This has been an absolutely wild time for fresh falls, all around the world. I had a whole article written just for the Muskogee fall, and just before sending it off to Paul, there is an additional find and new main mass for Muskogee that happens to be a hammerstone! As if that was not enough, three falls in three consecutive days, the third of which was another US fall. So instead of grinding thin sections I am making the most of this article with all the extra asides added in. As far as the Texas fall goes, this will be a primer, and a full article will follow in the next edition, as of the time of this writing, the strewnfield is still developing and the hunt is still very much on.
On the three in a row set of falls. All of which look to be ordinary chondrites.
The excitement started on 13 February when asteroid 2023 CX1 was identified with a few hours of notice that it was on an earth impacting trajectory. The approximately 1 meter diameter meteoroid entered the earth’s atmosphere over the English Channel in a well observed bolide. It was fun to be able to watch remotely from my house in Pennsylvania via live stream. This is the 7th tracked meteoroid creating a bolide. Immediately after entry the frenzy of activity to calculate a strewnfield solution began. As of the writing 11 stones have been found some on the surface, with one, having punched a small divot in the ground and buried itself. This meteorite will potentially be named Normandy based on location. This is only the third meteorite recovered with a predicted impact, the first two being Almahatta Sitta, and Motopi Pan.
The excitement continued the next day with reports of a bolide event over Italy. A strewnfield was calculated off three videos with a terminus north of Matera, upon media reporting and informing the local populace on the 15th, a hammerstone was found broken into many fragments by Gianfranco and Pino Lossignore at the house of their parents. The reported recovered weight is 70g in the form of fragments created upon impact with the balcony tile which was damaged. The hunt is still ongoing in the area for additional pieces.
The final fall of the trifecta occurred in Southern Texas on the 15th. NASA put out data that the meteoroid was somewhere around 450Kg. Three days later on the 18th the first piece was recovered, so far this fall has yielded the highest total mass and the largest size pieces, as the saying goes, everything is BIGGER in Texas. It will be interesting to see what this fall is named, the NASA report mentions McAllen, but there is potential it gets named Rio Grande, or Rio Grande City.
For those interested there has never been three falls in three consecutive days, since we started recording the falls of meteorites. So this is a first. For those keeping track, there have been nine occurrences of two meteorites falling on consecutive days and 13 occurrences of two meteorites falling on the same day (potentially only 12, I am told the Indonesian set of Glanggang and Selakopi are actually one fall, thanks Elang)
Muskogee is my fourth United States witnessed fall installation in the article series. I was hoping for four in a calendar year, but 2022 just wasn’t that year. That got me thinking, what is the max in a calendar year, and what are the max for a 12 month period? 1933 holds the record at five in a calendar year (Athens, Cherokee Springs, Malaga, Pasamonte and Sioux County) with close runners up of 1998 (Elbert, Indian Butte, Monohans 1998, and Portales Valley) and 1938 (Aztec, Benld, Bloomington, and Chicora). There are a few ’ 12 month periods’ of high levels of fall that give a truer indicator of intensity vs sorting by year in the Meteoritical Bulletin. Having had five recoveries in this last 12 months is not unheard of, but for certain is not overly common, which makes this a great time to be a meteorite hunter. I am quite hopeful that between now and the 27ths of April (the first anniversary of Cranfield Mississippi, I will be writing to you with a record tying six in a 12 month period. For those inquiring minds Archie which fell 10 August 1932 squeaked in just in time to be six falls in a 12 month period with the closeout fall of 1933 Sioux County which landed 8 August 1933 (by two days!), making that 12 month period the most intense. Currently with its 5 falls this ongoing period is tied with those 12 month windows that had five falls. In the period are 2009-2010 with Ash Creek, Cartersville, Whetstone Mountains, Lorton, and Mifflin; and 1997-1998 by tagging on Worden which fell 1 September 1997 to the four 1988 falls already listed above. Hopefully I didn’t miss any, this was all researched on site, while writing about this fall on location, a first for me.
So now onto some of the local details. Oklahoma will soon have its 43rd classified meteorite. Of those 43 this will be only the 7th fall for the state. To date of the writing, only 6 stones have been recovered with a total mass of 1420.84g to be exact. The stones have great black primary crust, along with secondary and tertiary crust. So far of the 5 stones the two smallest are individuals with the 126 gram being nicely oriented with rollover lipping. The three larger fragments show a nice grey matrix, with beautiful brecciation and decent amounts of shock veining on the broken surfaces.
