An Article In Meteorite-Times Magazine

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 Bernd Pauli.  

What or who got you interested in meteorites and how old were you when you got your first meteorite? 

Well, long before I started getting interested in meteorites, I had developed a passion for the starry sky. I got my first little telescope in 1959, when I was fourteen; several years later I acquired a secondhand Newtonian, and in the late 70's I finally purchased a Celestron 8, which is now equipped with a C-5 mounted piggyback. 

Yet, strangely enough, an immediate interest in meteorites was still far beyond my astronomical horizon because I regularly used to skip exactly those pages in my astronomy books that dealt with meteors, comets, and meteorites. These phenomena did not interest me at all. But, then, in the mid-80's, - I was about 40 years old - I suddenly got hooked on meteorites at mineral and gem shows which I attended regularly because I had, by then, become a passionate rockhound. 

What was your first meteorite? 

My very first meteorite was a 15-gram Mundrabilla slice that I purchased from Walter Zeitschel at mineral and gem show in Heidelberg for about US$15. 

Do you still have it? 

Yes, of course I still have it because I literally sit on my meteorites like a hen on her eggs. I've never sold any of my meteorites - nor probably ever will. 

Do you have special areas of interest that you focus on in regards to meteorites? By that I mean studying thin sections, or photography of meteorites, the chemistry of meteorites? Things that allow you to mix a variety of interests. 

Well, like almost any other meteorite aficionado, I strive to acquire at least one specimen from every petrologic type but some exotic ones like ureilites, bencubbinites, brachinites (to name a few) are still missing from my collection. 

Thin sections ... well, ever since I got a Russian MBC-10 and Jim's unique polariscope about a year ago, a new passion developed and my vision was directed from the stars above to the wonderful microcosmos that unfolds under my microscope: chondrules, shock veins, light and dark inclusions, CAIs, and so much more. Meanwhile there are 60 thin sections in my collection. 

Does your family share in your interest in meteorites? 

Hmmm, my wife Pauline sometimes reminds me of what we could have used all this money for that I have spent on meteorites so far, but, nevertheless, when a new specimen arrives or when I show her one of the specimens that I have just bought or successfully bid on on EBay, she looks at them and says if she likes this one or that one. Oh, by the way, here you can see us. Those who were at Twink's barbecue party will have seen a similar picture taken shortly before the Tucson 2002 show. 

Some people are very specific in the way they collect. Things like type collections, only stones, only irons, only by aesthetics that stuff. Do you have any special approaches to collecting? 

I'd say that I collect "any and all" although I have a special liking for breccias and veined specimens. Here is one I have successfully bid on recently. It's a Hot Desert Meteorite (Sahara 99420) - really one of my all-time favorites and the momentum here was, well, yes, firstly aesthetics and secondly the presence of ringwoodite in these visually appealing shock  veins. 




Photo courtesy of Adam and Greg Hupe

Do you mind saying how many locations your collection represents? 

No problem. Presently there are about 200+ different localities. I say "200+" because it's a bit tricky with all those NWA-, tektite- and moldavite localities. 

We can only display a selected few meteorites in my display case for fear that the moisture will damage the others. Is your collection displayed or kept in a dry box or some of both? 

Several of my larger irons and both my Admire and Brenham pallasites are kept in so-called desiccators but most of my smaller specimens and my thin sections are nicely displayed in those coin collectors' boxes - these boxes have a red lining and give their 'residents' a majestic look :-) 

We have all been amazed by the rapid access you have to articles that have been written on meteorites. Does your database have the complete articles or only the references of the authors by topic? 

There are at the moment about 26,500 data records in my Microsoft ACCESS database and although I have entered or scanned numerous complete articles, it usually is only the references of the authors (plus the details, of course, like name of specimen, fall or find, location, date, mass, petrologic type, shock stage, weathering degree, etc.). What makes this database such a powerful tool is that you can let it do searches or queries within seconds or minutes - and it all started with a Commodore 64, then a C-128, then a 40 MB Epson personal computer. Now there are three computers on my table - a tower plus two notebooks. 

Do you ever hunt for meteorites? 

I have never hunted for meteorites though I would very much like to. I recall that the minerals I found in our quarries meant much more to me than the ones I bought at a mineral and gem shows. But I am sure that when I come to Tucson one day, both Twink and Jim (Kriegh) will go hunting with me and I am looking forward to such a hunt. 

What is your favorite meteorite in your collection? 

I love them all as I have already told you, but there are some that are extremely beautiful. My little Carbo specimen from Dieter Heinlein comes to mind, my NWA 1109 from the Hupés, Dean's two breathtaking Bensour slices, ... you see there are so many, too many :-) 

What is your favorite overall if it is not the one above?

Well, I think it is this Sahara 99420 beauty (at least at the moment :-) 

What makes it of special interest? 

Its visual appearance, its aesthetic beauty. 

What meteorites are currently on your wish list? 

Those exotic specimens I have already mentioned, more Rumurutis (I have only two small slices from Jim Strope and a thin section from Jeff Rowell), a Morasko specimen, a cut and etched Henbury (the ones "Rocks On Fire" sometimes offers on EBay) and a huge oriented, perfectly regmaglypted Sikhote-Alin (like the one Michael Cottingham offered some months ago on EBay or the beauties that Jim Strope has for sale). 

What methods have been most successful in building your collection? Do you like buying at shows, or from dealers by mail, auctions on the web, trading, etc. 

All but one of these methods. As I have told you before, I have never traded or sold any of my meteorites. Perhaps I had better do so but I just don't want to miss any of these "fellas".

Do you also collect related materials like impact glasses, breccias, melts, tektites, shocked fossils, native iron rocks? 

I also collect impact glasses, tektites, and moldavites - as for native iron rocks, it is only Putorana so far (three pieces - all of them gifts from John Gwilliam!). 

Do you ever prepare any of your own specimens? (cut, polish, etch, etc.) It is one of the areas we enjoy.

No, I don't.

We live near the Pacific Ocean and have to be careful about the moist air. Have you had to take any special measures to protect your meteorites from the environment? 

There are those desiccators but most - not all - of my specimens are relatively stable (as long as I do not look at them under the microscope :-). Especially some of my irons are yearning for Ron Hartman's expertise but, alas, he is too far away. 

We want to thank Bernd for taking the time to give us this interview. We have visited with him over the years by email, like many of you, but that is a less than perfect method to get to know someone. We hope you have gotten to know him a little better as we have.