[meteorite-list] Hunting in West, Texas - thanks to Mike Farmer and his team!

From: jbaxter112 at pol.net <jbaxter112_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Mon, 2 Mar 2009 01:20:11 -0500 (EST)
Message-ID: <48596.>

Hi Folks,

A few thoughts and a BIG thanks to Mike and his team regarding my first
and only meteorite hunt this past Thursday.

As I was reading on the list, early this past week, about everyone's
adventures hunting in Texas I realized I had a day and a half off work at
the end of the week. On a whim checked out Southwest's prices to Texas and
saw to my surprise that I could get out there and back for about $200. It
seemed like too great an opportunity to miss; a fresh U.S. fall! I was
especially motivated by Mike's earlier observation that with ploughing
imminent many of the stones not found in the near future will be gone
forever. I e-mailed Mike Farmer and asked if I could join his team for a
day to which he kindly responded, "I'd welcome that."

I arrived at the search site around 8:45 just as Mike Cottingham's son,
Christopher, found a gorgeous oriented complete stone. Good omen, I
thought! I was so psyched I launched into hunting without changing out of
my street shoes, to the amusement of the pro's.

Mike took me under his wing and gave me a quick tutorial and off I went,
eyes to the ground. I was getting a picture from Mike as we walked about
how they had gone about their hunt in the past ten days. We were in flat
open fields with lots of clumps of taller grass with more open areas in
between with shorter grass. Surely many fine stones were hidden way beyond
sight within the taller clumps- no way to find them at this point. The
stones were there, though, some peeping through the shorter grass, some
just sitting on the surface. I saw Mike Farmer, Greg Hupe, and McCartney
Taylor find stones. The stones were, however, very widely dispersed. I'd
say the ratio of pitch-black, roughly meteorite shaped 30 gram hunks of
fresh animal dung to meteorites was about 1000 to one. The four finds I
witnessed were hundreds of yards apart from each other. McCartney showed
me how he grids an area adjacent to a find to try to systematically look
for other pieces(many thanks, MT). I walked continuously except for a
couple of 5 minute water breaks from about 8:45 am until sunset. I'm sure
I walked at least 20 miles. Alas no stone for me!

Mike was kind enough to stick with me and keep looking as the sun was
setting. He was rewarded by finding a stone in the dying light( I think
his third of the day). It was really disappointing not to find my own
stone but it was an amazing experience nonetheless. I had talked to
several 'pro's' who had had days with zero meteorites found so I knew up
front that getting 'skunked' was a possibility. On the plus side, I got to
meet Mike Cottingham and his son, Christopher, Eric Wichman and his wife,
and Greg Hupe. McCartney and Robert Ward who I knew from Tucson were there
in the field. At one point in the day, Mike, McCartney, Greg and I talked
to the lady who owned the property and who was kind enough to give us
permission to hunt there. She gave a great account of hearing a
house-rattling explosion and going out to see a smoke cloud overhead with
spirals extending from it. Overall a super educational experience.

In the fading light I shook Mike's hand and thanked him for his generosity
in letting me join them in the hunt for a day. I was sad not to have found
one but felt the experience itself was well worth the effort and money
spent. I would recommend it to anyone if there is a fall anywhere near

I was shocked when Mike reached over and handed me a bag containing a 5.9
gram gorgeous fully crusted meteorite he had found earlier and said,
"Here, I can't let you leave here without a meteorite." I couldn't believe
his generosity. As I told him in an email thanking him again, based on
both the experience of hunting and the good heartedness of his gift, if
bad times arrive and I have to sell off every other meteorite I own, that
one will definitely stay with me.

Best wishes to all,
Jim Baxter

p.s. I now really have a visceral understanding about pricing on these
stones. In a strewnfield like this where they are small, well hidden, and
widely dispersed a full days hard work may just yield a few grams and many
days yield none. A realistic price would have to be at a minimum, to just
break even, the cost of travel, lodging and vehicles divided by grams
found. And here the denominator is small leading to a high price by most
ordinary chondrite standards. If these guys were scooping up bushels of
them the price would be quite low but that's sadly not the case. Too bad
because the interior of this one has fabulous fine brecciation and, as I
learned here, there is nothing to compare to the texture of the crust of a
just-fallen meteorite.

p.p.s I've posted a few images:

Stones as found before being moved:




Mike Farmer photographing Greg Hupe's stone:


and videos:

Christopher Cottingham moments after finding a gorgeous oriented stone:


One of many meteorwrongs:


sunset near West Texas:

Received on Mon 02 Mar 2009 01:20:11 AM PST

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