at the same time and in the same general area, but on neighboring farms. Sonny returned home before I departed the strewn field and has already posted his very well-written “trip report”. Since many of my observations only serve to corroborate what Sonny has already reported, my report will be shorter. So for reference, here is a link to Sonny’s previous “trip report”: 

http://six.pairlist.net/pipermail/meteorite-list/2010-May/064913.html

 

Sonny Clary’s Trip Report post to the Met-List.

Started my search in Lafayette County in a township known as Willow Springs by contacting eyewitnesses and farmers in order to obtain permission to walk their property. This part of my job was made easier (inadvertently) by Sonny, who preceded me by a day and had already explained to the property owners our mission. Continued to cross paths with Sonny until we accidentally met near the courthouse in Darlington. We talked briefly, exchanging field notes and discussing hunting strategy. I had no Wisconsin finds to show him, but I did get to closely examine Brix’s find from his earlier trip. All that I had to show for my efforts, up to this point, was a sack-full of morels: 

http://meteorite-recovery.tripod.com/2010/wi/dsc01268morrel.jpg

Morchella esculenta – Common Yellow Morel

It was at this point that I decided it was time to pay a visit to the other end of the strewn field. I attempted to extend the “known” strewn field (at that time) to the west of Highway 80 in an area known as the “Amish Farm”. These folk were quite friendly and very inquisitive about meteorites and meteors, as were all of the other farmers that I met. They helped me get in contact with the neighboring farmers. One farm had a particularly strong Doppler radar reflection centered over it in a satellite image. Although I hiked a lot of this area, there were many fields that were too lush with vegetation or were recently planted. Encouraged by the announcement of the location for Michael Cottingham’s 105 gram find, I now focused my search in areas to the east of Hwy 151, and with the hope that there would be a continued repeat in the pattern that I noticed in the clusters of finds from “up trend” in the strewn field. So, I selected areas to search that were 3 miles farther down the trend of the flight path, and that were located under strong Doppler radar reflections as depicted in Rob Matson’s satellite images. In this area, there were fields of alfalfa, grass, and rye starting to get cut, and I felt encouraged that, if given more time, a meteorite find could have been eventually made. But on this leg of my trip, I again made no finds and I failed to extend the strewn field. Now, I had to return to the airport at Madison to pick-up my met-hunting partner, Greg Stanley. So, the next morning with a fresh pair of eyes and legs we started our search anew. Greg’s plan was to start in the middle of the strewn field and work outwards. Prior to Greg’s arrival, I had already selected farms that were in the process of cutting-chopping-bailing grass and obtained prior-approval to hunt those fields from the farmers. Long-story-short, I finally made a find! It is a 31 gram fragment with 3 sides of fusion-crust, 2 sides of fresh-broken surface, and 1 side that has faint evidence of a short-duration, secondary f-c melting event. It was found in a freshly cut hay field right in the middle of the strewn field and right on the generally-accepted trend line. And, of course, I waited until my last day (before Greg and I were to depart for home) to make our one and only find from this fall. My track-record for being a first-rate procrastinator remains unblemished. 

http://meteorite-recovery.tripod.com/2010/wi/dsc01425find-b.jpg


My find was driven-over by tractors at least once, probably twice!

Before departing, I invited Keith Jenkerson (who, along with Dana, were staying at a neighboring farm) to use his metal-detector and try his luck at finding the missing pieces to my fragment at the find location. He was unable to detect any of the missing pieces, but for his effort he was rewarded – he made his 2nd WI find [~15g] while walking back to meet Dana. 

http://meteorite-recovery.tripod.com/2010/wi/dsc01453jenkerson2.jpg

Keith Jenkerson 2nd WI find.

Later that last night, Greg and I gave farmer Wade a ride back to his farm and shared some beers with him at his “ground zero” shed. Then we all went over to the neighboring farm where Keith and Dana were staying, where we celebrated our good luck that day, and celebrated our good luck at making friends with such great people and in being able to share with them their new strewn field. Departure the next day was bittersweet. It would be good to get back home. But it seemed like such a waste to leave, particularly after obtaining all that hard-learned expertise, and after meeting all those farmers, and making new friends, and especially while there were new hay fields being cut! It won’t take very long for all that vegetation to grow back. The crops will quickly grow to maturity, and all the while the farmers will be continually busy driving their tractors in those fields. On Wisconsin! Bob V. 

Wisconsin Hunt – May 2010 – Here is a link to my other images from this trip!


References:

Bob’s Findings:

May 2010 Article – in Meteorite-Times.Com –


“What Made the Recovery of Meteorites from the 4/14/2010 Fall in Wisconsin such a Rapid and Timely Success? ” –

 

I feel that it was the high-quality of the NWS Doppler-radar with its very distinctive trace of the fireball (which was readily available to the general public) that was the impetus to getting the meteorite hunters so quickly into the [strewn] field.

