The Paris, Los Angeles and New York meteorites share a common history of being meteorites that were found outside those large famous metropolitan cities that they were named after.
The Los Angeles meteorite was found around 1980 by Bob Verish in California’s Mojave Desert when Bob picked up a couple of rocks that caught his eye which were 452.6 grams and 245.4 grams. At the time, Bob was not into meteorites, and the stones were stored in boxes in his backyard along with most of his rock collection. On October 30, 1999, while clearing out his rock collection, Bob came across the specimens again. Since Bob had begun collecting meteorites, he now knew what meteorites looked like and suspected these to be meteorites due to the dark fusion crust on the specimens. He removed a small sample for analysis by Dr. Alan Rubin at UCLA. By January 12, 2000, analysis confirmed the meteorite to be from Mars (Basaltic Shergottite). Bob reported his meteorite find to the Meteoritical Society, and the Nonmenclature Committee of the Meteoritical Society approved the name “Los Angeles” for the newly discovered Mars rocks. Bob told me that many people mistakenly thought that the Los Angeles name was given to the Martian meteorite because it was analyzed at UCLA.
The 2.95 kg, New York meteorite was purchased by Luc Labenne from Mark Grubb, who reported his grandfather purchased the meteorite about 1965 from the captain of a fishing vessel in New York. The Cape York IIIAB irons have a wide range in compositions and this meteorite fell within that range. It is possible that this is a Cape York iron, possibly purchased from an Inuit by the ship’s captain. The meteorite was submitted by J.T. Wasson, UCLA in May 2008 to the Meteoritical Society, and they approved the name “New York.”
In 2001, the Paris meteorite was purchased at auction by Jean-Jacques Corre at the Hotel des Ventes in Paris. Mr. Corre works in security and has a passion for hunting in flea markets. The meteorite was loose among other objects, such as, small 2.5 cm African bronze statues, amethysts, and colored stones. Mr. Corre raised his hand to bid on the objects without much conviction thinking that the price of the collection was high compared to its stated estimated price. There were two other people who were interested in the lot and bidding against Mr. Corre. In the final seconds, he almost lost the prize, but when he bid passed the 1,000 francs threshold, he won the auction. The box was part of the estate of Jean Simon Colonna-Cimera, an “Ingenieur des Mines,” who supervised mines in foreign countries. Corre ignored the meteorite and was interested in the other objects, such as, the African statues. Subsequently, he suspected the rock was a meteorite, but was not really sure until his friend gave him a copy of a few pages of Alain Gallien’s book “Meteorites, ces pierres tombees du ciel” (“Meteorites, stones fallen from the sky”). Mr. Corre compared his stone with a cross section of the Murchison meteorite in the book. Mr Corre was able to observe that the photo of the Muchison meteorite looked similar to his meteorite. He tried to sell the meteorite by contacting a merchant from Ille Saint Louis in Paris, but after 20 minutes on the phone, the merchant didn’t even want to see the stone. So, Mr. Corre kept the meteorite in a display case in his office for several more years.
He had two samples, one a 199.8 mg sample 1 and 102.9 mg sample 2, from interior chips without fusion crust that were analyzed by the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle (Paris Museum). A slice had been cut to prepare thin sections. The meteorite turned out to be CM2, one of the most primitive carbonaceous chondrites and least aqueously altered CM Chondrite as of 2014. The Paris meteorite contained amino acids (the building blocks of life) and hydrocarbons. It was one complete, fresh stone weighting 1.37 kg and covered with a very black fusion crust. Although not officially documented, it is suggested that Paris was an observed fall collected immediately after and not exposed to rain based on the fresh black fusion crust.
When the slice of the Paris meteorite was cut to prepare thin sections, scraps from this cut were recovered and given back to Mr. Corre. After the analysis in July 2007, the main mass of 1.37 kg was acquired by the Natural History Museum of Paris netting Mr. Corre a handsome profit.
Alain Gallien learned of the discovery from a friend who was listening to the radio program, Scientific magazine of France, in which Mr. Corre and three others participated. Following the program, Alain contacted Mr. Corre to congratulate him on the discovery and suggested that he tells his story to preserve the wonderful history of this fabulous meteorite.
In total, 9.55 grams of fragments and a 0.97 gram fragments were recovered from the making of the thin slices. Mr. Corre gave the 0.97 fragments to Alain Gallien, as a thank you because it was upon reading his book that allowed him to authenticate that the rock he purchased at auction in Paris was a meteorite. In 2014, Mr. Corre asked Alain Gallien to sell 9.55 grams of fragments on eBay. The largest fragment of the 9.55 grams of fragments was 0.91 gram, then 0.89 gram, then 0.72 gram , then 0.61 gram, then 0.36 grams, (the rest were between 0.34 gram – 0.02 gram). There were 42 fragments sold/available from the 9.55 grams along with a lot of crumbs less than 0.02 gram. However there were eight of the smallest fragments were doubled up with other small fragments, so there were 34 packages (cardboard and plastic coin holder package) that were sold and a vial with crumbs sold in 2014 to total the 9.55 grams.
In 2020, Alain Gallien sold the fragments that comprised the 0.97 grams. The fragments comprised of 0.38, 0.22, 0.20, 0.16, and 0.01. He kept a 0.22 gram piece for himself as a souvenir. I was fortunate to have obtained the 0.16 gram Paris specimen from Alain. More importantly, I was able to make a new friend with Alain Gallien who was generous with his time and information.
Alain Gallien articles, photos and emails to Mitch Noda
Ron Baalke (Jet Propulsion Lab – “JPL”) “New Mars Meteorite Found in California” January 30, 2000
The Meteoritical Society – Meteoritical Bulletin Database – New York
Emails exchange with Bob Verish