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


A Pair of South African Irons

While on a recent trip to Cape Town, South Africa, I stopped by the local natural history museum to see what meteorites they had on display. To my surprise, although there are almost 50 reported meteorites claiming South African citizenship, only three meteorites were on display, all irons, and only two of those were South African.

But as if to make up for the lack of numbers, the two SA irons were both huge, and represented almost all the total recovered material from their locality.

museum display


As with many museum displays, and especially meteorite and space related ones, presenting the artifacts in a dark, room with occasional harsh spotlights seems to be the norm.

The picture above shows the two South African irons of Kouga (foreground) and Rateldraai (rear) in all of their glory and almost all of their known mass.


Kouga Mountains iron


The Kouga Mountains IIIAB iron is a medium octahedrite. It was found in 1903 as a single 1172kg mass, but as the sign below tells, there may be more to the Kouga Mountains meteorite than just another iron found on a farm.

Kouga Mountains iron sign


Kouga Mountains iron


Kouga Mountains iron


The smooth, curvaceous form of Kouga Mountains carries hints of Goose Lake and Casas Grandes, and is invitingly huggable- for a meteorite anyway.


Rateldraai iron


In stark contrast to the shapely form of the Kouga Mountains iron, the Rateldraai iron is scalloped, sharp and highly pitted.


Rateldraai iron sign


Besides being another "farmed" meteorite, the Rateldraai iron is also a IIIAB medium octahedrite. Found in 1909, the Rateldraai is listed as a single mass of 550 kg. But it appears there is some Rateldraai material floating around somewhere since three pieces have been "knocked off" the main mass.


Rateldraai iron


This close up shows one of the scars on the Rateldraai mass where some kilograms were bludgeoned off.


Rateldraai iron


Even as a victim of a violent past, the Rateldraai iron is a world-class showpiece!


Gibeon iron


While not a South African meteorite in the country sense, the famous and ubiquitous Gibeon, Namibia iron also appears in the museum having come from only about 1000km to the north.

Gibeon sign


By the way, of all the local beers I sampled in Cape Town, one from and called Windhoek was the best (even had a microscopic statement saying it was an approved good food for the heart!) Too bad they don't a meteorite on the label.



South African museum


The Cape Town Museum is well worth a visit when you in the area. It is the oldest and biggest of the museums in Cape Town, and although not in this picture, to the right of the museum is a planetarium where I took in a show.

Although the first glimpse of the Southern Cross would come for a few days later (being winter and all down there on the Solstice) it was nice to learn more of the southern constellations.


me at cape of good hope


A ataxite iron of some 136kg was found in the neighborhood of Cape of Good Hope in 1793. No sign of it now, just plenty of baboons, ostriches, and tour buses.

As yet another Accretion Desk comes to a close, another meteorite adventure is documented. While locating historic witnessed falls for my collection becomes harder with acquisitions fewer and farther between, the wonderful experiences of chasing meteorites continues. Even if only to touch them in a museum on the other side of the world.

The Accretion Desk welcomes all comments and feedback.