Mike's Garage

Stump Spring and Stewart Valley, NV & CA

This past weekend I headed into the CA/NV desert with Mark B. for a day and a half of meteorite hunting.  Our first stop was the Stump Spring Dense Collection Area.  We left southern California in the early afternoon to give us about 4 hours at this location.  Many of the most successful meteorite hunters in the southwest have visited this DCA, spending days in the field to make a find.  It's a fantastic deflation surface with plenty of interesting rocks to keep your eyes busy.


As the sun was about to set Mark called me over to check out a rock that liked his magnet.  I hadn't found anything that wanted to stick to mine, terrestrial or otherwise, so I though it was cool he found something "sticky".  He handed it to me and I said, "Dude, this is a meteorite!".  This was only the second meteorite Mark had ever found.  Congrats to Mark on his 9.3g find!  Judging by how faint it sounded to our metal detectors, it could be an LL chondrite.


We hunted until after the sun set, then retired to our hotel in Pahrump for some much needed dinner and sleep.


The next morning we got an early start with my traditional meteorite hunting breakfast at Denny's, then hit Stewart Valley for a solid 12 hours of field time.  Pahrump Peak reaches to the clouds south of the valley.


One of the locals basking in the sun.


The surfaces out at Stewart Valley are pretty varied, from alluvial fans to bare mud flats.  Sometimes the two combine to make finding a meteorite harder than any page from Where's Waldo.


The find marker for StV 010.


After a quick lunch (in the truck with the AC running!) our energy was replenished.  I selected an area for us to grid and we went to work.  On the first or second pass I made the first find of the day and my first find of the trip, a 0.4g fragment.



A few grid passes later Mark found this awesome 1.7g fragment with fusion crust.


We continued to gird, knowing that more meteorites just had to be in the area.  Griding gets boring unless you're finding stuff, so luckily Mark made another find, 3.8g [below left].  While I was taking the find picture and logging the location in my gps (Mark had battery issues), Mark found a nice sized fragment right behind me, 6.1g [below right].  I knew griding would pay off, we had recovered 4 fragments as a result!



We gridded every square inch of 16+ acres over the course of several hours; it became pretty tedious toward the end so we switched up the hunt tactics.  I noticed in my gps that our finds so far for the day were almost perfectly in a line with other finds I had made on previous trips, so I extended that trend line in both directions and we started walking.

We made it to one end of the line, then started back toward the other end.  By now the sun was about to dip behind the mountains and we were both exhausted.  About 200' short of the "end of the line" Mark told me he was going to head back to the truck.  I told him I was just going to finish the last couple hundred feet because I'm stubborn and would hate to miss something...

...like this!  Literally as I was saying that to him I came upon a clump of several meteorites; had I turned back 15 feet sooner I would have missed it.  I originally estimated 7-8 fragments, but after spending about 20 minutes combing the area I recovered 18 fragments with a total mass of 16.3g.  The fragments ranged in size from 0.03g to 5.6g.  All 18 pieces are in the photo below, generally bounded by my gloves.  My scale cube is highlighted in the center.


I started with the furthest piece from the center and slowly worked my way around, picking up pieces as I went.  Piece #1:


Piece #2:


Piece #3:


Piece #4:


Piece #5:


Piece #6:


Piece #7:


Piece #8:


Piece #9:


Piece #10:


Piece #11:


Pieces #12-18:


As I was busy gathering all the fragments I had found Mark continued to search the "end of the line" and found two more fragments, 1.0g [below left] and 1.3g [below right].



We turned back for the truck and the long drive home.  I found one more 0.3g fragment under a bush.


And to round out the walk back I found two more small fragments about 5' from each other, 0.2g:


And 0.4g:


We covered many miles and had a very successful weekend, can't wait for the next one!


Update 11.May.2014:  I started fitting together the 18-piece find.  So far I have 5 pieces that fit together, but due the the small sizes of the fragments and the degree of weathering I don't know how much success I'm going to have.

Update 8.July.2014:  The smallest piece furthest to the right in the picture above it out of place; only 4 of those fragments are in their correct positions.

Update 9.July.2014:  After spending several hours over the course of two nights I was able to fit 16 of the 18 fragments back together!  The last two are proving tricky...