[meteorite-list] Fwd: Meteorite hunting in Virginia
From: Robert Verish <bolidechaser_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri Feb 10 17:32:00 2006
Meteorite hunting in Craig and Botetourt Counties
By Anita J. Firebaugh
Feb. 10, 2006
Somewhere in Craig or Botetourt counties there may be
a really big meteorite lying on a rock wall.
Although it was found in Botetourt County in 1850,
this hunk of metal from space is missing, and
specimens of the meteorite are difficult to locate.
Botetourt County is a large area to cover, and in 1850
it was even bigger, as it also encompassed what is now
Craig County. So the meteorite could be anywhere in
this area of southwest Virginia.
Wherever it is, at least one meteorite hunter wants to
Rick Nowak of Florida contacted The Fincastle Herald,
a sister paper of The New Castle Record, recently to
ask if anyone knew the meteorite’s location. He
identified himself as an amateur meteorite hunter who
wanted to find the Botetourt County meteorite.
The meteorite is listed in a book called Catalogue of
Meteorites and noted in other official lists of named
and recorded meteorite finds. Very small specimens are
supposed to be at Arizona State University, the United
States Natural Museum (USNM or the Smithsonian), and
in Calcutta and Vienna, but the meteorite apparently
was very large.
The USNM could not locate its specimen, and Linda
Welzenbach, USNM collection manager for the division
of meteorites, was unsure if it ever was in the
“We have pictures of the crystal structure of
the meteorite but on the back it says the specimen is
in Vienna,” she said.
Her documentation on the meteorite shows the fragments
were once part of a mineral collection bequeathed to
the Smithsonian by C. U. Shepard, a 19th century
professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts and
noted mineral collector.
In his papers, Shepard lists the Botetourt County,
Virginia meteorite. In 1866, he wrote:
“This iron was discovered more than fifteen
years ago in a mass so ponderous that the finder,
having attempted to transport it on horseback a number
of miles to his house, was obliged to abandon the
undertaking. He left it upon a stone wall by the
roadside, after having (with the assistance of a negro
who happened at the time to be passing with a hammer)
detached two or three small angular fragments.”
Shepard wrote that the finder gave the fragments to N.
S. Manross, another Amherst College professor, who
took them to Gottingen, Germany, for analysis. The
fragments were determined to have a very unusual
presence of nickel. Manross eventually gave one of the
fragments and the information about its acquisition to
Shepard. Shepard acquired all of the fragments after
Shepard described the fragments as “whiter than
most irons … fine granular like
Welzenbach said upon further study it appears the
Botetourt County meteorite is similar to a 20-pound
meteorite called Babb’s Mill, found in 1842 in
Greene County, Tennessee, and theorized the rocks may
be from the same meteor or could even be the same
It is not unusual for meteorites to be found from the
same fall, as such an event is called, said John Goss,
Botetourt County’s master astronomer. Goss said
a large meteor falling from the sky can break apart. A
matter of seconds can separate the rock masses over
hundreds of miles. “They do spread out over the
ground and could go over many miles,” Goss said.
Meteorite study was well underway in 1850, so a
knowledgeable person could have realized the rock was
significant and sought out a scientist, Goss said.
Mineral testing was available back then.
Nowak, the meteor hunter, said the rock, if the size
is as significant as suggested by the notations of
requiring a horse to move it, could bring a pretty
penny if the owner is inclined to sell it.
Goss said the documentation implies the meteorite
weighed several hundred pounds. He said one indication
of a meteorite is an “out of place rock. If
you’re in an area with primarily sandy soil and
then there’s a 400 pound iron rock, how did it
get there? It must have fallen from the sky,”
Nowak said the meteorite’s iron content makes it
a unique meteorite. He believes the meteorite would be
black and pitted.
“It’s going to be such an unusual stone,
it’ll stick out like a sore thumb,” Nowak
Online, meteorite fragments range from less than $100
to $30,000 for a sliver, depending on the meteorite
and its characteristics.
Nowak said he collects meteorites for fun, but others
earn their living hunting for such stones. Meteor
hunters have a varied reputation, depending on point
of view. Goss called them “Indiana Jones”
types who seek meteorites instead of treasure.
Welzenbach said meteor hunters can unwittingly impede
the scientific process and noted that meteorite finds
should be named and classified by an international
committee that makes meteoric material available for
research. Museums and scientists often don’t
have the cash needed to buy a meteorite once a meteor
hunter has acquired it, she said. “They can go
out and snatch this stuff up and then the price
skyrockets,” she added.
The Botetourt County meteorite has apparently been
named and classified but the majority of the meteorite
has been lost. The Herald unearthed a report of a
meteorite in private hands in the Nace area of
Botetourt, but it allegedly fell during the 20th
century. The owner declined comment.
Goss and Welzenbach said meteorites on your property
belong to you. “Don’t let anybody talk you
out of it,” Welzenbach said.
Received on Fri 10 Feb 2006 05:31:58 PM PST