[meteorite-list] Lake Eyre meteorite 'Crown property', researchers required to hand findings over

From: Galactic Stone & Ironworks <meteoritemike_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Sat, 16 Jan 2016 02:04:31 -0500
Message-ID: <CAKBPJW810NNENHOSVZwKj9J5N__pPFvNmHU0ZWQ2fBFfkFeWgg_at_mail.gmail.com>

Hi Ian and List,

Yes, we can all play keyboard king and tell the governments and the
world how we think things should be done. There will never be an ideal
world and compromises must be made to keep everyone relatively happy
(or at least content or apathetic). I agree that nobody's system is
perfect, regardless of national boundaries.

Comparing meteorites to collecting baseball cards is disingenuous.
Rock and mineral collecting is one of the oldest expressions of
geology. Amateur participation in that field has a long established
history that has benefited museums and science over the years. For
some people, meteorites are another rock to collect. For some they are
research material. For some they are national treasures. Ultimately,
who "owns" a meteorite? Do we really want some bureaucrat deciding
that? Isn't this a case where common sense (ha!) should apply? Or,
call the lawyers and give them a pile of money to figure it out.

I do not see the kind of rampant fraud and chicanery that Ian is
talking about. Sure, any marketplace has crooks (some vendors, some
buyers) and one has to only look at other collectible markets like
autographs or Tiffany glass to see that fraud is "rampant" there was
well. It all comes down to trust. If you don't trust the vendor's
honesty and expertise, then avoid their sales pitches.

"> I constantly see deception, fraud, ridiculous pricing, items stolen out of
> countries, governments and scientists disrespected, incorrectly described
> items, dubious provenance, destroyed samples, tiny fragments, endless
> provenance hand balling etc etc"

Where are you looking exactly? eBay? Craigslist? Boot sales? You
can also buy a million types of snake oil at those same venues. It
doesn't mean it's a problem that is endemic in any given field that
sells or buys at that venue. Most known members of this mailing list
are trustworthy. We all know who is and who isn't. And the people who
are crooks get run out of town pretty quick. There are a few of us who
might be eccentrics, anti-socials, egotists, blowhards, or some other
species of the common jerk, but you know who to trust when it comes to
authenticity. The field sorts itself out and the informed buyer
chooses from well-established and reputable sources.

Nobody likes thieves or scammers and the only issue I have with the
list of negative attributes on your list is "tiny fragments". As
someone who has owned, traded, and sold his share of tiny fragments,
that is not a negative thing that should be lumped in with thievery.

As I am sure you are aware, most scientific analysis doesn't require
large volumes of material, especially redundant materials for
diminishing/no scientific gain. Even a 3mg Bessey Speck is big enough
for the microprobe and then some. It's scientific value might be
extremely limited if that speck represents yet another unremarkable H5
W4 from the NWA DCA.

What about the samples from scientifically-interesting material like
NWA 7038? How much science could be done with a "tiny fragment" of
that? Speaking of remarkable meteorites with scientific value, the
recent Martian NWA 7038 was found by someone who never saw the inside
of a classroom, traded to another person with no degrees, and sold to
another guy with no letters after his name. Middle level dealers
bought and sold some pieces after it trickled down into the market,
and now people are paying $20-$50 for a crumb weighing less than 20mg.
If we had waited on a juried collection of bureaucrat-approved dandies
to make that recovery, "Black Beauty" would be buried in the desert
until all of it's value to science was eroded to nothing.

Now, not much of that particular meteorite (or it's pairings) is on
the collector market waiting to be bought like a baseball card. But, a
"tiny fragment" can cost a day's work for some people, and does that
make it less valuable or less ethical? Should only well-heeled (or
connected) people of letters be allowed to collect meteorites? Should
I buy a tiny fragment of something for my collection (or research), or
should we budget-limited souls take our unwashed minds back to the
fleamarket and rummage for Beanie Babies and old postcards?

If somebody is breaking the law to hunt (or buy,trade,sell,collect)
meteorites, then there are obviously laws already in place against
fraud and theft that need to be enforced. If somebody in the IMCA is
crooked, call them out and report them to the board. If somebody on
this List is crooked, call them out and let them answer for their
shady dealings.

But, let's not act like some government or board of academics should
be the judge and jury of who gets to keep a meteorite found on private
property, or to decide who the owner of said meteorite should be able
to give/sell/trade it to for everyone's mutual satisfaction.

