Just about everyone who sees a bolide can imagine themselves following the flight path to its end to find a meteorite. Likewise many a collector aspires to get out and make a personal find, especially one from a fresh fall. Unfortunately that opportunity does not present itself every day. When meteorites do fall, it takes a combination of hunting skill, determination and a good bit of luck for a hunter to find one. Past conversations with long-time hunters cautions that going home skunked is a routine part of the game. With that said, the recent fall in Cranfield, Mississippi provided just the sort of windfall for meteorite hunters in the United States to have a great shot at making a “first find”. To a remarkable degree, many individuals in this great meteorite community checked “finding a fresh fall” off their bucket lists. Here are details of the fall along with the stories, and the circumstances of the folks who went from meteorite fall chasers, to meteorite fall finders for the first time.
On April 27, 2022 a meteoroid entered the earth’s atmosphere over the South Eastern United States. The daytime bolide was reported by 73 individuals across four states. The American Meteor Society Fireball Log recorded their reports as Event 2591-2022, including sonic booms which indicated a breakup. The event was also caught on at least one stationary weather watch camera, produced NEXRAD Doppler radar returns at four stations and was caught by the geostationary lightning monitors on the GEOS 16 and GEOS 17 satellites. All of these were great indicators that a meteoroid may have put meteorites on the ground.
Understanding meteorite hunting is understanding probability and logistics and requires some calculation. How much is it going to cost to get and stay there? How long can I afford to hunt both from an obligations and cost perspective? What are the chances of rocks on the ground? How accessible is the strewnfield and its effect on the likelihood of a find? Will I be satisfied if I come home empty handed? All these questions go through a meteorite hunters head right after the first reports come out on a new fireball. The result of such mental calculations break hunters down into a couple of categories, and folks will find themselves in a different category as the variables change.
CATEGORY I: “FIRST ON THE SCENE” HUNTERS
These are the folks who throw caution to the wind and get in early. Being first on site has its advantages, but also presents bigger risk. Going early means you might arrive at the predicted site as data is still being analyzed, but definitely before it matures, as that only comes with a first and subsequent finds. But these folks are there to make that first find. Being first means choice pick of unhunted ground, and the thrill of being the one to make that first find and confirm rocks on the ground.
CATEGORY II: “ROCKS ON THE GROUND” HUNTERS
These hunters are slightly more risk averse and resist that itch to grab a bag and throw in all the required gear (or for those dedicated hunters to grab their already packed and ready bag). They temper the response to the siren call to go immediately with a more balanced approach. They weigh the risks of getting skunked against the thousands of dollars it may cost to make the first-find attempt. These become the second wave hunters who await the confirmation of “rocks on the ground” to be made. Once they hear that, they go into high gear to get on site.
CATEGORY III: “MAKE IT WHEN THEY CAN” HUNTERS
These folks would love to be in either of the first two categories. They sit at the edge of their seats tracking what is going on in the strewnfield but are tied to what requires their attention at the moment. Eventually the cards fall into place and they can set out for the strewnfield, but only after some additional mental calculations. Is the site played out? Who is still searching and is it worth a possible skunking if only for the hangout factor?
PHASES OF A METEORITE FALL HUNT
Meteorite fall recovery can also be characterized by phases. Phase one begins with a find at the time of the fall or immediately thereafter, usually by the local residents, but potentially by a “first on the scene” meteorite hunter. The success in this phase helps to shape the strewnfield data. Phase two heralds the arrival of more meteorite hunters, who, if successful further help to add refining data to evolve the strewnfield understanding. As they leave, knowing there are more around potentially they usher in phase 3.
Its nice to think that a fall moves cleanly through all three phases. Yet some falls skip a phase. Some falls may have immediate reports of rocks on the ground. Others might have an initial find and then a lull with nothing found in the second phase. Finally some falls roll on and on and on, staying in phase three and keeps producing for decades (e.g. Holbrook).
THE PHASES OF THE CRANFIELD FALL
This fall rapidly progressed through all the phases and had first-time finders in all the categories. Here are the events and details of each first finder who provided information in chronological order.