The bolide was very well documented. Event log 374-2023 on the American Meteorite Society’s website has 128 sightings and a phenomenal 49 videos of the event. The bolide was long, audible and displayed plenty of fragmentation at 3:38 AM local time on the 20th of January. The event showed up on lightning tracking, and also produced sonic data. From just the first few early videos posted to social media, several meteorite hunting veterans were saying it would be a productive hunt. Radar reinforced that with rocks being picked up on 4-5 separate radars, the hunt was on. The interesting nature of the hunt is that the data set, along with the opinions of many seasoned hunting veterans, points to what should be a decent multi kilo recovery. The grounds on site are very conducive to hunting, consisting of nicely manicured fields of low cut grass, and thinly wooded areas with low amounts of undergrowth. Even the roads are relatively free of stray rocks and are mostly concrete instead of asphalt, so provide high contrast. All that being said, the “small end” of the strewn field never materialized, and despite a strewn field searched by many veteran hunters, putting in a lot of hard searching, the stone count remains five with easily over 1000 person-hours of hunting. That being said, there is still hope for future finds with some spots in the “500g” radar hits needing exploration.
Muskogee continued the “Pre-Tucson fall” tradition, the running jokes is that just before the world’s largest show each year in Tucson Arizona we get a new fall. Vinales and Zhob made their presence known just before Tucson and were fun new pieces to both see and buy at the show in prior years. Four of the five stones found in Muskogee were present at the show for people to see and buy pieces of with quick turnaround cutting of material (70.6g, 260.3g and 262.7g stones were with Aerolite and the 309.6g main mass was in Mark Lyon’s room.
Before I get into the mental aspects of hunting and the question and answer session with several familiar veteran hunters. I wanted so share with you an interview I conducted over the phone with one of the two local Muskogee residents who made a find, Brad Ward, who had a 388 gram piece impact his barn roof.
Brad did you hear or witness the meteor bolide? No I was asleep and though my wife was awake she didn’t see or hear it.
When did you find out about the meteorite? It was on the local news, they discussed it and how its path went right over the area.
Can you provide some details on finding the piece? After the news I noticed some damage to the roof of the barn, that was on the 23rd of January, I joked to my wife that the damage could have been from the meteorites, and didn’t think much more of it. On the 18th of February I got out the ladder and climbed up to see what I needed to repair the hole. That’s when I saw the meteorite stuck in the roof of the barn.
Can you describe what you saw? The meteorite had hit at the spot where two sheets of the metal roof overlapped. It had torn the upper sheet and had dented the lower sheet and the piece was just stuck there. I didn’t touch it I got my phone to take a picture of it and told my wife that I was pretty sure we had a piece of the meteorite. The stone was broken and I found a second smaller fragment at the very edge of the roof, just above the gutter. I was pretty impressed the smaller piece has just stayed there, where it was located I figured it would have fallen off.
What did you feel when you found the stone? Just pure amazement. I’m still kind of shocked.
Anything else about the find you want to share with folks? This is pretty interesting, I don’t know if you are familiar with the last meteorite that fell in Oklahoma, Lost City which fell in 1970. But a relative on my wife’s side actually found a piece of that. His name was Philip Halpain he was her Great Uncle.
I would like to thank Brad for contributing to this article, it’s certainly interesting to find out details that would otherwise go unknown about these falls if not documented. Brads recounting of the interplay with the Lost City fall got me wondering what type of comparative documentation was done back then. In researching the fall in the NASA Astrophysics Data System I ran across this:
“A second small fragment (272 g) was found on January 17 by Philip Halpain while he was walking through his pasture. Fragment 2 is a highly flattened piece of roughly rectangular shape. The fusion crust is complete. The meteorite landed with its flat surface down and its heavy end in the forward direction. It was buried in the sod to its own depth. We propose the name ‘Lost City Meteorite-Halpain Fragment’ for this specimen in acknowledgement of Mr. Halpain’s discovery and his thoughtful generosity that permitted an early analysis of the fragment for short-lived isotopes.”-LOST CITY METEORITE-ITS RECOVERY AND A COMPARISON WITH OTHER FIREBALLS-R.E. MCCROSKY ET AL
This hunt for me was more complicated than the others I have been on: it was further away, to the point of pushing my driving endurance limit, it had a lesser factor of terrain influencing the find probability, and it was my first hunt where stones turned up but I went home empty handed. At the same time, I still thoroughly enjoyed the experience and so thought it would be an interesting topic to explore some mental aspects of hunting, both the highs and the lows. To kind of keep it all in order I stuck with addressing a hunt in phases as was done in my previous articles.
THE DECISION PHASE
The mental aspect of deciding if and when to hunt can be an emotional roller coaster. I certainly want to be at every hunt, and I would love to be there first. But like most everyone else, prior commitments, obligations and funding dictate when we will make it to the field and how long we can stay, if we can make it at all. Being stuck not able to hunt is depressing, and that feeling grows as information on first find comes out, along with any subsequent finds in the case of not being able to make it out. On the other hand, for those who can make it but are holding back with reservations either be it cost, or probability of a personal find, the release of find information can be incredibly exciting, and often times is the tipping point for committing to going. I have found myself in both scenarios and find it amusing the varying emotions someone else’s find can induce. For me with a limited amount of times I will be able to call off work, and coordinate family scheduling, the process of choosing which bolides to chase is a particularly difficult one.
