Carancas Meteorite Expedition
September 28-Oct 3, 2007
S 16,39.52 W 69,02.38
I was in Spain with Robert Ward and Moritz Karl when the Carancas meteorite fell in Peru. We woke up to the news on the day after the fall, and reviewed the reports as they came out. There was so much confusion, and disinformation about vapors and poison gasses making people sick, that we at first discounted the story and assumed it was more likely a volcanic event, rather than a meteorite fall. However within a couple of days, it looked much more likely to be a meteorite fall, and as we flew back to the USA, we decided to leave for Peru in a few days. I had to go to Cali, Colombia first, to buy another meteorite from that fall, so we were delayed from traveling to Peru until 28 September 2007, exactly two weeks after the event.
We arrived in La Paz, Bolivia on Saturday, the 29th of September, and immediately hired a taxi direct from the airport to the Peru border town of Desaguadero, where the meteorite fell. The drive was only one and a half hour, and cost all of $40.00! Upon arrival in town, we checked into a $4.00 per night hotel (greatly overpriced), and then crossed into Peru to got to the meteorite impact crater. The first stop was the police station, where we told them what we were doing and I was immediately shown a meteorite piece, which I bought from the policeman. They then took us in two vehicles to the meteorite crater. I spoke with the local man who was guarding the crater, and we were allowed to cross the fence and explore the site, and take photos for some hours.
Above you can see the crater. It measures more than 13 meters in diameter, and is among the largest known craters formed by the impact of a chondritic meteorite. It is difficult to show the size of this crater in a photograph, it is much larger in person.
This photograph shows the left side of the crater looking to the northwest. The uplifted side is at the center of this photo, the impact has lifted the land by more than one meter!
In this photo, you can see the huge chunks of soil, many nearly a half meter across. The water in the crater is more than two meters deep.
This photo shows the right side of the crater, and myself in the green jacket with local policemen who accompanied us to the site.
This photograph of myself helps show the size of this crater, and helps one imagine the energy of the meteorite impact which blasted this crater out of the ground in a split second! Studies are being done on the estimated size of the object, the velocity at which it was traveling when it impacted the ground, and the energy released by the impact. Preliminary data estimates more than 350 cubic meters of soil removed, weighing an estimated 1,100 tons, and calculations suggest that the meteorite should have weighed in the range of 10 metric tons on impact. I will get more exact data soon.
During the next two days, we explored the area, searched for meteorite fragments and found many, and purchased meteorite fragments from the local farmers, who are very poor. We paid very good prices to them, and the people were very happy that we were there and helping them. I was invited to address the local assembly, which involved every member of the Carancas community. They did not know what to do to protect the meteorite crater, or what to do about the meteorite that surely lies below the ground. As a meteorite expert, that wanted my opinion, which I stood up and gladly gave to them in Spanish, a language in which I am quite fluent. I told the villagers that the meteorite was being destroyed by being immersed under the water, and that they should dig it up to save it for science, and for tourism. They wanted to bring in tourists to pay to visit the site, and I told them that the crater was important, but would be quickly destroyed by the rains, which begin in this area in November. The impact site is in a low creek bed, and will flood when the rains start. The crater can not be preserved, but the meteorite can I told them. I also expressed my wished to buy some smaller pieces of the meteorite, and that they remaining mass be preserved in a building to prevent further deterioration.
After my speech, the entire town clapped their approval and the council called for a vote on excavating the meteorite. Anyone who wished could speak, and add advice or concerns. Many people spoke, and mostly in Aymara, which is the local language, so I understood little except when Spanish was added in. I was told people were arguing that any decision must benefit the entire community, not any one single person.
The council voted after more than an hour of talking, and it was decided that they would excavate the meteorite on Monday morning, the 1st of October.
This is the home of Javier Valle Sarmiento, who lived about 150 meters from the impact site. You can see in this photo that a large piece of debris from the impact hit the roof and damaged the home. I was told that it was a large dirt clod, not a piece of meteorite that hit the home. However we did find meteorite pieces near the home.
Adventure continues on the next page.
All photos are property of Michael Farmer and MAY NOT be used or copied or used without prior permission with exception of the Google Earth meteorite trajectory map on page one. This belongs to Lionel Jackson, Geological Survey of Canada.