Phase one started the morning of April 27, 2022 as the fall happened around 8 am local time. On April 28th the first rough strewnfield data came out and the “first on the scene” hunters were enroute. Also on the 28th the first find was made by a local named Lynn on his property. He came across the stone broken into two pieces, between his house and his shed but he did not know initially it was a meteorite. Lynn’s stone is now recognized as stone #1, though it wasn’t realized till later on and thus did not initiate a “rocks on the ground” call. It didn’t take long to end phase one because on April 29th “rocks on the ground” was officially reported. The second and third first-time finds went to Linda and Marc Fries, for stones two and three along Hwy 98/84. Stone four which was in multiple fragments in the median was found by Matthew Stream and Roberto Vargas, the other phase one hunters in the strewnfield.
Phase two kicked in with the arrival of around a dozen more hunters, many of them veteran hunters with a decent showing of folks looking for that shot at a first-time find. New finder success in phase two centered on the prolific fragmentation of stone #4 along Hwy 98/84 resulting in finds for Cameron Smith, Jodi Smith, Mark Lyons, Craig Zlimen and Ashley Humphries. Additional recovery of stones five, six and seven turned up further East in the strewnfield around the intersection of the highway and Tate Road. These include two individuals found and a fragment by Rob Keeton, Raymond Borges and Ily Valenzuela.
As the phase two first-time finders and some of the veteran hunters headed out, the phase three hunters started arriving around the 5th of May, over a week after the bolide. As of this writing, phase three is still going on. Phase three success continued as hunters went back to the stone #4 site. Finds of additional fragments were made by Carl Dietrich, L.A. Boltryk, Jason Whitcomb, Howard Lewis and Tasha Minor and a sub-gram partial pea was found by Carl Dietrich, stone #9. Additionally Tate Road produced one additional first-time find, stone #10. [A local found a stone on his property (stone #8) on 5 May also first time find!], and on 5 June Rob Keeton who returned with Raymond Borges found a complete stone #11 and on 6 June Raymond Borges found a massive 190 gram stone #12 There are likely still finds to be made by hunters in addition to anything that locals may find now that many now know what to look for.
The following are the firsthand accounts of the finders that wanted to share their stories, along with a little background information on the finders. Hopefully these recounts will help motivate potential hunters to get out and give a fireball chase a go.
First time finder: Linda Welzenbach Fries
How long have you been collecting? To tell the truth I don’t consider myself a collector. This is in part because in my former job as the collection manager of meteorites at the Smithsonian, it was a conflict of interest to maintain what might be a competitive collection, or use my knowledge about meteorites in a similar way to benefit myself or others.
How long have you been hunting? This is my second EVER hunt. My first was the Lorton meteorite fall, but didn’t result in additional material beyond the initial hammer stone.
How many fireballs have you chased in that time? This is my first fireball!
Recovered weight and details on find? 41.31 gram individual. So this event is wonderful because I was no longer under any job restriction. So I have all the joy and wonder gained by my prior knowledge to go in hand with the child-like glee of doing something amazing for the first time.
My husband Marc Fries, who is a planetary scientist at NASA and dev eloper of the approach for using weather radars to find falling meteorites, announced late on Friday (the 29th) that we were going on a road trip.
It turns out that when Bill Cooke (Lead Scientist of NASA- Marshall Space Flight Center’s Meteoroid Environment Office) called him about the fireball, Marc used the wrong time-stamp – used local time instead of UTC (radar data is reported by coordinated universal time) on the radar and didn’t think there were any meteorites on the ground. The next afternoon, he got an email from someone who has been toying with radar themselves (Eric Rasmussen) asking him to check again…Marc found meteorites! He ran his models on Friday, posted them on the NASA website, showing a direct bullseye over Hwy 84/98, east of Natchez.
The trip was only 5.5 hours away. I almost didn’t go because I was sick, but I didn’t want him to go alone. We arrived on 30 April around 2pm and reconnoitered the full length of the road under the radar returns he had assembled, just picked the halfway mark and started walking. The terrane was perfect- flat, buff/tan colored quartz pebbles, not much grass.
Maybe his curse was still working because I found the first one at 2:30…just an hour after we arrived, and not 10 minutes after a false start with a weathered road gator (rubber from tires). Marc and I were super disappointed with the sneaky gator-bit. He trudged back across the road to search his line. When I found that first stone, I don’t think I made a coherent sound, but it was sufficient to get him to come running back over. We ended up with cheek aches from the constant smiles.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)? I have several memorable moments from the trip. The most important being when Marc found his first meteorite and at the same time Matt Stream and Roberto Vargas happened to be driving by at the exact moment- so we got to share that excitement with folks who truly understand! And we got to make new friends. The second was attending the Cranfield Baptist Church service as part of our outreach effort. Let’s just say, it’s been a long time.
