[meteorite-list] Evansville Man's Hobby Is Definitely Out Of This World

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 09:44:39 2004
Message-ID: <200103161802.KAA03768_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Evansville man's hobby is definitely out of this world
(812) 464-7527 or gmathews_at_evansville.net
Evansville Courier & Press (Kentucky)
March 15, 2001

Rhett Bourland collects meteorites. He has pieces of the moon and Mars as
well as assorted comets and asteroids.

The 22-year-old Evansville man buys, sells and trades the things, mostly off
the Internet. He has never found one 'in the wild,' to use his words, but
it's not because he hasn't looked.

'Now that would really be a moment,' he says solemnly.

Bourland has only been at this about two years, but already has around 70
specimens. Many are quite small and are displayed individually in a locked

He paid $200 for a Mars meteorite that's about as big as a fingernail. Only
about 1 percent of meteorites are born there and that drives up the price.
He says a more sizable chunk of Mars could be worth more than $500,000.

He says meteorites are more than 4 billion years old, and that nickel and
iron make up about 20 percent of a typical stone.

Most meteorites are dark brown from their long journey through the white-hot
atmosphere. Some may be rust-colored, depending on how long they've been on
the ground. He says you can tell meteorites from ordinary rocks because of
their magnetic field and isotope makeup.

The expert - he's written on the subject for the Evansville Astronomical
Society - will take your questions.

Gee, Rhett, you sure have an unusual hobby.

Not really. There are probably four people in the Tri-State who have smaller
collections. Interest has really grown internationally since fossilized
bacteria was found in a Mars rock in the mid-1990s. Such a discovery opens
up the possibility of life on that planet, and that gets people's attention.

Have you ever been ripped off when buying a meteorite?

When they are so small, it does open up the possibility of deception. I lost
$40 on one transaction when the dealer wasn't legit. But over time you know
who to work with. I'm positive all of my meteorites are the real thing.

How many meteorites are out there?

Scientists estimate that 100,000 meteorites a quarter-pound and larger have
fallen on the Earth. Approximately 7,000 have been positively identified.

Each has a name, usually based on where it was found. Canyon Diablo, Gibeon,
Tagish Lake - whatever. I have 1 percent of the total known population in my
collection, and that's pretty cool.

You paid $200 for a sliver of a meteorite. You must have tons of money to
throw it around like that.

Not really. I'm an out-of-work computer tech with a wife and a 1-year-old
child. I don't care much about clothes or eating out. This is the only thing
I splurge on.

This buying and selling of meteorites - is it something you could make a
living at?

Definitely, but you'd have to be willing to travel to track down new finds.
For example, the Sahara Desert is a very popular place for meteorite
collectors. The nomads know there are crazy Americans who will pay fantastic
money for dark-colored rocks and they'll take you right to them. If I had
the money, that's where I'd go.

Gee, Rhett, you really know your stuff. How much schooling have you had?

I've got some college, but I didn't graduate. I took a geology course at
USI. The teacher admitted I knew more about meteorites than she did, so when
that part of the subject came up, I got to be the teacher. It was even
better than going to the head of the class.
Received on Fri 16 Mar 2001 01:02:46 PM PST

Help support this free mailing list:

Yahoo MyWeb