A Look Back and Hopes for Tomorrow
Maybe it is appropriate at the end of the year to contemplate the past. I was thinking this month about how much has changed in the last few years with meteorites and meteorite collecting. I made a very deliberate attempt over the last three or four years to buy some of the material from the Sahara and North West Africa. I had the belief like some others that the flood of meteorites that seemed at first to be ceaseless would eventually become a stream and then a trickle. I don't know that we are really near the end of the supply however, there are no longer stories of tons (literally) of meteorites in towns in Morocco. The supply does seem to be thinning down. So now when I look at my display case with nice complete large stones, something I never have had in all the years of collecting before; I feel really delighted about the "meteorite rush" we have been through. That is not to say that very unique and scientifically significant meteorites are not still being brought out of those hot deserts, they certainly are. And that is one of the other thoughts that I have been mulling over.
During the last several years we have seen classes of meteorites that had
one or only a few representatives swell to long lists of members. How many of us
thought just two years ago that R chondrites would be in our collections as
anything but a tiny fragment? Today we have our choice of several. Enstatite
chondrites, Martian and lunar meteorites have seen their numbers increase
dramatically. All the achondrites for that matter have become much longer lists.
For the researcher this has been a boom time too. There is material available
now for research like never before. Classes that were only represented in the
finds from Antarctica are now in our collections.
Where will the next "meteorite rush" take place. The Western United States? I would love that to happen, but in some respects that has been happening right along. There have been long lists of new finds for several years from the Western United States. There are many other hot deserts that have yet to make much of a showing with meteorite lists. The Gobi, the Kalahari, inhospitable as they are, they undoubtedly have many meteorites. Meteorites are after all everywhere. It is a matter of finding them and having a large force of motivated searchers who will make significant numbers of finds. All of that came together nicely in North Africa over the last few years.
I remember times in the distant past when meteorites had real names and there
were few added to the lists each year. Even years when I had to search hard to
find the names of newly recovered meteorites. There was provenance, a find
location and a classification for each. Today, we often have only a number attached. And
multiple varied numbers for meteorites that are obviously from the same fall.
There is infrequently sufficient known information to actually assign a name and
a location. Yet, I feel myself getting used to that and it May be a bad thing
that I am. But, when I look at my display case and in my dry boxes at my
specimens with only numbers, it is getting harder to feel badly. In reality
with all the care that is taken in the Antarctic, the
meteorites found there for the most part fell vast distances away from
where they are recovered. It seems to makes no difference to the scientists. It makes
less difference now how many persons have been in the chain of ownership before
the meteorites reach me. They are orphans coming to a good dry home. In the
final analysis any meteorite is still a member of the rarest group of objects on
our planet. They all deserve our respect and awe.
2003. . . what will the new year hold for us as lovers of meteorites? If it is only a fraction as exciting as the last several years it will still make for great meteorite times.