First time finder: Marc Fries
How long have you been collecting? Twenty years
How long have you been hunting? Since West, TX (Ash Creek) 2007
How many fireballs have you chased in that time? Cranfield is my tenth.
Recovered weight and find details? I found a 37g, roughly cube-shaped and mostly fusion crusted individual. I was searching along the median on the highway, thinking that anything that landed on the road may have wound up in the grass right at the edge either from bouncing there or getting moved by a vehicle. I was searching as I had many times before, scanning from one rock to another, and suddenly there it was. The exposed interior was facing upwards and there was pause or doubt in my mind that it was a meteorite. The funny part is, I have been operating under a curse. I have found dozens of meteorite falls in weather radar imagery and have visited ten of them now, but I have never found a meteorite in a fresh fall before. The running joke has been that the meteorite gods only allow you to find a meteorite once, and if I found them in radar imagery then I wasn’t allowed to find them again on the ground. I’ve been standing only a few meters away from others and watched them find meteorites, at falls like Mifflin and Battle Mountain, but I’ve never found one myself. Finally, on the tenth try, I have been rewarded for my persistence by the meteorite gods and allowed to find one on the ground! I yelled quite loudly.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)?
The most memorable moment was when my wife Linda found the first meteorite. We were searching opposite sides of the road and she suddenly started gesticulating and making loud, unintelligible noises. Her voice had a high pitch of excitement as opposed to the fear that comes with finding a snake or some such thing, and I knew immediately what had happened. I ran over to her and sure enough, there was a beautiful 41g fusion crusted stone in front of her. This was also her first find at a meteorite fall, and it is something we will both remember for all time.
First time finder: Roberto Vargas
How long have you been collecting? I started collecting in December of 2017, when I purchased my first meteorite. It was a 20g Campo del Cielo shatter crystal from Sean Tutorow.
How long have you been hunting? My first hunt was in Aguas Zarcas, Costa Rica, in April of 2019. A couple of months earlier, I had seen hunters recover kilos of Vinales and felt like I was missing out. So, when Aguas Zarcas fell, and I knew rocks were on the ground, I packed my bags and flew to Costa Rica. I had great success purchasing from the locals, but did not log a personal find that trip.
How many fireballs have you chased in that time? Since then, I have chased seven other fireballs/falls. On three of these, I’ve come up empty handed. Prior to Cranfield, my most recent chase was the Golden, Canadian fall, which crashed through a woman’s roof in British Columbia in October 2021.
Recovered weight and details on find? On April 30th, we came across Marc Fries as he was making his first find. This let us know that we were in the right place. It was late in the evening and we lost sunlight quickly. No additional finds were made that day. On May 1st, Matt Stream started hunting at sunup. Matt discovered the first fragment of Stone #4 at around 9:07am. We quickly began finding additional fragments, which when all was said and done, totaled 180g for our first day. Over the course of the next two days, we would return to this location, bringing other hunters to search the area. Matt and I recovered an additional 12g in fragments from this site on days 2 and 3. On our second to last day, I had flyers made and distributed them to local businesses and handed them to the locals I came across. This led to us receiving a call from a local woman by the name of Samantha Day. Her father, Lynn Dunson, had found a strange rock on his property on April 28th. Samantha had come across one of my flyers and wanted me to tell her if the stone her father found could be a meteorite. When I looked at the pictures, there was no doubt in my mind that he had found a piece of the fall. By this time, Matt and I were in New Orleans on our way to the airport. We asked if Samantha and her father would be willing to sell us this specimen and she agreed. We reached out to Craig Zlimen, Mark Lyon, and Ashley Humphries, who were still in the strewn field and asked if they would make the purchase for us. They agreed, and that is how we recovered an additional 153g. This find was composed of two fragments, a 31g fragment and a 122g fragment. Matt and I walked away with 192g of personal finds and the 122g purchase from the locals, for a grand total of 314g, which we agreed to split down the middle. We offered Craig Zlimen the 31g fragment at cost for retrieving the stones for us.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)? Aside from the recoveries, the most memorable moment of the trip was the dinner we had at Roux 61 in Natchez on the night of May 2nd. The dinner was attended by at least 12 other hunters and friends. The guest list included: Matt Stream, Steve Arnold, Ashley Humphries, Mark Lyon, Craig Zlimen, Robert Ward, Jody and Cameron Smith, Sonny Clary, Loren Miller, Doug Dawn and Angie. When I think about my time in Mississippi, the only thing better about the camaraderie at that dinner was the feeling of making that first find.