THE PREPARATION PHASE
Once I decide to go, I find myself in this weird mental space I like to call it my “waffle phase”. In my heart I know 100% I want to go, but my head keeps bringing up “what ifs” that make me question if I should. Am I killing the chance at a future hunt with better potential by committing to this one? Am I shirking too many other responsibilities to make this happen? Is the travel time worth the limited amount of time I will have to hunt? All these questions seep in and test my resolve to go on a logical level; on an emotional level I find the time spent preparing to go is full of anxiousness to have an adventure, along with a healthy does of nervousness about getting skunked.
Once it is time to embark on the trip, the mental aspect of getting to, and from, the field begins. By car or by air, most falls simply aren’t’t close by the majority of the time. The time commitment and discomforts of traveling can be enough to test your resolve to make future trips, and certainly is something I think about hard in the deciding and preparation phases. The many, many hours of travel is time I use to get my head in the game and plan out how I will execute my hunt. At the same time meteorites 24/7 can be draining so being prepared with a mental distractions to get your head cleared is also something to consider. With 48 hours on the road, I burned through a few audio books to take the edge off the monotonous task of “getting under the radar”. Mastering your excitement can be an interesting problem to overcome. I remember on my first several hunts facing 16 to 19 hour drives, finding myself being too excited to sleep the night before, basically guaranteeing I would have an absolutely horrible time traveling.
Compounding the travel issues, sometime life doesn’t’t allow you to be onsite for one continuous period, I know several hunters who have traveled to and from the strewn field multiple times to execute their hunt, having to stay convinced it is still worth heading back out to either get that first piece or risking committing more time and effort to get more.
IN THE FIELD
Time spent actively hunting can be full of highs and lows. Obviously making a find is the ultimate emotional high and the goal on every hunt of every hunter. But the reality of the field is that for most hunters spanning many hunts, you likely will go home empty handed. Being mentally comfortable with that going into the field is beneficial to not being too let down when it occurs, which it does quite often. The dedication to hunting and keeping at it over the long haul, despite often coming up short is one of the things I look up to most about the hunters who I run across who have been at it a lot longer than I have. Watching folks on open ended hunts or extending their hunts is also another interesting aspect I have witnessed. With no fixed end or a somewhat flexible end date it is interesting to see how long without a find, or between finds, a person is willing to keep at hunting. Attitudes towards hunting length when the flexibility exists varies and is interesting to think about. I have hunted with folks whose commitment to a fall ranges from, “I am going to set a few days limit and if I haven’t succeeded in three days I am leaving,” to long haulers, where the longer they are on site, the more adamant they are on remaining till they succeed. This latter scenario can lead to overcommitting to a specific event, and in the long run can result in burn out. If hunting loses it fun, it is not worth doing. Since most hunters are not out for just one trip, it is worthwhile to take the long view of hunting, and keep that in mind vs a singular hunt.
The emotional flip-flop of feeling when finding an exquisite looking meteorwrong is the common bond of hunters. Especially on visual based hunts, from a little ways off you see that piece of something that is showing all the right characteristics. Maybe it’s modest sized, maybe it is substantial, but the black color is right, the shape is smooth, the texture has that bit of satin finish that fusion crust should have, it’s screaming meteorite. Then you get closer to examine it, heart racing, adrenaline pumping just to find out it is a charred knob of wood. There are some really convincing meteorwrongs out there! Some come home as reminders of just how tricked you can get.
Sometimes as you approach the piece with so much potential you don’t have to flip flop to disappointment, because it is exactly what you were after. At times like this it is easy to get overly excited and rightfully so. Having talked to others and done it myself, its super easy to rush over and pick up the piece. One thing that’s important in find documentation is recording the details of the find, and that means stifling the instinct to grab up your new found meteorite. Take the time to photograph it, get GPS coordinates, and memorize or better yet, record the time, conditions, orientation and other relevant facts.
Whether hunting solo or hunting as a team, two ends of a social spectrum, or blending the styles, it is important to figure out what makes you most happy as far as hunting style. It may vary day to day, or hour to hour on what you want as far as level of solitude, and ability to execute your plan on hunting. Maybe you have an area you just absolutely want to hit that others are not interested in looking in. Or maybe you have a permission that’s just too big to conquer alone and it makes sense to partner up to get it properly walked. Coming up with hunting strategies and staying in a good frame of mind is important.
