THE QUEST FOR THE MAIN MASS OF THE GLORIETA METEORITE
My quest for Glorieta started shortly after finding my first handful of meteorites at Gold basin. Keith had told me about Glorieta several times and in my mind it was far away and sounded like a rough place to hunt meteorites. Then I saw a picture in Meteorite Magazine of an amazing Glorieta slice. Wow that was impressive! I searched the Internet for a piece I could buy and found them to be extremely high in price. So I thought I might just go to Glorieta and find one that I could have sliced. Well this seemed like a logical choice for me, but when I told anyone of my intention they gave a chuckle and said something like "yea you and every other hunter that has ever gone to hunt at Glorieta" I guess at the time I must not have known that in Modern times there had only been 1 piece found that was suitable for slicing and that was the one Steve had found. But still I thought it could be done and why not? I had already been successful in finding numerous fallen stars at Gold Basin. Why not at Glorieta? Keith pointed me in the direction everyone thought the big ones should be and he assured me there were more out there. Well that was all I needed I would just go and find one. And on the second trip to the area that is exactly what I did.
So now came my next lesson from Glorieta. It seems with this new information about where a 12 pound pallasite was resting, I should be able to go out there and find more. Maybe several. Maybe an un touched strewn field of large chunks of Glorieta. So with new found enthusiasm I charged back out in the strewn field and found nothing day after day. I met Ruben Garcia about this time and he joined me in the quest for another piece. We hunted weekend after weekend in ever widening circles around the large Glorieta pallasite. Trip after trip we found nothing. So much for the un touched strewn field, after a while we started thinking I had found the only piece left out there. So there was no clear path just a random chunk that I happened to find.
From here there was no clear direction to look for any more and we were pretty sure there weren't many more if any out there to find. So later, on our way to another possible fall in Colorado. We ended up hunting Glorieta because of a late start getting on the road.On the way to Glorieta Rubin and myself brain stormed about where we could search in Glorieta with a decent chance to find something. In a short time we had our second clue it was a 28 pound half pallasite and half siderite.
With new found hope we returned the next weekend and 500 feet from this beauty we found another 5 kilo siderite.
We thought we have finally done it we found the path of the big Glorieta meteorites. But again we came back over and over and hunted in bigger and bigger circles. We tried this direction and then that direction. We hunted this way and then that way. But we were lost, it seemed again there was no strewn field of pieces that would point to more pieces.
Time went by and in the back of my mind I kept thinking that the original finds at Glorieta were big pieces. There were also a bunch of them found by local people. This was in a time when they didn't even make metal detectors! In fact there were more big pieces found by locals than in all the time since people hunted Glorieta with detectors. So I kept thinking that we had missed some thing. The biggest piece we had found was 28 pounds. The old timers found a piece that weighed 148 pounds. There is a pretty big gap there between 28 pounds and 148 pounds. Something is still missing, well Steve did find a bigger piece something like 44 pounds. But still that is a big gap there is 100 pounds difference between the biggest piece found in modern times and the biggest piece found in 1884. So I started talking about this with Keith, I was living in California at the time and Keith was in Kingman. So we talked back and forth over e mail mostly. One of us would come up with some idea about the gap or direction of the fall and we would discuss it and kick it around, trying to make some sense out of it all. Then we started researching using the Internet and then even buying old papers written about Glorieta. Hoping to find some small hint about where the big masses were found. Each new bit of information was used to draw new ideas and sometimes a new conclusion as to the distance or direction. So we planned to try some of our new theories in the field and planned long trips to the area. Since I was in Northern California I had to drive for 12 hours just to reach Kingman, then we had a 10 hour drive to Glorieta. This required longer trips since 4 days would be needed just for driving. The the trips stretched into 14 day adventures. We tested theory after theory and direction after direction. We looked for evidence of the original find, we call it the landing area. It seemed the the original masses were coming apart even as they hit the ground. So we think we should be able to find evidence of this spot with our modern detectors. So we searched and searched. In our search we did re visit some areas that seemed like they should have bigger pieces in them. We did find multiple piece between 100 and 1400 grams. But the ones we were seeking still eluded us. I thought there has got to be one out there that is about 100 pounds and in my mind that is what I was looking for. Each new line drawn on the map meant another day or days of hunting and looking, perhaps in the wrong area. Well after many...many days of searching it seemed it was likely that we would find nothing in any direction. I have to admit with all our research and all of our brain storming, when all is said and done we did look in every possible direction more than once. And still we knew almost nothing for sure. All we knew for sure is where the pieces we had found were laying and that there were a lot more than that found by locals and Mr Charles Sponsler in the years before we came here. I remember that is one of the things that really bothered me. Here we are walking around the same woods with our top of the line metal detectors. That in years gone by woodsmen and prospectors found 10 time more than we had found with nothing but there eyes! How is that possible I would rant! They just walked through here and said oh look there is 30 inch long meteorite that looks like a sword. Here is a 15 kilo chunk of meteorite. Here we are hunting day after day and week after week and still we can find nothing bigger than 1400 grams!