First time finder: Matthew Stream
How long have you been collecting? I have been collecting meteorites for over 11 years now. My first meteorite was a gift from a good friend in 2010 and it was Sikhote-Alin. I starte d collecting meteorites in 2012 after I realized you could buy them on Ebay and other public sites.
How long have you been hunting? My first meteorite that I hunted was Sutter’s Mill, and I showed up a few weeks after the fall around April 29th. I drove up to Sutter’s Mill from Prescott Arizona with my good friend and roommate at the time Alan Tipler, he was the same person who gave me my first meteorite. We hunted for 3 days, walked around talking to locals and hunting random roads. We were both amateur hunters and collectors and didn’t know much about what we were looking for other than it was a fresh black rock that should look out of place and was not attracted to a magnet… we did not find anything and drove back to Northern Arizona after 4 days.
How many fireballs have you chased in that time? The Cranfield Mississippi meteorite was the second fireball I ever chased and it was a thrill of a lifetime.
Side note: My Dad and I witnessed a fireball pass over our car in 2017 on the way to the Tucson gem and mineral show, we were literally headed towards the Tucson gem show and it flew right over the highway! I reported it to the meteorite community and Michael Farmer sure enough had pictures of it from his front porch camera in Tucson. We did not chase that one however, it was small and we were on a mission to buy meteorites at the show.
Recovered weight and details on find? Roberto Vargas and I flew to Mississippi on April 29th 2022 and decided to hunt for this meteorite. On May 1st at around 9:07 am we discovered a fresh meteorite stone that was smashed up all over highway 98/84. When I first witnessed the fragments I yelled at Roberto with giddy excitement and adrenaline rushing through my body. I told him “whoa, whoa, whoa, come over here bro!” Then I yelled “wow look at this fresh meteorite smashed up everywhere”, he came running over with a huge smile on his face and extreme excitement. I know that he thought I was joking around by the sound of my voice and my energy was just through the roof. We looked at each other and said “we did it! We found one!” We both started jumping up and down with excitement and I told him let’s take some pictures and a short video before we pick any fragments up. I then recorded a short video, in-situ photos and we recorded the coordinates. We both then began to pick up the fragments and take pictures of many of them lying on the highway and grass all around the area. We could tell that this meteorite hit the highway, and then was smashed and dispersed by cars and trucks driving by.
Stone 4 pieces we recovered totaled 192 grams. We spent the next couple days recovering pieces and recording its location. We also reported this information to the meteorite community and many other hunters/ friends came to join us looking for meteorites.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)? The most memorable moment for me was meeting everyone at the local gas station and discussing where we have hunted and where we should all go next. Lots of us split into small groups and dispersed in separate locations along the strewnfield. It was a dream of mine to hunt a fresh fall and to have so many good friends and meteorite community members be there was what made it such a memorable moment. We all went out to dinner and drinks, it was exciting and a moment I’ll always cherish.
First time finder: Cameron Smith
How long have you been collecting? Four years or so…
How long have you been hunting? This was my second hunt.
How many fireballs have you chased in that time? Just one other one.
Recovered weight and details on find? A little under 11g. My first find was on May 2nd, 2022 at 4:20 pm. I had found little micros before that point, but that was the moment I found my first piece that was over a gram… and it had crust! I was quite thrilled to find my first piece and simultaneously relieved that all we had put into this hunt, the travel, the time off work, etc., had finally paid off.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)? Fish dinner with the hunters, of course.
First time finder: Raymond Borges
How long have you been collecting? I’ve been collecting since around 2006, so about 16 years.
How long have you been hunting? I started hunting back in Puerto Rico where I grew up maybe 2007 or 08. I started out reading Richard O. Norton’s Filed Guide to Meteors and Meteorites and after some weeks or months got my courage up to purchase my first meteorite on eBay. At first I didn’t know any other “Meteorite Collectors” and social media was in its infancy. There were no groups online to join except the Meteorite Mailing email List from Meteorite Central and the IMCA. I had no access to travel to any of the shows in the mainland USA or abroad. Within the first year or so I did meet two other people in Puerto Rico who had meteorites, one was Eddie Irizarry who led the Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe and the other was Joxelle Velázquez-García, a member of the same astronomy club. I also sold my first meteorite to Joxelle.
