Going up the 17 freeway after leaving the opening of “They Came from Space” Geoff Notkin’s exhibition at the Challenger Center in Phoenix would take us to Flagstaff, Arizona. I had a rental 4×4 waiting at the Pilliam Municipal Airport. We would need it for the next leg of our trip.
We arrived only about 15 minutes early at the rental counter but were told that they did not have a car yet. They had some scheduled to be returned by my actual pick up time of 4:30. So I found a seat and cooled my heels for a few minutes. Only about five minutes past 4:30 I was called to the counter and my car was ready. It was not the Rav4 I had requested, it was a Ford Excape. That was alright we had used a Ford Escape the year before and it worked fine. So I followed Paul’s motorhome to Meteor Crater RV Park which was serving as our base of operation for the next phase of Vacation 2012.
We would be staying four nights at Meteor Crater but would not be able to actually visit the crater till the last day. We had bigger fish to fry before then. And it was too late to go up to the crater on Friday evening after coming in from Phoenix. The crater closes at 5 pm. They are open later until September 15 but we missed that by a couple weeks.
We were set to drive to Holbrook and hunt meteorites for the next two days. This time the crater would have to wait. Saturday morning found us up early and on the road by 7 AM. It is just about an hour drive from Meteor Crater RV Park to the strewnfield of the Holbrook meteorite fall. We had the highest confidence of finding meteorites that I think we have ever had. Yes, there had been a recent hunt by many individuals and they had found nearly a hundred meteorites. But it had rained and there had been wind storms in the area during the last couple months. We felt the time was perfect for us to do some good work there.
It had been 10-12 years since we had hunted at the Holbrook strewnfield and we had found nothing that trip in the threefourths of a day we had searched. But, we were older, better prepared with research, and we were much more experienced meteorite hunters. We had made the decision to hunt the far western end of the strewnfield. Even hunt beyond the generally held end of the ellipse. I parked the car as far down the dirt road as we could go and the search began. In an hour I had found two small meteorites and Paul had found one also so we were already certain we were not going home skunked. But, we found more during the day and I was thinking outside the box pretty good for an old guy. I found a deeply washed out dirtroad that had been filled with mud. It was lined around the top with small rocks for a length of 25-30 feet. I spent about an hour racking loose the small rocks with my boots into piles and running my magnet cane through the piles. I did not find a meteorite every time, but in every second or third pile on average I found one or two small beautiful fusion crusted pieces of space treasure. By the end of the afternoon I had found three or four nice size stones and seven from my little rock piles that were smaller. I was collecting from the anthills too as I walked past them and putting all that material into a plastic bag.
We did not stop all day except for a brief lunch at the car. About 3 in the afternoon we decided to head back to the Crater and relax. We were thrilled and could hardly contain our joy over having each found more than the average for a single hunter in one day. We spent the evening enjoying our finds and talking about the successful day. But, we were far from done we had another day at Holrook and we had learned some tricks and we would learn more before the next day’s hunt was over. We wanted to hunt south of the railroad tracks the next day and planed to cross the tracks at Arntz and drive down the dirt road on the other side. Well, we quickly discovered that the road on the south side does not go very far. We drove as far as we could and there was a small pond of water and a rather treacherous looking washed out area where a road might once have continued. We parked there and went into the south part of the strewnfield. I had downloaded a research paper from the 1960s about Holbrook. At nice piece over a kilogram had been found just 500 feet southwest of the Arntz crossing. I headed out in that direction. Paul headed a little farther west. After about an hour out in the sandy dune like terrain we decided to return to the north side of the strewnfield. We just did not see any rocks on the south side meteorites or any other rocks.
We backed the car out of the short dirt road and crossed back over the tracks. We had not yet hunted any in the middle of the strewnfield so we drove down just a little west of Arntz and stopped. Paul headed out into the higher ground away from the railroad tracks, I hunted in the clay surface of the wash area nearer the tracks. It was not very long until I saw a piece and stuck my magnet down on it. It made that wonderful little clack sound. I took a look at it. It was the most weather and color changed of any Holbrook so far. Its fusion crust had turned really rust brown. Before I could bag it I saw another piece only about two feet away and it jumped to my magnet as well. I had some confidence that since both had a broken side that they were halves of the same original meteorite. I did not try to fit them there in the field for fear that I would chip one fumbling around with them. I bagged them seperately and took my gps waypoint and moved on after looking hard for the one or two additional pieces that were missing as small chips. A few minutes later I found a small brick shaped half gram stone just maybe twenty yards from the first two pieces of the day. So by 10:30 or so I had three more stones. Paul wanted to move down the road a little ways toward where we were the previous day to fully work that spot. We were about to leave but as we discussed driving down there I saw another meteorite sitting on the side of one of the uplifted shurb mounds that are everywhere. So we stayed a few more minutes and then moved down the road. I parked where we had parked the first day and Paul headed out to the area he had left the day before. He found a really nice stone soon after. I returned to the spot where I had found the first two the day before and hunted out from there a few more yards and found another also.
