An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
by Jim Tobin, Editor
Meteor Crater Revisited
Did the heads of the animals even rise to look at the blazing light? Or did they just continue to forage and graze as it entered our atmosphere. Seconds later plunging a thousand feet into the rock. No people were there 49,000 years ago. No records were made of the event. But, we know what happen pretty well despite the lack of eyewitnesses.
Meteor Crater has held my fascination for the better part of my life. I visit regularly as if compelled by some sort of instinctive migratory programming. It is not that I will see anything new that I have missed in the past. It is not that there are photographs I have not taken and need to. It is to feel the gapping chasm on a physical level. To stand on the edge and wonder at the power that could do so much work in only seconds. I can look at the pictures and watch my videotapes. But, they do not produce the response I get inside when I stand there in person. I have all my life been a little acrophobic. It has not stopped me from mountain climbing in my youth or hiking now. But, I always get just a touch of it when I venture out onto the platform at Meteor Crater. Maybe it is just the need for therapy that drives me back again and again.
I am blessed with a hundred years of research to draw upon in my understanding of Meteor Crater. Yet my love for the place allows me to understand also the reasons why Barringer poured his wealth and actually his life into the crater. I am not blind to the motives of his search. Great deposits in the millions of tons of nickel-iron were hiding there he believed. The pursuit of pure research was not the reason for the expenditures of money and energy. But, science did profit richly from the work done there. But, despite the desire for financial gain, I know there was a passion for the place itself that also held his interest.
After more than two decade of work and dozens of holes in the crater floor and rim did Barringer ever find his great lode of nickel-iron. No. Ironically it was hiding in plain sight. It was the small metallic spheroids that he had seen at the very being of his studies in his first magnetic samples. He simply would not believe that only thousands of tons of iron could do the work of carving out the crater. The little metal balls would have to wait another couple decades for Harvey Nininger to establish their place of honor among all of Meteor Crater products and by-products. In the few miles radius around the crater, even after all the millennia since the impact countless millions of tiny drops of nickel-iron can still be found. They are what remains of the impactor. Vaporized then condensed they make up far more mass than all the surviving fragments of the asteroid combined.
It is 550 miles from my home to the crater. It takes just over nine hours for me to drive it. I know the restaurants along the way that I like to eat at, and the gas stations that are open early and late.
My first meteorite was a Canyon Diablo. I still have it. Itís a small one. I ground the side off of it as a child. It is from the slopes not the plains for it suffered the pains of the excavation of the crater. The heat and pressure recorded in its tiny carbonado. That black square I could never grind away as a kid. Today, I am of course happy that I did not try to grind it away. It is an unusual though not rare feature to find in Canyon Diablo meteorites.