How many fireballs have you chased in that time?
I’ve hunted arid areas in Puerto Rico and even chased a witnessed fireball while I still lived there and was completing my bachelor’s degree. When I moved to the states in late 2011 I started going to Tucson and hunting Wilcox Playa and Holbrook. Later, I chased several fireballs where no meteorites were found and also hunted Sutter’s Mill a few years after the fall. I then met Ily in 2019 and we hunted Aguas Zarcas, finding some crumbs ourselves from a meteorite that was destroyed by a lawnmower. We don’t really count this as a find as we were led to the site. We went back to Costa Rica to hunt Aguas Zarcas twice more without success although we did manage to purchase many rocks from finders there.
Another fall I hunted was Santa Filomena in Brazil. I spent ten days in the field buying meteorites there from the locals and hunting a few days myself. I recorded and passed on coordinates from the finders to Jim Goodall from Strewnify and Carlos Augusto Di Pietro from BRAMOS and contributed to mapping out the known strewnfield confirming the various estimates that were calculated from video tracking of the fireball. No success finding stones myself there, but I did make a lot of friends who still invite me back all the time. I also virtually hunted Kolang in Indonesia and Gatuto in Kenya during the pandemic, where I managed to purchase at least one or two stones from each of these falls directly from the finders. One I am most proud of is the virtual hunt of Kolang where I managed to purchase a 28g Kolang individual, broken into two halves.
Recovered weight and details of your find? I recovered an 8.9g fusion-crusted fragment initially. It was about 9:15 am local time, Rob Keeton and I headed out the morning of the second day we were there, which was May 2nd. We had arrived in the late afternoon of May 1st. We got off to a late start as we went to Walmart to buy bug spray, a long sleeve shirt and facemask to keep the bugs at bay which would not leave us alone.
Additionally I found a 190g individual. The morning of June 4th all hunters met up with Pat Branch to explore a new property he had recently obtained permission to hunt on. After walking a gravel road at the entrance, everyone fanned out in different directions exploring the field unsuccessfully for about an hour after which Rob and I met up again in the middle. We talked for a few minutes and then started heading down one of the overgrown dirt/gravel roads. As we wandered down this road for about 5 or 10 minutes I spotted the meteorite a few feet ahead and yelled out something to the effect of “Holy crap dude” and quickly but cautiously leaned down to check this rock out. I didn’t immediately pick it up but looked at it for a few seconds. I then picked it up and inspected the bottom and confirmed the new find! Then I yelled out something about finding it so Pat and Chris could hear me. After initially inspecting it, I laid it back down for a quick in-situ picture and then picked it back up to continue taking pictures and record the location.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)?
The most memorable moment was seeing others find their first stones around me having explored an area far east of where the initial finds were made, extending the easternmost boundaries of the known strewnfield. There was also a lady we met that owned a large property in the middle of a clearing within a surrounding heavily wooded area. It was an unexpectedly gorgeous property for that area with green pastures, blooming flowers, many cows and 4 farm dogs. I experienced a strong sense of being very near the main mass on her property, which was far south of the highway. Sadly the grass was much too tall to spot even large stones at a distance.
First time finder: Rob Keeton
How long have you been collecting? Since 2017
How long have you been hunting? I have been a casual meteorite hunter since I started collecting in 2017.
How many fireballs have you chased in that time? Prior to the fall in Mississippi, I had made efforts to find possible fresh falls in Florida, Alabama, Missouri, and Tennessee and had also tried to hunt a couple of historic falls, especially the 1983 fall in Maryville, Tennessee.
