An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
Martin Horejsi's Meteorite and Tektite Books


Ohaba, Transylvania:

A Wayward Stone Saved by a Priest


Few city names rival Transylvania's ability

to conjure up mystery and the supernatural

At the time Romania was securing its autonomy from the Turkish Ottoman Empire, the second documented meteorite fell onto Romanian soil. On October 11, 1857, a glowing fireball crashed through the midnight sky with booming detonations. A priest found the stone forever preserving the space rock for future generations.

Technically, a single 16.25kg mass was recovered and later named Ohaba. It is classified as an metal veined H5 chondrite. In case you have never heard of Ohaba, it might be because even though you are reading this almost 150 years after the fall, 97% of the original mass is still is part of the meteorite collection of the Natural History Museum in Vienna, Austria. If you do the math, that only allows for about 570 grams for the rest of the entire world's collecting needs. Luckily there is a rich supply of Mocs, Romania material to serve the collecting community's hunger for Transylvanian meteorites.

Eight meteorites are listed as coming from Romania, a country whose name reflects the influence of the Roman Empire and romance languages. And Transylvania, whose name means "through the woods" or "beyond the woods," is the home of two of those meteorites as well as the mythical monster named Dracula.

While there is hard science behind the cosmic visitors, the un-dead, blood sucking, garlic-fearing demon happens to be from the imagination of Bran Stoker (1847-1912), the author of the novel Dracula published in 1897. But there is a rich collection of documents chronicling the history that may have led to the development of the fictional Dracula: a fabricated creature, who in this author's mind, was no where near as horrifying as the real Vlad Dracula of the 15th century. By the way, an organized excavation in 1931 searching for the coffin of Vlad Dracula, who was reportedly buried at the island monastery of Snagov, failed to locate any sign of Dracula's coffin.

This slice of Ohaba recently entered my collection. It arrived to me from a well-known private US collection along with a specimen card from a well-known European meteorite collector named...

...Christian Anger in Austria. The above image and the following three pictures are of the Ohaba main mass as it is displayed in the Natural History Museum in Vienna. These wonderful photos were provided to me by Christian Anger who also happens to be on the Board of Directors of the International Meteorite Collectors Association (an organization of which I too used to be a Board Member).

When I asked Anger about the history of my Ohaba slice, he explained that the piece now in my collection was traded to...

...Allan Langheinrich near the end of 2002. Earlier that same year, Anger was able to purchase two pieces of Ohaba from...

...Moritz Karl in Germany. The junior Karl acquired the pieces from his father Achim Karl who recieved the Ohaba specimens from the...

...Natural History Museum in Vienna where the senior Karl was slicing meteorites. Karl received some meteorite material as payment for his cutting work. The material included the pieces of Ohaba that Anger and I now hold in our collections.

This wonderful fragment of Ohaba in the Christian Anger Meteorite Collection is well crusted along one side. For Anger, crust won out over mass when he kept the above fragment instead of the 25% larger slice he traded away.

Romania claims eight meteorites as its own. Of those, only one is listed as a find, and it has no discovery date. Of the remaining seven, all are falls, and all are ordinary chondrites. And in a surprisingly busy quarter-century, five of the meteorites fell within a 23-year period, and an astonding three of them in a six-year window during the 1850's! The most recent two stone meteorite falls in Romania were in 1927 and 1937.

But the interesting intersection of meteorites and Romanian history seems to run a deeper than the 1800s or even the 15th century. While researching material for this article, I stumbled across this posting on a Cambridge Conference Correspondence bulletin board:

"Since 1989 some archaeologists are working in the Cluj County, Mocs-Palatca region [Romania] in a archaeological area named "Togul lui Māndrusca" dated from the bronze ages.

Mainly they discovered surface houses and stone and bronze tools. The most important discovery was a little place where ancient people made bronze tools.

These days the team have found there a stony meteorite weighting 0.5 Kg and composed mainly from olivine, feldspar and magnetite. They are searching if this meteorite has any connection with the Mocs meteorite rain (1882) but the evidence shows the stone was in the little factory."

Finally, as if to celebrate the 150th birthday of both the fall of the Ohaba meteorite and the birth of the country upon which it fell, Romania, assuming it can get its ducks in a row, is scheduled join the European Union in 2007.


The Accretion Desk welcomes all comments and feedback.