|IMCA Insights – September 2010|
Commemorating the Schwetz Iron
by Andrzej S. Pilski
More than 20 years ago I started my meteorite adventure by reading a great work by Dr. Jerzy Pokrzywnicki „Meteorites of Poland” (Studia Geologica Polonica, Vol. 15, 1964). Then I visited Polish meteorite collections to learn how meteorites actually do look like. In the collection of the Museum of the Earth in Warsaw, the capital of Poland, I could see a rusty slab of an iron meteorite labelled Schwetz. I knew already that it was the one and only specimen of this iron meteorite in Polish collections, traded from Berlin for a specimen of the Łowicz mesosiderite shower.
Despite the little experience I had in preparing irons I dared to ask the Museum to let me refresh the slab in order to show its nice Widmanstätten pattern hardly visible under the rust. Much to my surprise the director of the Museum accepted my proposal. Moreover he agreed to cutting off a small slice for the collection of the Olsztyn Planetarium in trade for a slice of the Seeläsgen iron for the Warsaw collection.
The results of etching were beyond my expectations. The pattern was bright and clear and in the Museum they liked the slice so much that they placed its photo on the cover of their catalogue “Meteorites and Tektites in the Collection of the Museum of the Earth” by Teresa Hanczke. I included the story into my introductory book on meteorites (in Polish) “Nieziemskie skarby” (Unearthly treasures).
The book was read by Bogdan Tarach from the village of Kozłowo near Świecie, former Schwetz. He was impressed to learn that he lived next to the place where a meteorite had been found. He tried to find another meteorite in the area and one day he came to visit me in Frombork with his truck full of stones. I checked them but unfortunately I could find no meteorite among them. Several years passed and one day I was told that the authorities of the town of Świecie wanted to commemorate the meteorite that had been found near their town. They had built a monument, and last August I got an invitation for the unveiling ceremony on August 21, 2010. The timing didn’t fit my schedule, but the organizers insisted. I was surprised: why did they want just me to be there?
The mystery was solved when I arrived at Kozłowo and was welcomed by the same Bogdan Tarach who visited me in Frombork. Having served many years as village administrator in Kozłowo and member of the Council of Świecie Bogdan Tarach talked the authorities into commemorating the meteorite find somehow. Finally his idea was accepted as part of a project of building a recreation area at Wda river, formerly called Schwarzwasser.
Norbert Classen kindly translated this passage into English:
“In spring 1850, during the excavation of a sandy hill for [the building of the] Ostbahn [Prussian Eastern railroad line] on the left bank of the Schwarzwasser Creek near Schwetz an der Weichsel, an iron mass was found 4 feet [1.2m] below the surface at the transition from sand to the underlying clay. It [the mass] was fissured and could be easily divided. (…)
The original shape of the iron mass is approximately that of a straight rectangular prism with fully rounded edges. It is 9″ high, 24″ long, and 17.5″ wide [Prussian inches, i.e., ~23x62x45.5cm]. The entire mass weighs 43 pounds [Berlin pounds, i.e., 21.5kg].” (Pogg. Ann. Ergänz., Vol. IV, 1854, p. 390 and 454)
Bogdan Tarach told me that according to his knowledge the meteorite was found during excavations for pillars of the railway bridge. That’s why he suggested to place the monument at the bridge on left bank of the Wda river. The monument was situated between the road and the river and is two-sided so it can be read both by hikers and cyclists from the road and canoeists from the river.
The ceremony was started by Bogdan Tarach who described briefly the efforts which led to the building of the monument, and then four notables were asked to unveil the monument together: Bogdan Tarach, Jerzy Wójcik – president of the Council of Świecie, Tadeusz Pogoda – mayor of Świecie and me, as a representative of IMCA and the person responsible for triggering Mr. Tarach’s interest in meteorites that finally led to the creation of the monument.
Two of the three specimens of Schwetz in Polish collections were brought to the unveiling ceremony and were displayed in a special case next to the monument; the small 6.4 g slice from the Olsztyn Planetarium, and a 127.6 g slice from the collection of Jakub Radwan. The last one I spotted a few years ago offered for sale by Sergey Vasiliev. It was priced far beyond my reach, but fortunately another Polish collector had been able to purchase it and soon I was asked to refresh it as its etch pattern was rather weak. Of course, I agreed with pleasure. The result was nice again, then the slice was sold to its current owner and displayed during the meteorite conference in Wrocław, Poland, two years ago. The owner loaned it for the meteorite exhibition in Warsaw, and kindly agreed that the slice could be brought to Kozłowo and Świecie for that special celebration. Responsible for the slice were Jan Woreczko and Wadi, owners of a large meteorite collection who kept their eyes on it all the time.
Then there were a few speeches followed by many discussions and photos at the monument and at the display case, an later everybody was invited to an educational picnic in an old castle in the town of Świecie.
The display case with both specimens of Schwetz/Świecie was moved to the castle, where visitors could see and hear four talks on the Schwetz iron and on meteorites in general, could gaze at the Sun, and later at the Moon and the stars with a telescope on the tower of the castle, or look at the starry sky in a portable planetarium and play in the court of the castle.
The picnic ended late at night.