Recovered weight and details of your find? On 02 May, 2022 at approximately 12:50 CDT, I was walking along the northside shoulder of Highway 98 I used my magnet stick to probe promising looking pieces of rock and rubber, cursing their unrelenting existence under my breath. As I got within a hundred yards or so of my car, I glanced to my right and noticed a black rock sitting near the edge of the pavement by a small patch of grass. I began to pass it by thinking it was probably a chunk of asphalt or another piece of tire rubber that had caused me so much consternation, but it looked unique enough to warrant a quick poke with my magnet stick. I had to turn to my right and lean back a bit to reach it with my magnet. To my surprise the rock quickly jumped onto the magnet with a confident click. I stood there for a moment in stunned disbelief before I took a closer look at the rock on the end of my magnet. I recall thinking something along the lines of “this is probably a piece of slag” and prepared myself for disappointment. I removed the specimen from the magnet and saw that a small chip on the edge of the black rock revealed the gray interior of a meteorite. I was still in disbelief and reassessed the specimen to make sure I wasn’t fooling myself into mistaking a piece of gravel for a meteorite. After a few moments I realized I was holding a beautiful, oriented individual of the Cranfield meteorite. I was so excited that I almost forgot to record the coordinates and document the find. I placed the specimen back on the ground where I had located it and snapped a quick photo on my cell phone. I spent the next day periodically checking the specimen to reassure myself it was actually a meteorite. On my third trip I found the 9.7g on June 2nd while hunting the south side shoulder of the highway east of Tate Rd. While hunting I was stopped by a local resident who was curious about what we were looking for. After talking to him, Raymond called me on the radio and after a brief conversation I prepared to start hunting again. The moment I looked down I saw the specimen sitting on the shoulder where it begins to transition into the grass. I immediately recognized it and was stoked! I know numerous people – including me – had passed it by, so it just goes to show how hard the small ones are to recognize on the shoulder of the highway.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)? I learned a tremendous amount during my time in Cranfield and really enjoyed spending time with fellow meteorite enthusiasts, several of whom I had only known through interactions on social media. I will never forget the moment when frustration turned to euphoria, and I graduated from being a meteorite hunter to being a meteorite finder. Reflecting on the experience, I am still struck by how I didn’t immediately recognize my find as a meteorite because it blended in so well with the other material on the shoulder where I found it.
First time finder: Ily Valenzuela
How long have you been collecting? About 3 years now.
How long have you been hunting? About the same.
How many fireballs have you chased in that time? I have hunted Aguas Zarcas in Costa Rica three times, Osceola in Florida, Indian Butte, and Holbrook in Arizona. I’ve also chased a few other meteors, mainly in the Southeast USA, where no finds were made.
Recovered weight and details on find? I recovered a 5g individual that seemingly broke into two halves upon impact. After spending probably over 25 hours hunting before my first find, I felt this would be another dud for me. I was taking my school final in the hotel room when my teammates called me with news of their finds. I was happy for them but deeply discouraged. They picked me up and took me to the area they hunted, and after no more than 15 minutes of me walking down the road, I saw something promising. Some black magnetic earth rocks had already catfished me on this trip, so I had my guard up. The two pieces that stuck were magnetic, and as soon as I saw the interior, I knew I had my first find. I called my team to check it out, and we celebrated all of us making our first find on the same day.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall, of course!)? For this trip, my most memorable moment was walking through high grass and poking a copper head with a magnet stick accidentally. Also, ask Larry Atkins how his shrimp burger was. My most memorable trip was my recovery of Aguas Zarcas. At 19 years old, I made my first international trip to Costa Rica to bring home one of the most iconic falls in recent years. I took my rent money and whatever else I could spare to buy as many specimens as I could. The world of meteorites really changed my life.
First time finder: Michael Kelly
How long have you been collecting? I started collecting actively with a purchase of a small 7 gram Sikhote-Alin at the New Jersey Gem and Mineral show in April of 2018. This was a month after my first attempt at finding a meteorite.
How long have you been hunting? Hunting is what got me started into meteorites, on a work trip to California in March of 2018 I was looking for something adventurous to do on my evening time off. I remembered seeing the dry lake beds and looked up info on them and found out meteorites could be found there. I rushed to the hardware store, picked up a magnet and rushed out to hunt. I came back with a handful of meteowrongs, but that got me interested in meteorites.
How many fireballs have you chased in that time? This is my second fireball chase, I previously chased the Syracuse, New York bolide December 2020. In addition to those two events, I have hit the dry lake beds a few times, and searched several known find locations.
Recovered weight and details on find? 54.3 grams, a 53.3 gram complete oriented individual, stone # 10, along with 1 gram of fragments from the stone 4 site.