I didn't mean to offend the hard working and ethical hunters in
Australia who abide by the rules and make recoveries that are
available to science. When I called out Australia, I did not mean -
"Ooooh look at Australia, their government is dumb and these people
can't trust their own citizens to own or trade a meteorite". What I
meant was this : take a look at Morocco or the US by comparison. Many
more finds are made, and made available to science because the process
of acquiring these finds does not involve a chain of forms in
triplicate, the approval of a ten-layer bureaucracy, and some
unelected yahoo deciding who keeps what and what it might be worth if
sold or traded.

Does abuse happen in Morocco and the US? Yes, and existing laws in
those countries address those abuses. It's already illegal to smuggle
commodities. Trying to sneak an undeclared chocolate bar across
international borders can land you in a locked room. Nobody in their
right mind would want to sit in a Algerian jail for grand theft. It
doesn't mean people won't try it anyway, but that doesn't mean a
distant outside federal/imperial bureaucracy should have jurisdiction
over the issue.

I don't know about you, I'd rather deal with the person who lives near
me, might know me, and has something in common with me - not some guy
with drank his way to a degree, wears a clip-on tie, and lives in a
walled compound 1000 miles away.

In the end, conquerors write history books and make the laws. Ask the
American Indians who should own the meteorites that fall on American
soil. They are the rightful owners of the land, but a bunch of old
white guys with clip-on ties now call the shots here. Or, ask the
aborigines in Australia who own the meteorites that fall there. Oh,
you can't, because England used it for penal colony and then the
inmates took over. Or, ask the Argentines who gets to keep the Campos.
Oh wait, the original Campo owners were killed or bred out of
existence by Spanish and Portuguese "missionaries". (at least they are
in a better place now, right? The savages weren't landed gentry or
men of letters, so who cares.)

Sorry Ian, I am not firing on your personally. I just get a little
ticked off at attitudes like that in the original article that started
this discussion. It reminded me of that terrible hit piece on the
"meteorite black market" in the NYT a few years back and that the IMCA
published a rebuttal to it.

As far as tiny fragments being bad or negative, that is personal to me
also because I collect specimens of all types, including micromounts
and I trade in "tiny fragments". I have over 100 localities in my
collection that are all authentic. I can provide free samples large
enough for analysis to any authoritative institution that wishes to
test their validity. I trust my sources that well. If I didn't, I
wouldn't have acquired the specimen in the first place and I certainly
would not have offered it to someone else if there was ever any doubt
about it's authenticity. Any good dealer/trader/collector would
adhere to those standards, regardless of whether or not they had an
IMCA number.

I gotta ask though, what is "provenance hand balling"? I have not
heard that one before. I assume it means falsifying or obfuscating
some part of the chain of custody? Or, am I just dense and missed this

Happy Huntings Ian. Nothing personal to you or Australian people. It's
more my frustration at unwarranted or incompetent government
intrustion into private or scientific affairs.

Best regards,


On 1/15/16, ian macleod via Meteorite-list
<meteorite-list at meteoritecentral.com> wrote:
> Hi List, we can bang on about laws all day (which actually vary here in
> Australia between states) and also point fingers at scientists and museum
> staff we don't know. At the end of the day the law is the law...Deal with
> it
> There is no elitism going on, these guys are nice enough they just have to
> make a point and warning in respect to laws.
> Bob is right the Canadian model is a better system. The USA has too much
> freedom that is abused, Australia the opposite occurs
> The idea meteorites are not found or reported in Australia is far from
> accurate.
> See the USA enjoys a 'few' remaining labs that processing many kilograms of
> potentially stolen property out of NWA, this has given the appearance of
> very active work, and that something new is happening......respectfully I
> beg to differ
> We now have 50,000 meteorites and only 6 or so that we have orbit data for.
> The orbit ones were all found by camera networks NOT guys all over Africa
> So when it comes to collecting the next find like baseball cards or wanting
> to see meteoritics evolve.....I chose evolution
> I constantly see deception, fraud, ridiculous pricing, items stolen out of
> countries, governments and scientists disrespected, incorrectly described
> items, dubious provenance, destroyed samples, tiny fragments, endless
> provenance hand balling etc etc
> and this is coming from many IMCA and non IMCA sellers and hunters
> So sorry lads Im sticking with the scientists on this one and the with few
> people in the private collecting meteorite community I trust....
> Ian
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Received on Sat 16 Jan 2016 02:04:31 AM PST

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