CASH AND TREASURES on The Travel Channel
The Meteorite Hunters Episode
Before Meteorite Men, meteorite hunter and science writer Geoffrey Notkin, expedition partner Steve Arnold, and friends guest starred with Becky Worley in the Travel Channel series The Best Places to Find Cash & Treasures, featuring meteorite hunting adventures in Kansas and New Mexico
By Geoffrey Notkin, Host of Meteorite Men, and Owner of Aerolite Meteorites
Meteorites are extremely rare — much more elusive than gold for example — and extremely old. Some are thought to pre-date even our own solar system, making them the most ancient things any person has ever touched. Meteorites are divided into three main classes: irons, stones, and the stony-irons which include pallasites, the rarest and most beautiful of meteorite types. Pallasites are made partially of extra-terrestrial iron and nickel, speckled with abundant sea-green olivine crystals (the semi-precious gemstone peridot), making them literally gems from space.
I host the hit TV series Meteorite Men on Science, and have been actively involved in meteorite hunting for thirteen years, and expeditions have taken me to farthest corner of Siberia, across the hostile Atacama Desert in Chile, and tens of thousands of miles across the United States and Europe, scouring remote and sometimes dangerous places for these fascinating visitors from space.
THE CASH & TREASURES METEORITE EPISODE
If the Indigo Films team were to follow us into the desert while we randomly hunted for meteorites in new locations, our chances of finding anything would be next to zero, and that wouldn't make for a very interesting show. So, we decided to revisit an area where meteorites had been found in the past.
The timing was excellent. My close friend, and expedition partner of nearly a decade — Steve Arnold, probably the world's most famous meteorite hunter — had just made the find of his lifetime. Buried almost eight feet beneath a wide, rolling field in Kiowa County, Kansas, Steve discovered an enormous pallasite. The 3/4-ton giant from outer space is the largest pallasite ever found in the United States, and one of the largest ever found in history. Within a few days, I joined Steve in Kansas and we recovered several more masses. Named after the nearest township, these beautiful and valuable meteorites are known as the Brenham pallasite.
Steve intended to continue exploration of the Kansas meteorite field, and that was a great stroke of luck for the Cash and Treasures team. I called Steve and outlined what the Indigo Films crew and I had discussed, and he immediately gave the go-ahead to invite Cash and Treasures to Kansas. We only had two days on location, and the chance of finding something during that time was slim, but it was as good a lead as we could ask for. We would be using one of the largest metal detectors in the world, able to "see" deep into the ground, and towed behind an all-terrain vehicle (ATV). Designed and built by Steve, the ingenious device is called The Meteorite Trolley and looks like a cross between the Wright brothers' flyer and the Mars Rover.
To learn more about our hunting techniques and the history of the Brenham meteorite, see "Field of Dreams: Rediscovering the Brenham Pallasite," by Geoffrey Notkin in Meteorite magazine, February, 2006 (Volume 12, No. 1).
While the Brenham shoot was being planned in detail, the production team came back to me with a bold idea. Would it be feasible to film two separate meteorite hunts? With only limited time, could we organize a second hunt in a different area, with different terrain, and preferably different hunting techniques? The production staff fully appreciated that Steve's hunting equipment is for specialized use by a professional with many years of field experience. Everyone agreed that it would be good for viewers to see other techniques that are more available to the novice meteorite hunter.
So I put together a special team.
In the rugged mountains near Glorieta, New Mexico, iron and pallasitic meteorites have been found since the late 1800s. A Civil War battle of some note was fought on those same hills. While Brenham meteorites are large, deeply buried, and concentrated within a relatively small zone, the Glorieta Mountain meteorites are scattered over a large area which encompasses extremely steep mountains, mesas, and valleys — all at a steep elevation. There would be no driving around on ATVs during this hunt!
For more about the history of the Glorieta Mountain pallasite see "Legend of Glorieta Mountain," by Geoffrey Notkin in Meteorite magazine, February, 2001 (Volume 7, No. 1).
I am lucky enough to have several good friends who know the challenging landscapes of Glorieta as well as they know their own driveways. They are also expert meteorite hunters: tough, patient, relentless. They will pick a spot and hike it for two weeks or more, swinging their hand-held metal detectors for twelve hours a day. And they may find nothing. That's the way it usually goes with meteorite hunting. Mike Miller from California, Ruben Garcia, and Sonny Clary from Las Vegas, Nevada have each found scores of meteorites. Each had found meteorites at Glorieta too, and each impressed upon me how difficult it would be to find anything there during a short time period. Even with a team of skilled experts there were no guarantees.
When Steve and I met the Cash and Treasures crew we were immediately impressed by director Chris Leavell. We invited him to stop by our hotel room for a beer, as soon as he arrived from San Francisco. A tall, energetic, enthusiastic man with a great sense of humor, he immersed himself in the world of meteorites, asking questions and examining possible shots, all with great efficiency and panache. TV host Becky Worley was the perfect addition to our teams. She leapt wholeheartedly into the adventure with zest and a desire to try everything. She drove the ATVs, learned how to use a metal detector, jumped into our waist-deep excavation trenches with shovel in hand and . . . she wanted to find her own meteorite.
Geoff and Steve express their sincere thanks to Indigo Films, and particularly Greg Boudreaux, Hanna Bankier, Chris Leavell, and the lovely Becky Worley.
Steve Arnold and Geoff Notkin also appeared in Wired Science, a joint venture between PBS and Wired magazine, Cosmic Collisions for Discovery, Naked Earth: Our Atmosphere for Nat Geo and now star in Meteorite Men on the Science channel.
CAN OWN A METEORITE
GEOFF AND STEVE ON A REAL METEORITE HUNTING EXPEDITION!
In the future, the Meteorite Men—Geoff Notkin and Steve Arnold—will lead small teams of adventurers on actual expeditions to meteorite strewnfields. Expedition members will be guided to secret locations where Steve and Geoff have found meteorites in the past. Your team leaders will share their thirty years of combined experience with you. You will be instructed in metal detector operations, meteorite hunting techniques and strategies and entertained with campfire stories. It's an adventure you will always remember and you may well come home with a meteorite that you found!
Please visit our Meteorite Adventures website for more information.