Puerto Lpice

Castille-La Mancha,

Spain

Fell May 10, 2007 at 19:57 hrs

(Achondrite, Eucrite, brecciated)

Total known weight ~500 grams.

At 7:57 pm, a bright fireball was seen over central Spain, heading from south to north. The fireball was nearly as bright as the sun, and was seen from hundreds of miles away as far as Barcelona and Seville. It came down in a corkscrew fashion, and exploded several times causing loud sonic booms. After weeks of interviewing witnesses and photographs, the general fall location was established in central Spain. A German meteorite hunter, Thomas Graul, spent more than two weeks on the ground, and finally in the first week of June, found the first piece of the Puerto Lpice meteorite. It was not only a great new European fall, it was an Achondrite!

The Puerto Lpice  meteorite exploded into hundreds of pieces, and showered stones over a known strewnfield of at least 5 kilometers long. Unfortunately the strewnfield is complete comprised of olive and grape fields, 90% of which have been plowed since the fall, and almost all of the meteorites have been lost or destroyed. A true tragedy since it is one of the most beautiful meteorites I have ever seen.

I first saw the meteorites that Thomas Grau had found at the Ensisheim meteorite show in France a little over a month after the fall. The location was kept totally secret, and I could not figure out where the strewnfield was. I also was going to Sweden for a month-long meteorite hunt  in the arctic at that time so there was little I could do. It was not until September that I was invited to go to Spain with Robert Haag, who had just returned to Tucson from Spain, and home only a couple of days, he wanted to go back, so we all went.

I did and expedition to the strewnfield in Spain for 10 days in September 2007, and fond 10 meteorites myself, our group as a whole found 32 meteorites. All pieces are small, the largest being only ~12 grams. My group found nearly 30% of the known weight of this rare meteorite, and I exchanged three of the pieces I found with the Arizona State University Center for Meteorite Studies where they will remain in their massive collection forever. This expedition contributed greatly to the preservation of these rare meteorites.

 

In this Google Earth map I made of our finds, you can see the pieces to the west of the highway. Most pieces were found in a single olive grove which had not been plowed, virtually all other fields had been completely destroyed before we arrived. I shudder when I think of the thousands of tiny meteorite stones crushed under the rocks.

In this map, a closer version of the above map, you can see a single olive grove, which had for some reason not been plowed like all the others. We found almost all o our stones there by walking very slowly, in a grid pattern. It was very hard to find meteorites in the rocks there, and the olives on the ground made things more difficult. We gave our information for this location to several other meteorite hunters later, and several more stones were found in the area.

 
Los "Tres Amigos", from left to right, Robert Ward, Michael Farmer, and Moritz Karl, standing in the center of the
Puerto Lpice strewnfield, one of the few unplowed places left to find meteorites.
 

This is one of the famed windmills of La Mancha, an actual place cited in the classic novel by Miguel Cervantes  "The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha" published in 1605! This area is called the Don Quixote trail, where literary fans travel to see places mentioned in the book, and these windmills are actually in the book. Remember Don Quixote fighting the windmills on horseback? Well, here they are. There are several of them on this mountain and they overlook the Puerto Lpice strewnfield, standing as sentinels watching over the meteorites today.

Here is a view of the center of the strewnfield, a vineyard  between the olive grove where we found most of our pieces and looking to the north, at the mountain where we also found pieces. You can see the thousands of large fist-sized rocks, which were recently plowed and turned over before I arrived in the strewnfield. Imagine the thousands of meteorites lost forever in that mess.

A small stone I found in the olive grove, note how small it is, and how difficult to see this piece if you are standing up and walking. It is also the size, shape and color of the thousands of old olives rotting on the ground. I must have picked up a hundred a day to see if they were meteorites.

This cool photo shows an amazingly flight-oriented meteorite Robert Ward found and a large green praying mantis near the stone, as if contemplating a crunchy meal.... If I recall, the meteorite weighs less than 700 mg, smaller than the seeds you see beside it.

 

Hunting meteorites is not always miserable, Spain was without a doubt the best meteorite hunt I have ever been on, fun, successful, wonderful location, great people, no worries about robbery, prison, or angry locals, superb food and drink, and all the ripe grapes we could eat, red, green and black. I speak fluent Spanish, so it was a pleasure to work in such a fantastic environment. The landowners of the area we hunted were extremely busy with the grape harvest, so they told us to hunt all we wanted and take any meteorite we found. They had no time for meteorite hunting but they were happy we could save a few of them.

 

This is a small stone I found laying in the leaves under an olive tree.

 

 
Here is a spectacular Puerto Lpice meteorite weighing 5.555 grams in situ as I found it. These stones were very hard to see as they are very small, and the olive groves where the strewnfield is are full of thousands of old dried olives on the ground, which look exactly like the meteorites. The hunting days were mostly spent bending over picking up dried olives, not meteorites!
 
 
This is the haul from one of our best days, meteorites found by Robert Ward, Michael Farmer, and Moritz Karl. What a cosmic treasure!
 

This photo shows my 10th and last Puerto Lpice  meteorite in situ as found. It has been sitting quietly for four months, waiting to be rescued from the elements.

 

 
This photo almost needs no description. I have never seen another Eucrite with fusion crust this glassy? I know of only one, Serra de Mage, which fell in Brazil in 1923 that even comes close to crust like this stone. The fusion crust on this meteorites is the stuff that my dreams are made of. You can see the glass full of bubbles, which looks like it is still wet. This stone weighs 4.07 grams and will never leave my collection.
 

Here is another view of the same 4.07 gram stone, the front side showing orientation with long flow lines. Note the large flow line which traverses from the left to right over the entire surface of the meteorite!

This is a 5.55 gram stone, my second favorite meteorite, completely covered in glassy fusion crust. You can see through the liquid-looking crust, and see the white and black matrix inside.  Note the contraction cracks caused by rapid cooling and flow lines in the crust.

Here is a photo of the backside of the same 5.55 gram meteorite. Note the sharp flow of crust at the top, many of the meteorites have that sort of sharp edge and many long points or needles of sharp fusion crust. It is amazing that they could fall and not break off.
 

  

The video above was created by the Spanish Meteor Network (SPMN) in Spain, they found many of the meteorites.

The video is a re-creation of the Asteroid Vesta, where the Eucrites originate from, and the fall of the meteorites using the actual strewnfield.

 

The Puerto Lpice meteorite hunt was my absolute favorite that I have ever done, I spent 10 amazing days in Spain this time, hunting freshly fallen Eucrites, it is hard to beat that. A couple of days from the end of our hunt, on 16 September, I woke up and checked my email before we began the day. I read the first reports of the meteorite fall in Carancas, Peru and while no one was sure at that time that it was a meteorite, little did we know that in one week we would all be in Peru hunting the crater-forming Carancas chondrite meteorite. Truly an amazing time in 2007, with so many major meteorite falls and with me going on major expeditions in Spain, Peru, and Colombia within days of each other.