Then one day we were planning yet another long trip to Glorieta. By now our record indicated that we were likely to never find another Glorieta as long as we both lived. But I still felt that there were a couple rocks we had not stood on yet. Some how I still had the idea in my head that it was possible to find another big Glorieta. There was some difficulty matching up our schedules, I had this and this to consider so I could make the trip on these date. Well Keith had this plan and that thing he had to take care of. So we moved the trip to a later date. After moving the trip a couple of times at the last minute Keith had something come up that he really wanted to do. So instead of another long cold fruitless trip to Glorieta he stayed in Kingman to do something very important. I went on to Glorieta alone. Which for me is not unusual I have hunted many, many days alone. On the first day it was the usual, searching some slim strip of land between areas we had hunted hard. Hoping to find that piece we had missed. Yet it was just another day where I found nothing. There was a point on the map that we had decided was the direction of the fall. But all of our efforts to hunt the direction or that point on the map were just day after day after day of fruitless swinging of our detectors. The area we thought was where they should be, had been completely without evidence of us being correct. So on the second day I just went back to the 28 pound piece and started walking in the direction we thought was correct. As I was hunting along checking my GPS to make sure I was sticking close to this path. I was covering very familiar ground hunted many times buy me , Ruben and Keith. So I just kept following this path because if this wasn't the path then we had wasted a lot of energy and a lot of time searching it. Something I remember was that there were no signals left in this path. Which meant it had been hunted many times. I continued to check my GPS and keep myself on or as close to the path as I could. Then as it has happened in the past something happened to change my plan. I found a deep buried can, a big signal and it had never been found by meteorite hunters. Up to this point I had indented to stay on the path until it was time to head back. That is what I would have done except that can instantly changed my plan. Without really thinking about what I was doing I just stuck my GPS back in a pocket and started looking it the bushes and hunting around the area of the can. I wanted to see what else was missed. I don't know why but I turned off the path at a 90 degree angle and started hunting across a hillside. The only thing I can think of that made me want to hunt in that direction is that I kept finding junk. Just old scraps of tin cans and pieces of buried wire that were left by wood cutters and people who traveled here in the past. As I hunted I felt very good about all the trash I was finding, but I knew I would soon tire of digging all this junk. But for now I was content to just follow the trash. I was a couple hundred feet from the path I was following when my Pulse Star 2 gave another signal. Nothing new about that as I looked behind me I could see 5 or 6 places I had dug in the last 30 feet. But the instant I heard the signal I knew it was very different. Is was a deep signal 99 percent of junk is small and shallow. Meteorites can be deep and this signal was probably the deepest and the softest signal I had ever had with the Pulse Star. So I was pretty sure I had found something. But not wanting to prolong the what could it be scenario. I just dropped down to my knees and started hacking out a hole. I new from experience that it was going to be a deep hole so I started a very large diameter hole from the beginning. The dirt was very soft from the pine needles and I wondered if it so easy to dig it might be some old hole that someone buried their junk in. To get rid of the thought that I might be digging up a dead horse or something I just dug harder and faster. I started digging through some pretty thick roots so if someone did bury something here it was A long long time ago. Even though I had dug a big hole to start with it was not big enough. I use a digging tool that is shaped like a hammer so you reach a point t where yo can not dig effectively because the is no room in the hole to swing the pick. So I widened the hole not by a little I just started hacking out the hole so it was a third bigger. I spent a lot of time pulling all that dirt back out of the hole, but I realized that this was already the deepest hole I had ever dug at Glorieta and I still could not see what I was digging for. I felt confident that I was digging a meteorite but I had no idea how big it was. The signal was deeper and softer than any I had ever had before. After chopping my way through several more large roots and hanging down into the hole on my side, so I could reach the bottom of the hole to remove the loose dirt. I finally could feel the pull of the large magnet in the bottom of the hole. The hole was close to 2 feet wide and approaching 3 feet deep, so working in the bottom of the hole was very difficult. I started digging with a big knife that I carry because it works better down in the bottom of a deep hole like this. It took a long time to expose a small piece of the meteorite down in the