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The Meteorites of Saint-Exupéry

Sky & Telescope, December 1999, Letters, p. 14:

The Meteorites of Saint-Exupéry

Having read your news note on another Martian meteorite found in the
Libyan Sahara Desert (July issue, page 22), I remembered a passage from
my favorite book, "Wind, Sand and Stars" (1939) by the French pilot and
writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. He described a landing atop one of the
many table mountains between what were then called Cisneros and Cape
Juby in the Western Sahara. Formed of limestone, the 1,000-foot mesas
were covered by sand that consisted of minute and distinct shells, so
Saint-Exupéry was astonished when he noticed a black, fist-size,
teardrop-shape stone, heavy like metal.
Since the mountain's summit was inaccessible from the surrounding
desert, it was dear where the stone came from: "A sheet spread beneath
an apple tree can receive only apples; a sheet spread beneath the stars
can receive only star-dust. Never had a stone fallen from the skies made
known its origin so unmistakably." Saint-Exupéry's follow-up exploration
of the site revealed approximately one meteorite per hectare (0.01
square kilometer).
This tale may be nothing but poetic license (Saint-Exupéry had a
fondness for astronomical topics), but since the book contains many
authentic features, maybe the story is real. My old military atlas shows
Cape Juby and Villa Cisneros on the Atlantic coast at latitudes 28°
north and 24.7° north, respectively. I would much appreciate any
comments and help from readers more informed about the area.

LEOS ONDRA, Skretova 6,
621 00 Brno, Czech Republic

Dear Leos and List,

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is also my favorite author, and I don't know
how often I've read and will read and re-read his PETIT PRINCE or VOL
DE NUIT; OR CITADELLE - to name just a few. How many more magnificent
stories might he have written if he had not been shot down during a
reconnaissance mission over the Mediterranean !!!

With regard to a potential genuine counterpart for the meteorites
mentioned in Exupéry's "Wind, Sand and Stars", I can say that there
are several Saharan meteorite find sites to support your theory:

First of all, there is the Açfer region situated between latitude 27°
23' N / 27° 58' N and longitude 003° 02' E / 004° 54' E

About 320 meteorites have been collected in the Açfer region so far!

Not far away from the Açfer region, there is the Agemour area where
about 16 meteorites have been found. Coordinates of the finds:

Latitude  26° 58' N - 28° 58' N
Longitude 04° 07' N - 04° 56' N

The Adrar 001-003 meteorites have the following coordinates:


28° 03' N
27° 49' N
27° 08' N


000° 10' E
000° 08' E
000° 12' E

There are several more Saharan finds that would fit the required
coordinates (Akhricha,Amadror 001, Bou Hadid, for example). I
am sure there is more to it than just poetic license by Saint-Exupéry.
It would be interesting to find out if there are any meteorites in the
author's bequeathal.

By for now with a quote from "Wind, Sand, and Stars":

Transport of the mails, transport of the human
voice, transport of flickering pictures - in this
century, as in others, our highest
accomplishments still have the single aim of
bringing men together. 

Best wishes,


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