This feature is devoted each month to one of the personalities within the meteorite community. This month we are delighted to share an interview we had with Tracy Latimer.
Meteorite-Times (MT) What or who got you interested in meteorites and how old were you when you got your first meteorite?
Tracy Latimer (TL) I started collecting about a decade ago. I was looking for unique Christmas gifts online, and having been recently introduced to ebay, on a whim typed in ‘meteorites’. I was astonished to find that they were available for the public to buy. I bought all my friends tiny meteorite samples for Christmas that year, and spawned my own interest at the same time.
(MT) What was your first meteorite?
(TL) I bought a bunch at approximately the same time; the one I remember from that first batch is a skeletal Imilac, with all the olivine weathered away.
(MT) Do you still have it?
(MT) Do you have special areas of interest that you focus on in regards to meteorites (thin sections, photography, chemistry, age dating.. etc)?
(TL) Ideally I’d like pieces from every unique fall or find, but that just isn’t in the budget. I have a few gaps, but I’ve been working on getting a representative piece from every petrologic grade and type. Recently I’ve been concentrating on lower petrologic types, the L3s and LL3s; I find them aesthetically pleasing. I also find it hard to turn down nice pallasites, which are as beautiful as stained glass windows; I wish I had more unique specimens.
(MT) Does your Family share in your interest in meteorites?
(TL) The overall reaction seems to be “Well, isn’t that fascinating,” and I try not to bore them too much with meteorite trivia! My parents recall taking me to Meteor Crater as a young child, and they say that at age 5 I knew exactly what caused the crater. My husband supports my enthusiasm, although he is long-suffering.
(MT) Do you have any special approaches to collecting? (Type collection, only stones, only irons, only by aesthetics, etc. or any and all that you like.)
(TL) Most of my meteorites are micro specimens, as my display area is small; I have only a couple dozen pieces that are too large to fit in a 1×1 gem jar. Other than that, anything is fair game, although I’m trying for at least one of each specimen type.
(MT) Do you mind saying how many locations your collection represents?
(TL) I am lucky enough to have specimens from all 7 continents, and more than 300 unique falls or finds.
(MT) Is your collection displayed or kept in a dry box or both?
(TL) Most of my meteorites are displayed in shadowboxes, and a couple of converted typesetting drawers, in individual gem boxes.
(MT) In what ways do you use your computer for meteorites?
(TL) If it weren’t for my computer, I doubt I would have ever gotten started collecting! My computer lets me look at collections from around the world, find out what is new in the world of meteorites, and converse with fellow collectors, dealers and scientists. I also use a spreadsheet to keep track of my collection, and make labels for my display.
(MT) Do you ever hunt for meteorites?
(TL) I’d love to participate in a hunt sometime, but I’d have to go some distance to search a strewnfield. The rocks in Hawaii closely resemble meteorites, so visual inspection is not too useful; the iron content is even high enough to fool a metal detector looking for meteorites. Couple that with a climate that is hard on metal, and I wouldn’t have much luck here!
(MT) What is your favorite meteorite in your collection?
(TL) I have several I like. I am very taken with the weird crystalline structure of Itqiy. I own a small piece of Honolulu, one of two meteorites that fell in my state. Lunar and Martian planetaries are also favorites. And I have several wafer thin slices of Esquel, and other pallasites.
(MT) What is your favorite overall if it is not the one above?
(TL) Any of my thin sliced pallasites: Quinjingue, Imilac, Pallasovka, Krasnojarsk, Esquel…
(MT) What makes these of special interest?
(TL) I find them beautiful, aside from the obvious scientific interest.
(MT) What meteorites are currently on your wish list?
(TL) Any pallasites I don’t have now! I’d love to be able to afford a palm-sized slice of translucent Esquel, but don’t have that type of free cash.
(MT) What methods have been most successful in building your collection? (Buying at shows, from dealers by mail, auctions on the web, trading… etc)
(TL) I’ve only been able to attend one show, but came away from it wishing I could go to more. Most of my purchases have been from ebay, although as I have become more discriminating, if I want a particular meteorite I have more luck looking at individual dealers’ stock. Sometimes I will sell off a smaller piece if I upgrade, but since I concentrate on small pieces to begin with, I don’t get to do much trading.
(MT) Do you also collect related materials like impact glasses, breccias, melts, tektites, shocked fossils, native iron rocks etc?
(TL) Yes; several years back I got a selection of impact breccia and glass from Germany in exchange for some spare impactites, and have occasionally bought tektites and other impact related material. I particularly like a translucent piece of LDG I own.
(MT) Do you prepare any of your own specimens? (cut, polish, etch, etc.)
(TL) No; that’s one aspect I’ve never gotten into. The only preparation I do is to try to kill lawrencite disease wherever it strikes.
(MT) Have you had to take any special measures to protect them from the environment?
(TL) All but 2 or 3 of my meteorites are stored in gem jars, membrane boxes, or Riker mounts. This seems to protect them from the worst ravages of our salt air, although the atmosphere here has been hard on my etched irons; I’ve declared a moratorium on buying irons unless I have a nearly foolproof way of protecting them.
(TL) I am a big advocate of getting kids interested in science, and meteorites are a good tangible way to get them started. I’ve given several talks locally about meteorites to elementary and middle school students, and once they realize that the rock they are handing around came from outer space, they usually are fascinated and the questions fly. I keep some small specimens of unclassified NWA meteorites handy to give out to interested kids, and have one on my desk at work. Recently I loaned out some of my lunar meteorites to a geologist at the UH Institute for Astronomy for comparison studies on moon dust from the Apollo missions.