bottom of that hole. But finally I had a piece that I could see was a meteorite. A huge sigh of relief as it could have turned out to be some lost wagon wheel or a 5 gallon lard can. I scratched away at the piece I could see and thought to myself that is good it is at least 5 pounds. After another slow and awkward digging session I had more of it uncovered and started to think it could weigh 20 pounds. After what seemed like an hour I had uncovered enough meteorite to fill the bottom of my hole, Wow! I found my hundred pound I was looking for! Now feeling very happy about what I had found I kept digging trying to find the end of this beast. It was wider than my hole so after finding what turned out to be the big end I sorta just tunneled into the wall of my hole looking for the other end. That pretty much didn't work so again I had to make the hole wider. This time I knew what direction to widen it in. Another cleaning of the loose dirt from the hole and some more probing and digging with the big knife and I finally had the entire 30 inch long meteorite exposed on one side. As I stood on top of the ground above it I though it might even weigh more than 100 pounds.
I am not sure if I can lift this thing out of the hole. I knew I needed to break the grip the soil had on it so I could see if I could pick it up and lift it out of the hole. This process takes a lot longer than you would think probing around finding the edges and digging beyond them. Way down in this hole the digging is very slow and awkward. So finally I dug down 5 or 6 inches behind one side of the rock and tried to pry it loose. Over and over I tried to break it loose, nothing. More digging and prying and finally this monster started to wiggle. I kept working until it was loose in the bottom of the hole. I got my fingers under one end and gave a tug.It was clear I was not going to just pick this thing up and throw it out of the hole. Now I did not have my quad in the field this day. I had brought it on the trip but it had a bad battery so it was back at the vehicle. My camera had a bad battery as well as was not working. So I left the meteorite in the hole and made a nervous trip to town to buy a new battery for the quad and a new camera so I could take some photos.
When I returned with my quad and new camera all was well and nothing had been disturbed. I lifted one end and jammed a rock underneath it so I could thread a tie strap under the meteorite and cinch it up around the meteorite. Then when it was tight I pulled the quad right up to the edge of the hole and lowered the winch down into the hole. Keith and I had installed winches on our quads a couple months earlier not really knowing why. Maybe if we got stuck we could use it to get out. I don't think we were thinking we would find a Glorieta Mountain meteorite so big we would need a winch. Yet here I was getting ready to winch one out of a hole I had been digging all morning. Once I pulled it out with the winch I stood it up and took some more pictures.
Then I removed the tool box off the back of the quad. I figured I would throw the meteorite up on the back rack and drive back to the car. I bent down and gave a tug and it felt like a ton. I could not pick it up. I figured it might weigh 150 pounds and I should be able to pick that up. Well I thought I must be tired from aIl the digging. So I thought I would try some leverage and found a couple old fence posts. I strapped the meteorite in the middle and tried to lean one end on the rack and then work to meteorite up on the rack that way. I could pick one end up that way but there was no way I could get it up on the rack. So I tried throwing my winch cable through a big fork in a tree a pulling the quad right in front of the meteorite. I figured I would use the winch to lift the meteorite up in the air and then I could push it over the rack and let it down. Well the winch kept lifting the quad off the ground and bent my front bumper. This is really wearing me down by now. I sit down and try to figure out how to move this thing. I figured I would just drag it out of here, so I tied another strap to in and to the back of the quad and away we go. It pulls a little but we are moving, I look behind me and see it is plowing a pretty good gouge in the forest floor. Then I remember all the rocky areas I have to go through to get back to the SUV. I envision big scratches and gouges in the meteorite and feel this is not a good way to get it out. So I lash it back to the fence posts again and try to drag it using the wooden fence posts as a sled. I thought this would keep the meteorite from being scratched upon all the rocks. The wood is light and the meteorite is heavy so it flips over too easily and won't work. So I go on a hike and retrieve a large piece of sheet metal. I wrap the meteorite in the metal and tie it up so the sheet metal will take all the punishment and the meteorite will be un scratched. After much fighting to get the meteorite inside the metal, I hook up my strap and start to tow it. The thing digs in like a plow and is flopping around like crazy, the meteorite is laying on the ground in no time and I can see this idea is no good either. It is almost full dark by this time and I am exhausted. I decide to leave the rock out there over night, I wait until well after dark and cover it up with some branches.