The day would go on with us just finding about one more larger stone each. I was doing very well with anthills though. I thought up a way to maximize the collections from them and after employing the method I was finding three to five nice stones of around 3-4 millimeter or larger at every anthill I passed. I was carrying a small glass bottle in my shirt pocket and the bottom was filling up fast with small Holbrook stones. I was wishing I had used my head the day before and collected by this method then. Oh well, live and learn I was doing well now. I shared the method with Paul and his success took a big jump too. I had a spare glass bottle and he was soon placing meteorites into it as well.
We hunted longer the second day. We left the strewnfield about an hour before sunset. We started on the south side about an hour earlier then we had started the day before. We had put in a long day. We had learned somethings about the strewnfield and had great luck finding meteorites. Not all were big but all were real Holbooks with nice fusion crust.
We drove back to Meteor Crater pretty happy guys. We found more Holbrooks then we thought we would and we had bags of fun material to go through that evening in the motorhome. We decided to celebrate with dinner at the Sonic in Winslow. We have no Sonic near us in California. There is one near Monrovia but way too far to visit from home. But I knew where this one was. Sara and I had eaten there a decade ago when we visited the crater and took a day trip over to Winslow.
Back at the RV Park we had time to relax and look at our finds without worrying about dropping or breaking them. My two pieces from the morning did fit together making one nice individual. But the two pieces made the broken individual the largest of my finds. Evenually we finished weighing and looking at the ones we found so far and began working with the ones in the bottles and bags from the anthills.
We had loupes with us. We always have them in our hunting backpacks. I use my Coddington hand lens which was a gift from my brother when we were both in college studing geology. I think he did better that Christmas since I got him a Brunton Hand Transit. But, I treasure the lens as one of the only things I have from my brother. Its only 10 x but has a nice field of view and sharp image. I poured out some of the second day’s anthill collections. I had already picked out the easiest to see and put them in the bottle out in the field. I would reexamine those as well. Paul was doing the same with his anthill material. We worked out of paper plates. Picking out the meteorites from the raw material using one paper plate and placing them into another plate. Gradually small piles of meteorites emerged. It was so much fun to look at the tiny bits of rock. All of a sudden you would see one as you scanned the plate that had fusion crust and resembled exactly the larger Holbrooks.
Gallery of Holbrook Finds
I did not get into the big bag of material collected on the first day. I examined that when I got home and found many more small meteorites. The offical size break for meteorites and micrometeorites is at 2 mm. All of the ones I had sorted out in the field were way larger then 2 mm. And many of what I sorted out at the table of the motorhome were larger also. There were many that were very small but I was not equiped in the desert to measure them to see if they were smaller than 2 mm. When I got home I went to the garage and got my Drill and Wire Sizing Guage and covered all the holes near the correct one and used it as a pass or no pass test on the smallest of the Holbrooks. Since my sizing guage is in thousandths of an inch I had to do a little math. But not algebra; I am still waiting to have to use that. They told me I would need it in life back in high school. I am still waiting for algebra to save my life. But, a simple conversion was all I had to do. There are 25.4 millimeters in an inch. So 1 divided by 25.4 which equals .0393 inches per millimeter, multipy that by two and you have 0.0787 inchs as the same size as 2 millimeters. That is very close to a number 47 drill at .078 I used for my pass no pass test the next one up which is a 46 drill at 0.081 inches. After sizing the very small meteorites I placed them as groups in capsules marked “small” and “micrometeorites” respectively. The small but much larger ones like those I collected at the washed out road I placed in individual capsules and bagged them by find location with their waypoint written on the bag. Later I worked through the small material two more times. I ended up setting aside four pieces I could not be 100% sure were micrometerorites. My final collection results for the two days were 93 fragments and meteorites from the Holbrook strewnfield. That is a lot better than the 0 that I had found on the previous trip over a decade ago. I have them all in gem jars and membrane boxes now as you can see in the next two photos.
As a last word for this second of three articles on our vacation I found two chondrules magnetically at Holbrook. As soon as I saw them I knew what they were. They looked just like the Saratov chondrules that fall out everytime I touch that piece in my collection. Of course the Holbrooks were a little discolored with age. The closing picture for this portion of the story is of the larger of the two chondrules.