An Article In Meteorite Times Magazine
by Jim Tobin

A Tale of Two Meteorites

August is sort of like the middle of the meteorite portion of my year. Tucson is about six months past and about six months away. Not really time to start doing much planning for next year. But, maybe time to start thinking about hunting in the fall when itís a little cooler in the desert.

Iíve been cutting meteorites for about a month. Trying to squeeze in an hour or so when I can at the saw and lap. I have cut and lapped about half of what I had intended to slice up. So I have some more work to do. But, I have reached the end of some of the stones with at least the primary cuts. So, I have decided  rather than cut a few more slices off to leave them as they are and make end pieces and special chunks out of them.

Sahara 99676 is a meteorite with a great story behind it. I will give you the short version. At Tucson quite a few years ago now, I was in a dealerís room and he asked me if I wanted to buy a big meteorite at a great price. He wanted really badly to unload it on someone. Well, you know he did not say it that way but that was the meaning. Every time I said no to the price it would drop a few hundred dollars. Finally, the price reached a level where even my resistance began to break down and I said, "let me hold it." It was sitting on a shelf up high and he got it down. It was glued together. There were about seven large pieces and one missing piece on the end. But, about three-quarters of the mass was one nice solid chunk. It weighed in at just a little over 6 kilos. I had gone to that show to get a nice group of whole stones. It was near the beginning of the NWA influx and they were abundant. The prices were great because none of them had been classified yet. This was back in 2000. I made a cell phone call to Paul and asked what he thought about the idea of splitting the cost between me and the business. I was not really interested in that big a stone but half the main mass sounded good to me. And we would have 3 kilos to sell more or less.

Well, when I say that the price got really attractive. It really did and I bought the stone. We had gotten some bargains in the past from this dealer. He knew we could work with meteorites that others would not or could not. I got the stone home and had to deglue it. It had been superglued in the desert where it was found. I wondered if it had been run over by a vehicle based on how it was broken. Some acetone and some time and the pieces came apart. Six or seven really nice size pieces. All just right to go into my finish saw. We cut those pieces up. I made one cut right in half on the big main piece. That cut yielded two nice crusted pieces 2500 grams or so each. The kilo of slices from the smaller pieces we have been selling for a number of years.

I took a well shaped and proper sized piece and sent it out to have thin sections made. Back in those days you were told that they would take 4 to 6 weeks to get back and that was about what it took. We got about a donzen thins from the piece and I sent one and a nice fragment off to UCLA for classification. After a couple months I made a friendly inquiry about when I might expect to hear something. The response was ďWe canít find any meteorite sample or thin section from you.Ē So I sent another piece and waited. A couple more months and I sent off an email inquiry. Would you believe I got the same response. They could not find either the first batch or the second batch of samples. I was pretty frustrated by this point. But, only a couple days after I received an email that all the samples had been placed together and were there. They would be run in the next batch through the microprobe. A few more days and we got the most complete classification we have ever received. We were happy boys.

Well the years have passed. I have cut up the half of 99676 that belongs to the business in just the last couple weeks. I have three large thick slices to off cut many smaller slices for selling. But, I cut myself into a corner so to speak on one piece. I ended up with the chunk shown below from one of the thick slices. A nice crusted corner with all parallel and perpendicular angles on the cuts. It weighs 205 grams and has the original painted number on it. So I decided I would polish all the cuts and make a nice display piece out of it. How often now days do we get to have the recovery number on the specimen that was painted in the desert at the time it was found.

The same sort of thing happened with another meteorite as I was cutting it. I ended up with a great end piece of NWA775. So I polished it and made the same kind of large display piece from it. At 456 grams I could have cut off some more and made another thick slice to cut saleable slices from. But, it just seemed right to leave it alone; even at one pound. Paul and I have had such fun with this meteorite.

We were walking behind the ďthe hotel of changing names.ď The Four Seasons, Pueblo Inn, something before those I think. Heaven knows what it will be called next year. Well, as we walked along among the tents in the back we came across a man in a trench coat with uncombed hair standing at a rather rickety card table selling meteorites. Really looked like a street walking watch salesman. Thinking on it now I would guess that he came from Europe with his meteorites expecting to find accommodations instead found the city booked up and had been forced to sleep in a car. But, he had some wonderful meteorites. I wish we had brought a lot of money with us. The huge thick slice of Cape York, the 100 plus gram individual of LíAigle with old Paris museum specimen card and paperwork and handwritten number made me melt. The full slice of Esterville about 3/4 inch thick took my breath away. He had all the paperwork and authorizations to sell the specimens. Prices were fabulous but we had not planned on finding such a table of goodies. No money for such things with us. We were looking for unclassified chondrite bargains. He had set up next to the sidewalk on the one vacant piece of grass he had been able to find. He did have two large chondrites. One had the oddest purplish-red fusion crust. I had never seen anything like it. He did not know the weight and had no scale. He walked it to another dealerís tent and weighed it. At 3.28 kilos it was another bargain, and one we decided to take. I just knew there was something interesting about that stone.

We cut it in half when we got home from Tucson. It was full of surprises. Part of it was weathered and dark but much of it was very light colored inside. The ground mass was strange. It had all these areas of cement colored gray inclusions. We had some thin sections made. I made some myself on this meteorite. We sent off a piece to be classified. And once again it did not go smoothly with getting the results. But finally, we found out what we had. It was a zenolithic L6, W3, Fa 25.

I have a lot of slices of NWA775 ready to photograph and put in our catalog. And some more to cut, but it is always a little strange to get to the end of a meteorite that has been around the house for a decade. Yet, I know another of equal interest is just around the corner, or maybe on the table of a guy living out of a car because there was no room at the inn.