My trip started out as a bit of a fizzle, with a lot going on at work and family obligations I messaged Robert Vargas on the 30th of April to see if he was headed down, this was slightly after the NASA release of rocks on the ground. He mentioned he was already there since the night before, and I only half joking asked my wife if I could hop in the car and drive down to Mississippi that evening hoping to get in with the “rocks on the ground” hunter wave I knew would be headed in. That having not worked out, I worked feverishly to clear my plate at work and made a second bid for a trip midweek. I was undecided up to Wednesday morning if I was going to go or not, going back and forth on if making the trip was worthwhile, I had good Intel and was told chances of micro finds were still really high. At the same time it was 18.5 hours if driving straight each way and I knew a lot of folks would be headed out by the time I got there. Ultimately my back and forth was ended with the counsel of my 10 year old daughter who told me to just go hunting already. I headed out Wednesday evening and by Thursday afternoon around 4 PM I was on the site of stone 4, searching around the cracks and in the gravel traps. I figured search the highest probability area first and circle out from there. I succeeded in finding my first crusted micro after about 20 minutes, and upped the total to about a half gram before deciding to do an overview drive of the highway to scout out sites I would want to look at the next day. My plan was to sleep in a bit after the long drive but the excitement had me up early with the sun and I opted to skip eating and go hunt early. I started out back at the stone # 4 site to get a couple of fragments and have a good start to my first full day. After a few hours and another half a gram found I moved over to Tate road operating on the fact that three pieces had turned up there and it was so far the densest spot for independent stone finds. That coupled with Rob Keeton saying it was worth another look was enough to get me over there. I had driven Tate Road the day prior North of the highway, so opted to park at the base of Tate road, and work the edge of Tate road around the corner and onto the highway, headed west back toward the Stone 4 site. I told myself to skip the easy spots and go where the grass was the worst, go where others might not have checked or were more apt to overlook a piece. So I was mostly checking right up along the wood line. About 20 minutes into looking around Tate Road and working my way toward the highway I spotted stone ten at 9:57 am on the 6th of May. The grass was tall but it was mostly the seedy stalks up by the wood line so it was not as hard to see through. I spotted the stone from about 6 feet away and in my head even from that distance I was 90% sure it was a meteorite and not another black rock or chunk of tire rubber which were all over. I rushed over to it and on close examination I could tell I had gotten extremely lucky, I took one in-situ shot before the overwhelming urge to pick up the stone got the best of me. My whole plan to drop a scale cube by it, do the proper cube side shots, take coordinates prior to touching it that all went out the window. I picked it up and rolled it over and that’s when my excitement went from high right into overdrive, the back had a complete thick rollover going along with a pill bug on it contesting it as my find. I tried to get a shot of the pill bug but my phone ran out of battery so it was off to the car stone in hand to get the phone charged, get more shots of the piece and get it on the scale. Using the shot of the stone in-situ I was able once the phone had enough battery to go back and record the GPS location accurately.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)? Night one hangout at the bar. Everything is more surreal when you have slept only one hour out of the past 24. Getting to hang out with folks I haven’t seen in a long time was definitely a highlight for me. I hadn’t seen Dustin Dickens since Tucson 2019 and Steve Arnold since the Syracuse hunt, it was great to meet new folks and make an instant connection over a shared passion.
First time finder: Carl Dietrich
How long have you been collecting? Collecting about a year now, but I’d been trying to learn about meteorites/tektites for about two years prior to that.
How long have you been hunting? I’ve been hunting for a year and a half. I have hunted unsuccessfully for Georgiaites as well as at the Bishopville meteorite site. Cranfield was the first rocks on the ground event in the U.S. I’d heard of since I got into the hobby.
How many fireballs have you chased in that time? None that were confirmed by ARES! I would always go out when there was a large event with spotty radar close to me, but none of those ever panned out. I thought I was going to be late, but was pleasantly surprised to see others also just arriving, especially when Mike made his 53 gram find on my first day.
Recovered weight and details on find? 1.25 grams including the .07g pea. Though I found larger fragments, my tiny partial/individual is still my favorite. When I saw how far the crust wrapped around, I ran over to my dog waiting in the car and let her out to jump around and celebrate. The feeling was indescribable, definitely addicting. I’m still wanting to go back, I’ll without a doubt be hunting for meteorites the rest of my life after going to Cranfield.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)? I took Chris Casey to Wendy’s for the first time in his life. He tried to talk smack when we got back to Hobo Forks, but eventually rated it a 7.5/10. The workers of Hobo Forks would likely rate us a bit lower, unfortunately.
First time finder: Jason Whitcomb
How long have you been collecting? While I bought my first meteorites back in the 90’s out of the back of a Popular Science magazine, it was the past five or six years that I have become fully obsessed with meteorites.
How long have you been hunting/How many fireballs? I have always been obsessed with rock hounding and gold panning, this has been my first hunt for a fresh fall.
