Have you ever dreamed of holding in your hands a piece of a falling star? Last weekend individuals who took part in the Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT) had the opportunity to do just that at the Heart of America Science Center in Haviland. Between Haviland and Greensburg lies the Brenham meteorite field, an area […]
Have you ever dreamed of holding in your hands a piece of a falling star?
Last weekend individuals who took part in the Big Kansas Road Trip (BKRT) had the opportunity to do just that at the Heart of America Science Center in Haviland.
Between Haviland and Greensburg lies the Brenham meteorite field, an area which came into national prominence because of the curiosity of a farmer's wife, Eliza Kimberly, who lived near the town of Brenham (only a grain elevator remains there today). Beginning in 1882 and for many years thereafter, Eliza collected numerous meteorite samples she found lying around the Kimberly property, reportedly piling them up around the perimeter of her farm home. She eventually convinced Professor F.W. Cragin of Washburn College to visit her, examine the meteorite samples, and even purchase a few. Brenham area farmer Allen D. Binford shared an anecdote about this 19th farmer's wife. He said that he understands Eliza was the first person to purchase a vehicle in Kiowa County, and she did this using money earned from selling chunks of meteorites.
Jerry Simmons, director of the Heart of America Science Resource Center, presented an entertaining and highly informative program for BKRT participants at a Saturday morning and afternoon program at the Haviland facility. Participants learned that one distinguishing feature of a pallasite meteorite (the type found in the Brenham field) is its color: green to yellowish green to brownish green crystals.
One way to determine whether a rock is actually a meteorite is by using a magnet; however, not all magnetized rocks are meteorites. Jerry told the group that a true meteorite contains both iron and nickel. He said that over 15,000 pounds of pallasite meteorites have been recovered from the Brenham area thus far. The science educator estimates that the Brenham field is 800 yards wide and 10 miles long and, for this reason, it is called a strewn field. He noted that pallasite meteorites are rare. Near the end of the indoor presentation, Simmons allowed participants to handle several small meteorite samples the science resource center owns.
Brenham area landowner Allen Binford also spoke at the morning presentation. Binford owned the land on which the largest pallasite meteorite ever found, to date, was excavated. The 1,430 pound mass recovered by geologist Philip Mani and Steve Arnold is currently held in a private collection in Texas.
Binford said that meteorite hunter Arnold found much more than a large meteorite during his search. 'They picked up crescent wrenches, hitch pins, and all kinds of metal objects. They had a whole basket of them,' said Binford. Following publicity about the meteorite find and its excavation, a woman who lives south of Medicine Lodge called Binford. She told him, 'I saw that fall. You'd better look because there may be more out there.' Incidentally, the Brenham meteorite fall dates from almost a millennium ago.
Following the classroom presentation, interested participants followed Haviland resident Dan Woods to an intersection near the middle of the Brenham field to learn more about the process of excavating meteorites. Dan is the go to guy for visiting meteorite hunters when it comes time to move dirt. 'I've probably been on a hundred of them,' said Dan, adding that he has helped to excavate, using his backhoe, meteorites from as little as a foot deep to nine feet below the ground.
Dan mentioned that he has rubbed elbows with numerous scientists over the years, and he shared a curious fact about the dating of these extraterrestrial objects. 'All of the scientists that came in had a different time that the meteorites fell. It was all between 20,000 years and 4 million,' he said.
Incidentally, Jerry Simmons, who is spiritually a creationist and vocationally a scientist, disputes the dating system used by most scientists. Jerry stated that recent evidence suggests that the Brenham meteorite fall happened more recently. The fall of this meteorite created an oval-shaped crater roughly 50 feet in diameter, making it one of the smallest impact craters in the world. Jerry estimates that the Brenham meteorite fall happened less than 1,000 years ago.
If you wish to see a 990 pound pallasite meteorite, known as the Space Wanderer, you may do so at the Big Well Museum in Greensburg. This meteorite survived the tornado: it didn't go anywhere. The Space Wanderer was discovered and excavated from the Brenham area in 1949 by H.O. Stockwell, a private collector.