HEDGING YOUR BETS
Regardless of whether you make a find or not, meteorite hunting is supposed to be fun. A strewn field is great place to meet folks you might not otherwise get to see too often. Hanging out after a long exhausting day of hunting to talk is a sure win and to me one of the most enjoyable parts of any hunt. Having activities planned out to break the meteorite focus is also something good to consider. Being overly focused can be mentally draining, figuring out other things to enjoy in the local area or on your route to and from the strewn field is a great way to have a successful trip: there are other ways to measure success then just coming home with the world’s newest meteorite. Shortly after departing on this trip, I began to think about what I could do to hedge my bets. After a short map recon, I knew I would commit a few extra hours to drive further south to add in a day of fossil hunting. Though not a Muskogee meteorite, the echinoderm mortality plate I came home with was the icing on the cake of a great trip.
Finder: Pat Branch
Number of finds and weight(s): Two 127.5 and 262.7
What is your favorite thing about this find? I managed to find two and talked the local guy into him looking over his property and letting me know if he found anything.
Any specific mental preparations you go through in the planning and prep phase of hunting? Trying to find the best properties and getting permission for at least one before I get into town.
How would you categorize your hunting strategy as far as determining how long you hunt each event? How much ground is searched, which ground has been searched, and what responsibilities I have in other places of my life.
Any advice on getting skunked? I spent many years hunting low probability falls before I found my first meteorite, so I expect to get skunked.
Anything in general I missed you want folks to know about be it a mental tip or otherwise? My big obstacle is cold weather. I do not enjoy hunting in the cold and it plays into my desire to even go to a fall.
Finder: Roberto Vargas
Number of finds and weight(s): One 309.6g
What is your favorite thing about this find? Before I found my piece, I was getting kind of discouraged. I had hunted the day before with Steve Arnold and his buddy Lance, and we hadn’t found anything. They had gotten a head start on me, so his first day hunting with me was actually his second day hunting the fall. He and Lance left after my first full day of hunting.
At that point we didn’t know if we were looking in the right spots, or if any had even made it to ground. So, when I came upon the 309.6g, it just confirmed that we were in the right spot and there were definitely stones on the ground (and that I wasn’t getting skunked). Rob Wesel and Mike Bandli were right next to me and I kind of just whispered, “guys, I think I found one”. It was more just a shock than anything else.
Thinking that I was first to find a witnessed fall was pretty cool. I later learned that someone else had found a piece before me, but it hadn’t been reported yet. It was fun while it lasted. However, in Junction City, I recovered a stone 61.5 hours after it fell, and I was really trying to beat that number. I successfully did that with this fall, finding my first stone after 56 hours. So, that was also cool.
Any specific mental preparations you go through in the planning and prep phase of hunting? Nope, I just get up and go. I’m mostly packed at all times. I got to Oklahoma from Connecticut on the same day that it fell.
How would you categorize your hunting strategy as far as determining how long you hunt each event?
If nothing gets found in the first two or three days, I go home and wait to see if anyone finds anything. If people start finding, I fly back. If people are finding and I am there, I am staying because even if I don’t find any myself, I’ve found that it’s easier to negotiate with finders in person than over the phone or the internet. Also, because I’m not going to find any stones from my couch.
Any advice on getting skunked? Don’t get discouraged from getting skunked. Before Muskogee, I had hunted Lake Mead with Mark Lyon and Ashley Humphries, we got skunked. I had also gone up twice to hunt that fireball over Grimsby. Once, with Mike Kelly and once with Stephen Amara. We got skunked, but each of those trips was a BLAST! Memories I’ll keep for a long time and loads of fun. At the end of the day, it’s a numbers game. I got skunked three times after Junction City, but I lucked out in Muskogee.
Anything in general I missed you want folks to know about be it a mental tip or otherwise? Nah, you’re doing great!
Finder: Loren Miller
Number of finds and weight(s): One 70.6
What is your favorite thing about this find? The land owners were really awesome, three of the land owner’s kids came out and hunted with me and that was a great experience. Being able to help them know what to look for and seeing their excitement was fantastic.
Any specific mental preparations you go through in the planning and prep phase of hunting? Looking for cold finds is a big part of the hunting I do. The look of cold finds is much different than that of fresh falls, so I have to actually retrain my eyes a bit from what I am used to looking for.
How would you categorize your hunting strategy as far as determining how long you hunt each event? Usually I try to have two days of travel and have at least three days of hunting. Having found one early on, it drives me a bit to stay longer, but often times life’s other requirements call me back.
Any advice on getting skunked? Get used to it. I got a friend Mike Miller who told me “you don’t go on a meteorite find you go on a meteorite hunt so get used to getting skunked.”
Anything in general I missed you want folks to know about be it a mental tip or otherwise? One thing is definitely make sure to get proper permissions when going on property, can’t stress it enough. Getting onsite early is also important if you want to get the best access. This is twofold, being early there are a greater amount of properties that haven’t been looked at, and the chances of land owners allowing searching prior to being inundated with requests is higher.