NEVADAMETEORITES
METEORITE HUNTS

Sonny Clary Collection

 

METEORITES

                          “ A new meteorite find in Nevada “

The dry lake-bed that I wanted to hunt was located hours away from Las Vegas in a remote valley in rural Nevada. While I had previously visited this location over the years, I never had the chance to explore it for meteorites. This ancient location is nestled between two mountain ranges, each running north-south. Human habitation in this valley goes back at least 12,000 years.


The first-time I visited the valley was with my father. Several years later, I returned to the area with my wife; while visiting her relatives who were operating a large cattle ranch nearby. As ranchers, they incorporated motorcycles and horses when rounding up their livestock. To make me feel like part of the family, they invited me along to help check on their cattle. On this day: motorcycles were the vehicle of choice. As I opened up the throttle, I thought to myself, “What an adventure to ride across the desert, chasing cattle with the wind in your face.” One of the men asked me if I knew how to ride a motorcycle, and if I had any experience navigating dangerous terrain. He also reminded me that we would be chasing wild cattle. With a note of superiority, I told him, “Of course!” In reality, the only experience I had was riding a mini bike up and down the neighborhood streets of my youth.


Within minutes the bike was fired up and my helmet was on. After trying to take off, and stalling a couple of times, I mastered the clutch and was off and running. Now I thought to myself, “If I can only remember the shift pattern!”


“Was it one down and four up; or vice versa?”


“What the heck,” I was sailing along looking for rogue cattle. It was my job to help round up the strays, but I didn’t get very far.  As I was riding across the desert lake bed I discovered that they forgot to tell me to watch out for the many indigenous obstacles such as soft sand and buried debris. Practically everything could catch your front tire and throw you airborne. Imagine a Pro- Wrestler tossing you across the mat. I remember the bike starting to shake and swerve side to side.


The next thing I knew, there I was, flying next to the bike in a cloud of dust.


When I finally stopped sliding, I stood up and saw the others well ahead of me. Covered from head-to-toe with dust, I stood in the hot sun squinting to make out the horizon. Had you seen me, the only thing visible were my eyes and mouth. This painful memory used to be how I remembered that lake bed.


Knowing that many the dry lake beds across the world have produced meteorites over the years, I rationalized that this would be a good location to hunt.  Prior to leaving home for my trek, I called a couple of my hunting partners: Steve Schoner and Rob Reisener, and invited them along. Regretfully, both had prior arrangements and were unable to attend. Like many of my previous meteorite hunting trips, you can hunt for days without any luck. They just weren’t able, on this occasion, to take that much time off.


My main goal was simple: revisit that dry lake bed and make a cold find

(which is, a newly discovered meteorite from an undiscovered location). Much to my surprise, this happened within hours of my arrival. Whenever you hunt, keep the following maxim in mind: stay positive and remember that meteorites can be found anywhere. Meteorites have bombarded the Earth for millions of years. Therefore, it’s not if, but when you will cross paths with one.


Four hours after arriving at the lake bed, I made my first discovery. I’d always dreamed of finding a 100 pound meteorite; glistening in the sunlight - like something you would see in a museum. But in reality, I knew I should be looking for something that resembles a rusty scrap of metal; perhaps the size of a bottle cap. The first fragment I found that day really did look like a rusty piece of metal. There it was! I couldn’t believe my eyes!  A new cold find!  A 15 gram meteorite laying there; perhaps waiting for thousands, maybe millions of years for me to pick it up.


The excitement was overwhelming. However, I kept my head. It’s times like these when you have to refrain from running over to the meteorite and leaping on it like a football dropped by a Super Bowl quarterback. Here’s why: it’s always best to photograph the find in situ (as it’s placed) with a scale cube. I also cataloged the location, noting the date and time of the find; so later that night I could put it into a mapping program.

As I got closer and looked around, I could see hundreds of fragments in all different directions. I stood there in amazement; carefully removing my backpack off so I could start taking pictures. That’s when it occurred to me: where am I going to put all of these meteorites?  All I had with me was my backpack and a couple of lunch bags that I had brought along just in case I found something. Within twenty paces I had already filled both lunch bags. So I started putting the excess fragments in a pouch in the bottom of my shirt.


I couldn’t go very far in any direction without filling my hands with meteorite fragments. Quickly, I had a problem. I would start to walk toward my backpack and would end up placing another pile of meteorites on the ground between my backpack and the last pile. If only Steve and Rob were there to help. This process went on for hours. I never thought I could get tired of picking up meteorites. I could only put 20-25 pounds into my backpack before it would tear. I had to leave the piles lying on the lake bed surface until the following day.

 

As I relaxed in the back of my truck looking at the stars that night, I could only anticipate what I would find the next day. Not having any cell phone service, I had to wait until l returned to civilization following my trip to tell Steve and Rob the news. Before the sun was up the following day, I was already halfway across the lake. I could only spend half the day hunting before leaving this extraordinary find to drive home. I needed to be back at work the following day.


I spent most of that morning picking up only the largest pieces and leaving the smaller fragments for another trip. I did not know the full extent of this fall until my return trip. I wondered to myself if this was a single meteorite that had fragmented over time or a large strewnfield. On a few of the larger pieces, the thumbprints or regmaglypts were 1 to 1 1/2 inches across and 1/4 inch deep.  However, all of the fragments had the same weathering, and none appeared to be individual meteorites.

I returned one month later; this time with help. Rob had taken time off from work; alas, Steve was unable to come. For this trip, Rob and I were much more prepared. We made sure to bring extra bags for the recovery work. Ultimately, we spent several days picking up fragments. We estimated our bounty at 40-50 pounds. I noticed the larger pieces lead in one direction, while the small pieces pointed in another. We did find pieces a couple hundred feet away; but still no complete meteorites. Over the years, as the lake bed’s surface froze each winter, the sand would form into a sheet of ice. As the winter winds picked up, the fragments would travel by the wind. This hypothesis may have explained why we found a few pieces away from the main cluster. Ultimately, they were probably pieces from the same meteorite. 


Another factor that could assist the wind in moving these pieces, was the process  of frost heaving.  Frost heaving (or frost heave) is the process by which the freezing of water-saturated soil causes the deformation and upward thrust of the ground surface raising the meteorites to the surface.





Nevada Meteorites

4.8 LB fragment

Returning home took us through a very small town. As we drove, Rob and I wondered how many pounds we had recovered.  As luck would have it, as we drove through that town, we noticed a yard sale. I told Rob, “I bet we might be able to find an old scale to weigh our finds.”

As we walked through the piles of junk and trinkets, we noticed a pink 1960‘s-era bathroom scale. It was not quite what we were looking for, but it would work!  I jested to Rob, “I wonder if this is what they use at the Smithsonian to weigh meteorites.” We both laughed. After zeroing out the scale, and testing it with a five pound weight, which we also found amid the piles of junk, the scale was “right on the money”! The total weight was: 60 pounds. Not bad for three days of recovery work. This put the new TKW at 120 pounds.









Over the years we have recovered 150 pounds of fragments from this location. Only one partial stone weighing 35 grams was found, in addition to the fragments. The meteorite was

classified as a  H4 S2 W3 Fa18.5±0.2 (n=7) low-Ca pyx Fs16.3Wo2.2 (n=2) provisional name

pending.


 

Nevada’s Largest  stone

chondrite recovered to date with a TKW of 150 lbs