Recovered weight and details on find? As soon as I could manage my schedule I made plans with my childhood friend, Howard Lewis, to meet me at the New Orleans airport where we would drive up to the strewnfield. In anxious anticipation of our journey I had made a road-skimming contraption with PVC, neodymium magnets, and skateboard wheels. After an unsuccessful first day, including a dangerous encounter with a local who did not like “having to see all of you on the side of the road”, the second day started at the known impact site. L.A. Boltryk had clued us in to the scene and was very generous with his information. Because of this, and the knowledge shared by the previous round of meteorite hunters, we immediately had success with the magnetic sweeper.
The feeling of finding our first meteorites was a cascade of emotions ranging from disbelief and amazement to overwhelming joy. There they were, real deal, waiting to be plucked off the magnets crust and all. Sure we were the sloppy seconds street sweepers. I will tell you though: one man’s leftovers is another’s feast of kings!
Day after day we would think this spot was played out, and every time we double checked we were proven wrong by adding weight to our bag. We were even lucky enough to meet a Cranfield resident, Tasha Lashea Minor, who managed to find about three quarters of a gram herself at the freeway impact site. Our grand total over the four days was just over six grams that Howard and I will split once I finish sorting through a bag of magnetically attracted debris from remaining crumbles. In this regard it reminded me a bit of bringing the concentrates home for the final gold panning except now it is steel belted redial wires and rust off of old Chevy pick-ups instead of black sands.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)? I got to eat crawdads by the pound, alligator, authentic southern greens, beans and mac ‘n cheese. We were deep in the field during two pop up tornado watches with the full thunderstorm experience. We met a field team from NASA, awesome locals, and other enthusiastic meteorite hunters. I saw lightning bugs shoot toward the sky, possibly dangerous snakes, and many bugs that wanted to take a bit out of me. After a drive that included more lighting than I have seen in my entire life combined we ended up on Bourbon Street in New Orleans for an all-nighter before our 4am flight out. Almost every moment was a checkbox on my most memorable moment’s list.
First time finder: Tasha Minor
How long have you been collecting? I always wished to find a meteorite, since age six or seven. In high school, I participated in a satellite astronomy class. I learned about stars, gas giants, black holes, etc. I’ve never had the opportunity to collect any meteorites until, May 15, 2022.
How long have you been hunting? To answer truthfully, I’ve just been a week into avid hunting. Now that I was taught by Jason Whitcomb and Howard Lewis, how to properly recognize a meteor “right”.
How many fireballs have you chased in that time? This is my first fireball chase.
Recovered weight and details on find? On April 27th, I was standing outside work. I heard this loud boom and I was wondering what happened. It wasn’t until later that night I read about the meteorite. The following day, I read it may have landed close by. As the days went by, more people were finding them literally up the street. I worked for the next few days and couldn’t search the area myself. That Thursday, May 12, my son and I were unsuccessful and I kept finding blown tire pieces, thinking they were meteorites.
I came across Jason on Facebook. I saw he’d be in town the next day. I reached out and he quickly responded. I told him Sunday, I’m all in to search, after I finish my shift at work. I met him and Howard at Hobo Fork Grocery around 4:45 pm and I chose to go where hunters initially found meteorites.
I used Jason’s wonderful magnetic tool, combing Highway 84. In almost 10-15 minutes, Howard checked the magnets and there they were. Visible remnants of the meteorite that caused such a roar through several cities. I screamed, yelled, danced, and got teary-eyed, I did it. I was determined to find a meteorite. After all, I was so broken hearted after my son and I couldn’t retrieve any on our search.
Most memorable moment from the trip (besides recovering your first fall of course!)? My most memorable moments were of Jason and Howard teaching me how to continue the search after they left. Watching them search and comb the strewnfield was an exciting moment for me. Reason being, it finally dawned on me that I was with real space experts, how cool? The icing on the cake was my gift from Jason. He gifted me with NWA 14755, a Lunar Meteorite, from his collection, my heart dropped. After handing me my gift, he then handed me a gift for my son To’Maz, a dual graduate, (Graduate College and High School Simultaneously). It was NWA 14429, a Diogenite. This day turned out to be the best day of my existence. No one truly understands that I found pieces of space that are probably 4 billion years old. I am still super excited of the great men I met, and my billion year old pieces of space.
Special thanks to all the first time finders their stories and their photos are their own, also a special thanks to Michael Duran and Linda Fries for editing.