In the morning I return, I have a large piece of rubber conveyor belt with me and I tow it with me to the place I had left the meteorite. Again when I return all is just as I left it. I am a little better rested but still a little frazzled from all my failed ideas from the day before. I roll the meteorite up in the middle of the belt and start driving down a slight little hill. Hey this is working as soon as I turn a little the meteorite rolls off and I am back there rolling this monster back on the belt. When I try to finish the turn my front wheels are off the ground from the weight of the rock and the quad just won't turn. So I have to unhook everything and back the quad to where I want the belt to go and winch it up to the quad. Then I have a straight run for a ways and the meteorite rolls off again. I am back there rolling it back on again. Now I have to make a turn and climb a pretty good hill so I give it some gas and lean on the handle bars and nothing. The wheels are off the ground and there is no way I am going to make the turn. So I unhook everything and back the quad up the hill. Take the cable down the hill and winch the belt up the hill. So it was the same thing at every turn I had to unhook and winch the belt and meteorite up hills and around corners a half a dozen times. Now the next problem was a set of train tracks I had to cross. So I pulled up next to the tracks and un hooked the belt, I didn't think it would winch over the tracks because I could not see the heavy iron just climbing over 6 inches of tall iron train track. So I though I would help it by strapping it to one of my metal ramps that I use to load the quad onto the trailer. I figured with it strapped to the ramp it would have a better chance of sliding over the tracks. Now the belt is on one side of the tracks and I am on the other side up on top of a little hill. I am more than 50 feet away and above the rock so I figure the angle will help it over the tracks. I am thinking as soon as I hook this thing up and start pulling a train will come around the corner. And in my mind I just can't imagine how that would turn out good. So need less to say I am a little worried about this next maneuver. Not to mention very stressed from all the failed ides and hard work of the past day and a half. So very quickly I hook it all up and make a mad dash up the hill to the running quad and look up the tracks, I see no sign of a train so feeling very rushed I start the winch moving. This is simply taking too long so I put the quad in reverse and start backing up while the winch is pulling. This of course is too much and the meteorite strapped to a 4 foot long steel ramp rolls off the belt right smack in the middle of the tracks. In a panic I jumped off the quad a ran down the hill faster than is possible looked down the tracks expecting to see a train bearing down on me but there was nothing. Somehow this did little to calm me down and I reached down and grabbed the ramp and wrestled the meteorite off the tracks. Later I went to the doctor to see what the damage was, good news it was just a strain. I finished winching it up the hill and drug it to the trailer. Now how to get it up on the trailer, I unhooked the Suburban from the trailer so it could tilt. I figured I would park the quad in front of the trailer and use the winch to drag it up on the trailer. Well this eventually did work but you would not believe how many little things can go wrong. First I had to prop up the trailer so it would stay in a tilted position and then block the wheels so it wouldn't move. Trust me my prop and blocks were not good enough the first couple tries. So after knocking the trailer off the prop a couple time and having it spin out of the way of the meteorite because the wheels were not blocked good enough I finally got the thing up on the trailer. I think it was about 1 pm. So it took me me a day and a half of digging, lifting, rolling, winching and trying everything I could think of to get the meteorite secured on the trailer.You know this would have been a lot easier with my partner there.
When I got to Kingman that evening Keith was waiting with a cherry picker and and heavy duty scale. We knocked off all the dirt we could and brushed it a little to get the dirt off. When we weighed it the weight was a little over 300 pounds and the strap was in that weight so we figured if you take away the weight of the strap and some loose dirt we might have missed it was right at 300 pounds. Well that explains why I could not pick it up and throw it on the back of my quad. I guess a little estimating practice would help, but I always like to guess low, that way I am not disappointed when I put a new find on a scale for the first time.
I wonder if there is a bigger one out there?