Discover Magazine:

Huge fireball over Wisconsin! | Bad Astronomy | – Apr 14, 2010 … Rob Matson Says: April 16th, 2010 at 12:25 am … The story doesn’t say where the find was made, but my educated guess (based on Doppler radar imagery) is that it was recovered …

Shawn Alan:

Meteorite Fall Wisconsin – in MeteoritesRock.com –


The interesting facts, video news reports, newspaper etc.

Bob’s Findings:


March 2009 Article – in Meteorite-Times.Com –


“What Made the Recovery of Meteorites at West, TX such a Success?” – Comparison of some recent bolide events.

NEXRAD:

Next-Generation Radar – in Wikipedia –

is a network of 159 high-resolution Doppler weather radars operated by the National Weather Service, an agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) within the United States Department of Commerce.

FBWG:

Fireball Working Group – The purpose of this group is to exchange data regarding fireball events and to provide a venue for experts and novices to assist field investigators in collecting and analyzing reports from whatever traditional or non-traditional sources there maybe.

Google Search Results for:


Mifflin Wisconsin Meteorite Fall – Wisconsin News -

Midwest meteor named Mifflin after Wis. township…

Photo Album of My Trip to Wisconsin:

 

© Bob Verish 2010

An early morning flight out of San Diego to Wisconsin had a flight path over Needles, CA and Laughlin, NV. In the early morning sunlight Ivanpah Dry Lake is barely visible.

© Bob Verish 2010

A little later the flight path went over Kingman, AZ. In the distance can be seen Red (Dry) Lake.

© Bob Verish 2010

The Grand Canyon in early morning sunlight.

© Bob Verish 2010

Mineral Point, WI in the early evening rain.

© Bob Verish 2010

Lafayette County, Wisconsin in the early morning rain.

© Bob Verish 2010

Fungus growing on a tree in Lafayette County, Wisconsin.

© Bob Verish 2010

A “blonde” morel growing under that same tree in Lafayette County, Wisconsin.

© Bob Verish 2010


Morchella esculenta – Common Yellow Morel (but a very large one).

© Bob Verish 2010

The “Wind Farm” near Montfort in Iowa County, Wisconsin.

© Bob Verish 2010

Lush growth in a corn-stubble field in Grant County, Wisconsin.

© Bob Verish 2010

A mushroom growing on corn-stubble on a farm in Grant County, Wisconsin.

© Bob Verish 2010

Low-angle evening sunlight illuminates a field on a farm in Grant County, Wisconsin.

© Bob Verish 2010

No-till planting of seeds

© Bob Verish 2010

Perfect daylight to search a pasture on a farm near Linden in Iowa County, Wisconsin.

© Bob Verish 2010

The farmer’s dog accompanied me the entire day as I hiked all of the pasteur lands. Unfortunately, the dog wasn’t pointing at a meteorite.

© Bob Verish 2010

A must stop for custard in Dodgeville, WI.

© Bob Verish 2010

This small cheese company in Linden, WI makes a lot of cheese for the Olive Garden Restaurant.

© Bob Verish 2010


The Happy Hour Bar & Grill has great midday sandwiches.

© Bob Verish 2010

This was a favorite lunchtime gathering spot for meteorite hunters in Livingston, WI.

© Bob Verish 2010

Check-out the check-out-counter at the Livingston Mobil gas station.

© Bob Verish 2010

Anybody know what was the winning slogan?

© Bob Verish 2010

Main Street in Livingston, Wisconsin.

© Bob Verish 2010

Road sign just east of Livingston on Rt. X?

© Bob Verish 2010

This is how “rye grass” is grown and cut in Iowa County, WI. This field may look easy to hunt, but the stubble is too tall and it hides small objects very well. Trust me.

© Bob Verish 2010

Greg Stanley, at the end of a very long day of meteorite hunting.

© Bob Verish 2010

Greg’s turn to take my picture.

© Bob Verish 2010

Dana and Keith Jenkerson, just before Keith found his 2nd stone.

© Bob Verish 2010

Keith’s 2nd find.

© Bob Verish 2010
© Bob Verish 2010

Meteorite [was] On Display at the Popcorn Factory in Montfort, WI.

© Bob Verish 2010

Temporay Display at the Popcorn Factory.

© Bob Verish 2010

Nice find for a 5 year old!

© Bob Verish 2010

Sunset brings a great end to a wonderful trip.


My previous articles can be found *HERE*

For for more information, please contact me by email:

Bolide*chaser

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About the Author

Robert Verish
Bob is a retired aerospace engineer living in Southern California, and has been recovering meteorites from the Southwest U.S. Deserts since 1995.
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