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Meteorites in Imperial? Maybe, says author

October 29, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — A meteorite found near here in 1908 could mean there are dozens of other meteorite chunks lying around town just waiting to be found, according to the "Meteorite Man," Bob Haag.

Speaking on the phone from his Tucson home, Haag read from a book that lists past meteorite falls and places where people have found meteorites.

"In 1908 a man found a meteorite weighing a couple of pounds in Imperial," he said.

"That means that three miles away (people) could find them there, too," he said.

Before Imperial residents tear up their back yards looking for space rocks, which could fetch $100 a pound from collectors, Haag has some words of advice.

Getting a metal detector would be a good idea.

"You don't have to have one but it will increase your chances a thousand times," Haag said.

"A lot of times the rock could be lying there for hundreds of years with just a half an inch of dirt on top."


Is that too big an investment?

"A good, inexpensive metal detector is better than a crappy new one," he noted.

And if you don't find anything?

"Swinging metal is good exercise," Haag said.

Where should prospective meteorite hunters look?

"The edges of fields where they throw the rocks … dry lake beds. Meteorites have been found all over California.

"Near Twentynine Palms, a 50-pound Mars rock was found in the dry lake beds there," Haag said.


Haag laughed, "Well, the guy who found it ain't going to show you. Ya gotta get out there and look."

He recommends Valleyites do just that.

"It's fun and you could score big."

How big?

Haag's personal collection is valued at $25 million.

OK, so what should local Valley rockhounds look for?

Some meteorites are granular with flecks of colorful chunks of carbon. Others look "singed on the outside, like they were dipped in black paint," he said.

They look singed because they literally were singed as they made a fiery entry through the earth's atmosphere.

What about a rock sitting in a big crater? Is that a good sign?

"There should be crater but only if it just fell. Could be it fell thousand of years ago and there would be no crater — but it's still there," Haag said.

What if a rock is found but no one around knows if it is a meteorite?

Haag said it is sort of like collecting old coins and stamps, "It's a self-study thing — go see collections, shoot the Web, hit the library."

If someone locally finds one, Haag said he might buy it.

But be forewarned, "We get samples by the thousands every year," he said.

"People think they've found the rock that will pay for the farm and buy me a Corvette, but it's just a rock," he said.

Sometimes though, Haag conceded, amateur hunters stumble upon the real deal; a huge, valuable meteorite.

Haag said the experience is, well, elemental.

"Ooo look, a rock god sent me this metal," Haag said.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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