Portales Valley, New Mexico
Fell on June 13, 1998 around 7:30 AM
|Several hundred kilos of a new stony meteorite fell early on
Saturday morning, June 13. News of the this exciting fall reached me while several hundred
miles away searching the outskirts of Sante Fe for the Glorietta pallasite. Thrilled by
the new, I returned immediately to Tucson to reassemble. I grabbed cameras, metal
detectors, backpacks, and headed out in the HumVee field recovery vehicle. Several pieces
had already been recovered, a good sign as many more were likely lying in wait. I knew the
value of this pristine new meteorite would bring collectors, researchers, and adventurers
from all reaches. This has been the first fall of meteorites with strewnfield yielding
multiple specimens in the U.S. since I've been involved in meteorites (nearly 20 years).
Wow... what an opportunity and only 500 miles from home!
By all accounts, the Portales Valley meteorite was first noticed as a daytime fireball at roughly 7:30 a.m. This fireball was not only heard but felt miles away. A corkscrew smoke trail was seen in the sky. The final high altitude burst and smoke from the explosions was said to resemble anti-aircraft "flak" from WWII films. Newly picked up specimens were reportedly "too hot to handle", especially the larger pieces.
The Portales strewnfield lies just south of main street and stretches nearly 5 miles long. Mrs. Nelda Wallace witnessed a 37 pound specimen crash into her garden. Moments later and several miles to the Northeast, another smaller specimen fell through the roof of the Newberry family barn and was found imbedded in the barn's wall. Diligent searching has turned up more than 60 additional stones by locals and (not local) searchers armed with metal detectors and a keen eye. These specimens were found along roadways, in peanut fields, at the dump, the dairy, etc.
|I arrived in time to see the first seven specimens recovered,
and purchased three of them. These were sent to NASA, UNM, and the UofA for analysis on my
return to Tucson. Current opinion is that these are H6 stones. However, they are some of
the most unique metal rich stones I've ever seen. I saw several specimens with so much
metal in them as to cause a debate among collectors as to the classification. The
specimens I initially examined, have a "spine" of steel up to 1/2" thick
running through them. These bright steel veins protrude from the specimens and resemble
a spider's web. This is surrounded by a very metal rich chondrite matrix ranging
from creamy white to gray-blue in color. When etched, these metal veins reveal a fine
octahedral pattern, It is important to note though, that this veining is seen only in
roughly 1 of 3 specimens recovered. The fusion crust is a freshly melted jet black with an
occasionally gun-blue tint. More classic surface features include thumbprints and flow
All three Portales Valley stones remain intact in my private collection. Dozens have since been recovered, traded, and sold by collectors and enthusiasts alike. Remember, get permission, get a receipt, but go out there and search! If you don't, who will?? Good luck!