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Searching for meteorites

1 Post tagged with the tektites tag

Well we're back in London after our long but tiring trips back from Australia.  I went via Singapore and Erika and Marlene travelled back through Dubai and we all arrived back on Sunday.  Back into work and 20 trillion e-mails and letters etc to deal with and now for me the jet-lag has well and truly kicked in and I feel rubbish (been awake at 4am for the last two days), lucky Erika is fine!


So we'll continue with our journal from the time we spent in the Nullarbor and the third day of our desert adventures..............


Again we are awake at 6am, I helped Geoff get the fire going.  It's quite easy to do as the coals are still hot from the previous night and so you just have to put some dry twigs on, wait a couple of minutes and hey presto a new fire!  Again we pottered around the camp, making sure everything was tidy and had some breakfast.  I had a bowel of cerals for brekfast and Erika had a jaffel (sp?) with the left over rabbit stew in, which apparently was delicious.  There was cloud cover today again when we got up and it was cold with the strong south-easterly wind blowing.  Kath and Erika made the sandwiches (the pair of them should open a sandwich shop if ever they get bored with doing science!) and we got our kit together and headed out to our search site for the day at about 8.45 am.  Geoff was very excited as he got to drive the quad bike!



You can see in this picture a big pole with a 'flag' strapped to it.  We used this pole and three others like it  to mark the spots that had been calculated as where the meteorite or meteorite fragments should have landed.  This make searching much  'easier' as it gives us a point of reference that we can easily refer to as we are walking around.

Today we did box searching between where the 60 g and 100 g mass sites.  This type of searching involves all of us walking in a line between two points, once we get to the end we turn around and move along a bit and walk back then when we have done a number of these transects e.g. walking north-south or east-west we do the opposite so our total search pattern is in the shape of a box.  This is maybe a bit hard to visualise so Erika has drawn a very nice diagram to help......................


meteorite search2.jpg

We finished searching about 2.45pm as we had done a lot of walking and we were very tired, also the cloud cover had burned off so we actually had some sun which was nice but the wind was still a bit on  the fresh side.  It might sound strange but actually doing such detailed searching is extremely tiring, both physically and mentally.  You are having to concentrate very hard on looking at the ground around you and you are constantly bending down to look at things that catch your eyes.  In addition to the heavy (in places) vegetation an additional challenge is the fact that nearly all of the limestone rocks and pebbles sitting on the ground surface are covered in black lichen,which actually looks pretty similar to fusion crust on a freshly fallen meteorite - great!!!  We also found that walking slowly is actually more tiring than if you were walking at a normal speed.  We had quite a discussion about this and Geoff said it has something to do with the fact that you are using your muscles in a different way.  I found at the end of this day that my feet were really aching and quite painful, which I was a bit worried about as I was wearing my old faithful field boots and wasn't expecting any feet issues.



I have to be honest and say I was feeling a bit disappointed as after a hard day and with sore feet I hadn't found anything, not even the tiniest tektite!  I had picked up a couple of meteorwrongs so I knew I wasn't missing anything and Geoff and Alex had both found tektites (and indeed meteorites on the first day) so I was a bit gutted.  During the day Geoff had been telling us about the caves that run under the Nullarbor - more of these in a later post - and told us how big ones will often 'blow' - if you put your hand just outside the opening you can feel quite a strong current of air coming out, which is noticeably cooler than the outside air.  As we were heading back to the Prado Geoff called me over to show me a hole that was blowing.  I was delighted he did for two reasons - one I hadn't seen a blowing hole before (!) and also just after I walked off I spotted a big tektite!!  For a split second I thought it was a kangaroo poo as they can look like tektites but I realised that it was on its own (kangaroo droppings tend to come in groups) and it was a tektite. And then about 10 metres from the big one I found its smaller brother or sister!  Typical, I find nothing when we are actually hunting and then 2 nice tektites on the way back to the car!  But this just shows you that we were always looking, wherever we were walking and whatever we were doing, you just can't help it.  Alex said that the large tektite is quite unusual for the Nullarbor - most of the large tektites have been picked up and used my aboriginal people to make tools.  I wonder whether this one was one that was missed or maybe someone hundreds or thousands of years ago found it an collected it to use later and then dropped it....................

Caroline tektites.jpg

Caroline's tektites - note this photo was taken back here at the NHM, clearly not in the field!


After heading back to the camp we all chilled out around the fire with some beers, tea, wine etc and had some snacks. Geoff cooked dinner tonight and we had a delicious Spag Bol with a special Geoff twist - red beans, which made it even more delicious.  We had quite a laugh over red wine would go in, Alex said no that it was for drinking and we had limited stocks but we put some in when he wasn't looking tee hee Erika was so impressed with all the food she decided to keep a photgraphic log of each one, so here is Geoff's lovely Spag Bol, note the red beans so maybe more a chilli/spag bol hybrid........



We headed to bed at about 8.45pm and again it was a pretty cold night so we were looking forward to getting snuggled up in our swags/tents and sleeping bags!

Caroline Smith

Caroline Smith

Member since: Apr 9, 2010

This blog describes the adventures of NHM staff searching for meteorites in the Nullarbor Desert, Western Australia. Check out the blog to find out what they are up to and to see if they find any meteorites!

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