by Martin Horejsi of Martin Horejsi's Meteorite and Tektite Books
An Article In Meteorite-Times Magazine
TheEagle’s Nest Has Landed In My Collection!
Many years ago, Blaine Reed sent me some pictures of an Australian meteorite that he had acquired. The images were part of a small stack of materials he had sitting around his house that were too good to throw away, but not good enough to keep. I stared at the fuzzy pictures of an individual meteorite sitting quietly on red cloth next to a red ruler. The image meant little to me at the time because I did not recognize the specimen, nor did I expect that one day I would cross paths with that very meteorite. But I kept the pictures anyway.
Like many of you, I’ve spent hours studying the images in Bob Haag’s Field Guide of Meteorites. In the 10th anniversary edition published in 1992, there is a picture of a wonderfully oriented stone called Eagle’s Nest. The hockey puck-of-a-stone shows blatant flow lines radiating from an aerodynamic balance point in the dead center of the disk.
The Haag catalog lists this specimen as a possible chassignite, which if true, would have been quite exciting since Chassigny is by far the loneliest member of the SNCs. The sandstone-like Chassingny is still sitting all by itself on earth just as it has ever since landing here in1815; the only known C in world growing evermore populated with Ss and Ns.
But as we now know, Eagle’s Nest is not a chassignite, but instead a brachinite. While arguably a subtle difference in mineralogy, the chasm separating these two rare classes of space rocks is a formable one given that a Mars pedigree always seems to outclass that of even the most intriguing asteroidal fragments. Although for collectors the brachinites are one of the most inaccessible classifications, Eagle’s Nest does have about seven other friends that share a similar cosmic heritage.
Every once and a while I get the urge to trade my entire collection for that one Holy Grail meteorite that cannot be topped. I would build a special case for it, and enshrine it as the pinnacle of my meteorite collecting years. With that singular specimen, there would be no need to collect any further. The Eagle’s Nest achondrite might qualify as a terminal specimen having many of the necessary qualities of a truly great meteorite; excruciatingly low total known weight of only 154 grams, flawless orientation, and frightening few relatives. If there is any reason to hesitate listing Eagle’s Nest as a final specimen, it is that Eagle’s Nest is a dusty old find from the Australian outback, one of hundreds. The nearest landmark for Eagle’s Nest, was, well, an eagle’s nest. Its fall did not punch a hole in a car, or blast through a roof and land in a pot on a stove, or even kill a cow. No, Eagle’s Nest probably fell hundreds or perhaps thousands of years ago, most likely with no mammals or even reptiles witnessing its arrival. A whistle. A thud. A puff of dust. That’s it.
But fortunately, meteorites are just too interesting to have only one, even if Eagle’s Nest arrival had knocked some kid off his scooter. But still, to think such thoughts is a joy of collecting. Then the day arrived when Eagle’s Nest sat with me in my living room.
As middleman in a large institutional meteorite exchange, I was sent a large box of specimens that could be considered as tradable material. One of the specimens was the main mass of the Eagle’s Nest achondrite. In the years since the photo in Haag’s catalog was taken, gentle slicing has made the Eagle’s Nest somewhat smaller, but its stature still radiated as did its flowlines, and its grace commanded attention.
Alas, as merely the middleman in this trade, the specimens up for exchange were not mine, and my job was to please everyone involved by enhancing both of the collections that were, for the moment, intersecting through me. But if I could get a slice of Eagle’s Nest involved in the trade, I speculated, then find a way to trade it again through my own personal dealings, I just might end up with a piece of the coveted stone into which I had invested many hours of pleasant thought.
Knowledge is power, as the saying goes. I had one chance to make the trade work before all the specimens returned home, or settled into their new surroundings. I created dozens of algorithms to quickly compare specimen values during the trade. I memorized the trade inventory of both collections. I consumed liters of coffee while working through possible scenarios that would sound like simple trade solutions fulfilling the collection enhancement objectives of my mission. And I dreamed of Eagle’s Nest.
When the time came to finalize the trade, I had two lists of desired specimens, one from each of the main participants in this trade. However, I did have a third list, one with my own desires. My own list would remain hidden unless the opportunity presented itself providing a safe environment to suggest some additional trading options. At no time could I let my personal desires conflict with the objectives of the main trade. But when opportunity knocks, again as the saying goes, open the door.
The knock came in the form of the fun we were having grinding out the details
of the exchange. In a large meteorite trade the first specimens are usually is
the hardest to reposition. But once the decision to has been made to exchange
material, it is much easier to toss more rocks on the pile.
(click on picture for a larger image)
In the end, a 12.5-gram complete slice of the Eagle’s Nest brachinite landed in my collection. It was 27 times larger than the other brachinite slice in my possession. Beyond the weight though is the fact that this slice was taken from near the center of the mass. The orientation is beautifully preserved in the slice with distinct leading and trailing edges gently separated by a rollback rim dividing the two ellipsoid halves like a ancient stone fence fortifying the parameter of a circular castle.
Shortly after the trade, I was looking through the photo album into which I had stuck the miscellaneous meteorite pictures Blaine had sent. There, staring up at me was a somewhat blurry image of single stone sitting in the center of a lot of empty picture. Something was strangely familiar about the lone occupant in the photos. A smile crossed my face as I recognized my friend Eagle’s Nest. Like the old pictures of emigrants taken shortly after their arrival in the United States, there sat the solitary stone, still carrying with it some Australian dust.
Although a slice of Eagle’s Nest can put a collection on the map, I no longer regard it as a terminal specimen. Rather, I consider it a future heirloom.