This feature is devoted each month to one of the personalities within the meteorite community. This month we are delighted to have Count Guido Deiro share the incredible story of his first meteorite find.
METEORITE FIRST FIND STORY 3/3/10 12.73kg NEVADA RECORD CHONDRITE
I’ve lived and worked in the Great Basin and Mohave Deserts all my life. For dozens of years and thousands of hours as a commercial airplane and helicopter pilot providing contract services to government agencies and scientific laboratories, most associated with the Nevada Atomic Proving Grounds (87% of the State of Nevada is government land).
After the death of Howard Hughes, (yes, I did know and fly with him) I left my position at the Hughes Tool Co. as Director of Aviation Services and began brokering ranch properties, Taylor grazing and patented water rights which put me “boots on ground” throughout the state.
I began to study meteorites about a year ago as a diversion to take my mind off the two years of radiation and chemo treatments I had been undergoing for stage IV metastasized cancer. I had responded well for a 72 year old and was in remission. I needed some new pursuit to get my mental and physical health back.
Little did I know that I was about to catch another disease..and this one incurable…the obsession with meteorites.
After purchasing some sixty different types and classifications, a stereo scope and a cabinet for comparison purposes …and reading numerous posts on List and dozens of papers, attending Tucson… putting faces on all whom I had met online… I decided I was ready to go into the field and find my own meteorites.
I was fortunate to have made acquaintance with Sonny Clary who lives nearby. He had become my mentor, given me samples and shown me some pointers on hunting by taking me on a short local trip to look at an area of interest. We spent maybe two hours in the field. Sonny moves quickly, his acute vision and experience letting him cover a lot of ground in very little time. I found I was more comfortable going my own way and not slowing him up. Neither he, nor I, found anything.
I have four grandsons and I spent a few hours in some vacant fields in Las Vegas throwing down weathered samples and demonstrating to them the use of the cane and detector. Ten years young, Vincent, was fascinated. He’ll be an “ist” someday.
On Tuesday, March 2nd, Sonny called late and invited me to spend my first full day hunting an area he felt was promising several hours away. We met at his home and loaded up the gear, food and water. Brix, his super Alsatian, whined excitedly knowing we were going on a hunt. Sonny has trained Brix to the point that the dog will bring him rocks in the field. No meteorites yet…but it will happen.
We arrived in a remote part of the desert around nine o’clock. The temperature was a pleasant 67 degrees under clear skies and no wind. We saddled up and agreed as to which way each of us would go. Sonny took off to the left and me to the right. Within minutes we were out of sight of each other. We did have a means of communicating electronically in the event of an emergency.
After several hours with no luck, we met back at the truck and traveled two miles north on the valley floor. After another hour or two of nothing but meteor wrongs picked up from the desert pavement, Sonny decided to expand our search area again several miles to the west.
This time we were on excellent ground. Gently rolling, with very little organic growth and hardly any rocks at all. If they were here, the meteorites would stand out prominently. Again, Sonny strode off northwest with Brix roaming in front of him. Brix has received snake avoidance training and a good thing, because the rattlers, including the feared “Mohave Green”, are coming out of their dens this time of year to warm themselves, and shed their winter skin, making them ill tempered and aggressive. Sonny hunted with no assistance from cane, or detector. I used my six foot staff with a circular neodymium magnet screwed on the end.
I followed Sonny to the west, deciding to make the first leg of my search into the reduced visibility of the sun, so I could make the other two half mile legs with the sun at my side and rear to highlight the ground and prevent squinting. I have special tinted prescription glasses that provide some UV protection, reduce eye strain and sharpen the field of view.
Sonny and Brix were quickly out of sight. About an hour and a half into things, and while walking forward a few paces at a 45 degree angle to the left and then to the right, my scan picked up an irregular shape 50′ to my right. It was so out of place as to shape and color that I knew immediately it was a possible. I turned and walked toward it. As I got within a few yards I could see that it had the familiar dark desert patination that I had studied on my Gold Basin samples. It was a three inch high tip sticking out of the ground like a triangular iceberg.
I started to laugh out loud as I walked around it in a tight circle. Taking my cane, I carefully placed it close alongside dangling it loosely between two fingers. Nevada chondrites tend to have low metal. The cane moved slowly toward the rock and touched it. So subtle was its movement that I didn’t immediately believe I had seen what I had seen and had to repeat the test all around the tip. Each time it “clicked” I got a rush of excitement.
Before I could contain myself, I reached down and grabbed the exposed tip and pulled. My hand slipped off. The rock was solidly buried in the ground.
I began to dig with my bare hands. Down two inches and still no movement. Step back. Put scale cube down. Take picture. Three more inches and shove it with your foot. No movement. More pictures and the thought of “How in the hell did I get this lucky?” I dug frantically like a rabid gopher. “How big was this thing?”, “Wow”, “Wait till Sonny sees this.” Then I got greedy. I didn’t want it to stop getting bigger, but finally at a depth of about nine inches I was able to get my fingers under the bottom edge of the triangular shape. I stood up, put my foot against it and shoved. The meteorite came free from its thousands of years entrapment in the desert floor. I had my first find.
I called Sonny on cell. At first he thought I was joking, but when I offered a $100 wager if he came and found it was not a meteorite, he started his trek to my location. He arrived in fifteen minutes, the last few yards with a huge grin on his face and his arms out stretched. “Dude” he said. “You the man.” We were like a couple of kids for a minute. Literally pounding each other’s fists and laughing. I have never seen Sonny so animated.
Brix immediately went to the meteorite, and curling around it, he laid down on guard. It was his now.
The specimen is currently the largest intact chondrite found so far in Nevada and my first find. Its gross weight was 12.73kg. 250mm x 180mm x 120mm. I went out and bought a bunch of lottery tickets.