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Out Of a Blue Sky Meteorites

Meteorites for Sale and other things

Tanzania 2005 meteorite hunting

by McCartney Taylor

South Africa

I arrived in Africa via South Africa in October 2005. I wanted to drop in and see Dr. McKenzie, the resident meteorite specialist who is helping save the world by improving the South African water supply. I view him as a Hydrologist Extraordinare. A damn nice guy, and passionate about his work as well.

He also had cornered the market on Thuathe meteorites. I saw some awesome ones. Including iridescent ones that I’m particularly fond of.

Sometimes in life you meet people and feel damn good about them because you know that this guy is fixing the things in the world that need to get fixed. Dr. McKenzie is that kind of guy. He’s in Denver every year at the gem and mineral show, in the international room which is where I met him. So I dropped by to see him in Johannesburg and we went off to see the famous Tschwaing impact crater.

The crater is protected as a park, but it is a bitch to find because the back roads in S. Africa are unmarked, sort of like rural Louisiana. But we made it, unfortunately past opening hours, we we did what any good S. African would do – we bribed the guard. The crater is impressive, I made a video and took some photos.

Mission 1: Site Alpha

In 2005 I went to Tanzania in search of the Ufana meteorite, Karatu and a new unpublished fall. It was a journey into a different world, a world of poverty, of beauty and of raw undiscovered potential.

 

I flew into Dar el Salaam, the city of peace. I don’t like big cities, they are all the same to me. Bustling, smelly, dangerous, lacking the heritage of the people that they contain. This city was no different. I could have been any large city in the developing world. I took shelter in a hostel run by the Lutherans the first night. Caught a bus to the Capital, Dodoma the next day and stayed in another religious campus that night. I’ve found that missionaries have the best infrastructure in Africa, and make a point to stay at their compounds when I can, even though I’m strongly secular.
Religious infrastructure- Dar el Salaam.

I spent a few days getting people and equipment lined up to check out a suspect meteorite fall. And then spent a very hard day traveling to a remote region. I saw people with no shoes using tire footprints strapped to their feet as shoes. Ingenious, but the area showed me how much waste of human capital was going on.

I got my boots on the ground at site Alpha and confirmed a fall had occurred only a few years before. Unfortunately, the vegetation and the terrain was unfavorable for much more to be found. I put the reward out of a years wages per kilo and will go back this year, with luck, they may have found something.

Mission 2: Ufana

I returned from site alpha, did some thinking and headed off to Ufana. The ride is one that I will never forget. It was through the mountains with terrible roads on a rickety bus unfit to haul cattle. Halfway through the trip, we hit such bad roads that the welds sheared on the seat bench to my left and it collapsed, spilling 3 passengers to the ground. The driver did not stop, the riders shrugged it off, and stood the rest of the trip. The dust coming in the windows got so bad I put on my sunglasses and covered my face with loose cloth. When the ride from hell was over and I got a room that night, I had so much dirt on my face, it make a reverse image of my sunglasses around my eyes.

The Ufana meteorite fell many decades ago, and the village grew and split. The area of interest now is a place called Daffir not to be confused with the conflict area in Sudan. This is a nice area akin to Texas about 1850 in terms of technology available to the common man and the level of potential of the land.hanaang

The bus to Ufana only takes you within 6km, you have to hike the rest. But it is a nice place, albeit remote and with a touch of altitude. Mount Hanaang is always within view, the 6th tallest mountain in Africa, I think. I got to talk with the village council, they were rather confused why an American was visiting. I just told them I was a very strange tourist and to simply treat me as an insane person. I’ve found humor to be a great icebreaker.

I was offered a bed in a local hut, it was the local nurse’s place and she had a pile of corncobs in the back that was her firewood. Inside on the wall was 4-5 large 50kg bags full of dried corn. That was their food supply for the rest of the year. We ate corn gruel at night and again in the morning. I quickly got into a groove in Ufana. I visited the nearby town of Daffir talking to witnesses, and discussing things with the local teacher. Even this remote, these deep bush villages have schools. Tanzania had a dictator once who was a former teacher, one of his good deeds was passing an edict that education go to ALL villages.

My favorite story from my time in Tanzania was one day the mayor/chief of Daffir took me for a ride around the village on his bicycle. He pedaled me for half the journey, and I pedaled him for half. The cheering I got from the locals was hysterical when they saw this white man pedaling their chief. Oh, I damn near died laughing! He was cool enough to buy me a soda at the only village kiosk/store/meeting place. Fun fun fun.

The Ufana meteorite is an Enstatite, meaning it has a hell of a lot of iron. So I brought dozens of strings with bits of magnet glued at the end. I simply had shattered an old speaker magnet. These are the tools I gave away and promised lots of money to anyone who found a meteorite. However, I’ve given up hope here, the terrain is high bush and too many decades have passed. I did confirm, however that pieces fell in Nar to the north. So I have a strewnfield line.

Mission 3: Karatu

Karatu was my fail safe, fall back zone if the first too were completed quickly. They were and so off to Karatu I went. Unfortunately it fell in the 60’s in a volcanic area. All rocks are black, all rocks are ferrous. The locals didn’t know much about it other than it fell. Lost cause, so I left for Norongoro crater to see a bit of wildlife.

There were some other interesting things I saw that I’ll post pictures of below.

Expedition Assessment: There are two targets to be revisited in Tanzania. I came away with no finds this trip, but I set the ground work for meteorites to be recovered. Now it is a matter of time, and another trip. 2013 is the year to do it. This time I’ll be using GIS as I’ve gone and taken some online GIS training.

 

1 Comment

  1. When you visit Tanzania again, go to Sanza Catholic Mission, you will find a large meteorite just within the priests’ compound. Sanza mission is in Manyoni District Singida, bordering Bahi District in Dodoma. Good luck!

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