In the summer of 2003 I traveled to the U.K. to visit my friend Rob Elliott and his wife Irene, and to journey to some meteorite-related destinations. Rob and Irene were wonderful hosts and a good time was had by all (although with somewhat awkward moments involving portions of haggis and black pudding). We then drove to one of the more important historic sites in meteoritics, Wold Cottage in Wold Newton, Yorkshire. It was on this site that a meteorite fell on December 13, 1795, dragging the nascent field of meteoritics kicking and screaming into the world of true science. Prior to the Wold Cottage fall (and virtually contemporary falls in Siena, Italy, and L’Aigle, France) the scientific explanation for rocks falling from the sky was far from settled. The idea of cosmic stones of extraterrestrial origin raining down on the Earth was generally viewed with the same contempt as UFO-claims are today! When Yale scientists proposed the now accepted idea of meteorite-origin to describe yet another fall in Weston, Connecticut (1807), none other than Renaissance-man Thomas Jefferson is said to have stated, “I would more easily believe that two Yankee professors would lie, than that stones would fall from heaven!” But as several unmistakable falls occurred within a few years of each other in front of plenty of witnesses, and as chemical analysis techniques developed, the truth soon became apparent.|
The Wold Cottage itself is now a bed-and-breakfast inn, and we stayed the night. After about a half-mile hike through some soggy fields, the spire of the monument erected to commemorate the meteorite fall shows itself on a rise in the distance.
The monument itself. I'm holding a meteorite in front of it, for good measure
|A dog lazes in front of the cottage itself||The spire of the meteorite monument is just barely discernible in the upper right, on the horizon to the left of the tree foliage|
Once home from my visit, I wrote a short history of the Wold Cottage fall and its impact. It was subsequently published in the November 2003 issue of Meteorite Magazine.
Meanwhile, back in Milton of Balgonie in County Fife, I marvel at Rob’s collection. It’s one of the most comprehensive in private hands, and his showroom is stunning!
We then drove back to London, but before heading home I had the great fortune to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the unparalleled meteorite collection of the Natural History Museum, unquestionably the most complete and prestigious such collection anywhere in the world.
|Rob and his wife Irene in front of the main meteorite room|
The Wold Cottage stone itself - dimly lit behind glass, and very hard to photograph!
|Behind the scenes, I’m thrilled to meet Dr. Robert Hutchison, one of the leading
meteoritical scientists of the latter half of the 20th Century! The scientific world
lost a giant when Dr. Hutchison died in January of 2007.
||Rob and Dr. Caroline Smith (also a leading meteoritical scientist),
display an image from a meteorite analysis they’ve been working on!|