by Mark Bostick


Nininger's Covert


In 1923, a Kansas college professor, Harvey H. Nininger watched a bright meteor streak across the sky. This moment would forever change his life. Nininger would attempt what no one had been successful at before. To hunt down the fallen meteor, or meteorite. Over the next few months, he talked with newspapers, called police stations, interviewed people, and mapped out the eyewitness reports. Several times he would have the witness stand in the same spot as during the sighting so that he could get accurate information. Nininger reached the conclusion that part of the meteorite likely fell near Coldwater and another possibly near Greensburg, Kansas. After searching this region and making efforts to educate the public, two different meteorite where found. However, neither of them was the meteorite he was chasing. Nininger begin to question if meteorites were as rare as believed.

Six years later, a more experienced Nininger returned to the Coldwater, Kansas area and gave a lecture at a school in Paradise. He had yet to recover his fallen stone or could this area as finished. Towards the end of the speech, a young man left and returned with a 17 pound stone meteorite. He had found it the year before and thought it unusual, but hid the stone to avoid ridicule. After word of Nininger's payment for the meteorite became known, 9 other stones were recovered. A 13 pound stone had been used to hold down a pickle jar. Another large stone as a door stop. A 31 pound stone blocked off a rat hole. The house above the cellar was later moved and the cellar caved in covering the stone. In the first two years after the discovery, Nininger recovered 37kg. of cosmic stones. It was later learned that the first stone was found before 1896.

While it was the Paragould stone that gave Nininger the funds to abandon his teaching position, it was the Covert meteorite that convinced Nininger of his meteorite program. This find made three different meteorites in an area he believed another had fallen. Meteorites were much more abundant then science credited. If people were educated, and given a finders reward, more meteorites could be found. 40 years later when Nininger wrote his autobiography he would state, "The Covert Meteorites gave me assurance that my theory would be fruitful, and I was now determined to resign my teaching position as soon as my finance were in better shape, and devote my time to meteorites. I proposed to lecture, hunt meteorites, and supply specimens to museums." History would show that Harvey Nininger did just that.

In the mid-90's meteorite dealer Steve Arnold placed newspaper want adds in several Kansas area towns. One of these adds was replied to by a farmer with a 38 kilogram stone. Through Steve Arnold, the meteorite was purchased by well liked meteorite dealer Blaine Reed. According to my conversations with Blaine Reed, this meteorite would change the way that Blaine Reed would forever ask for samples of suspected meteorites. The Covert Meteorite had sat in the Kansas soil for many years, after being recovered it had a thick layer of red clay and cobble stones on one side. It made Blaine wonder how many meteorites he had told the finder were meteor-wrong because of the sample they sent. From this point on when asking about a suspected meteorite, Blaine would always be sure to ask for a specimen sample 'from the stone".


Unpolished Slice

This meteorite is a shock veined stone chondrite belonging in the H5 Class. It is a highly weathered meteorite. In cut and unpolished slices many web like veins can be seen across its surface. In polished slices, the veins become hidden within the matrix. A 970 gram slice of the meteorite in this authors collection has several large areas of nickel-iron and trilolite inclusions. Many of the trilolite inclusions are very large. One trilolite inclusion on the slice is a large 5mm x 4-6mm and only has a little bit of nickel-iron in it. Another metal inclusion not far, is half nickel-iron and half trilobite. Weathering of metal in the meteorite has given it a red tent around the edges and within cracks.


Polished Slice


Specimens in collections:

Weight/Collection Number

The Main Mass is currently in the collection of two South American meteorite dealers (Meteorites.com). Visit their website for the largest slice currently on the market. Those interesting in purchasing Covert should contact Eduardo at info@meteorites.com.

Arizona State University: 3,576g/#22ax, 5,083g/#22b, 6,681g/#22.16, 130.9g/#22.22, 3,767g/#22s

(Note: All the specimens number of ASU carry the #22 prefix. This means they were cut from the same mass. The 31 pound stone once used to block the rat hole.

5.3 kg London, British Museum (NH).; 1.5 kg Washington, U.S. Nat. Mus.; 1.36 kg Yale Univ.; 1100g slice: Fred Hall (Meteorite Times cartoonist), 798 g Chicago, Field Mus. Nat. Hist. Mu., 970 gram slice, cut from the Main Mass, Mark Bostick, Museum of Victoria 63.8g/E1170,, University of New Mexico C39.46g/C9.1, 20.17g/C9.2, Texas Christian University, 194.3g/M93.1


Reference:

Find a Falling Star, Harvey H. Nininger, Paul S. Eriksson Inc., 1972

Catalog of Meteorites in the Collections of Arizona State University, Center of Meteorite Studies, 1985

Museum of Victoria website, (November 2002)

University of New Mexico website (November 2002)

Texas Christian University website (November 2002)

Meteorites.com (November 2002)