Sutter’s Mill, California

Sutter’s Mill was another one of those falls that happens at just the wrong time.  We had radar data almost immediately, knew there were rocks on the ground, and…I had an early final exam the Thursday after the fall.

But, the forced delay made something else possible.  Instead of leaving immediately, I took the time to plan, and was able to organize a UC Berkeley meteorite hunt that involved ~fifteen undergraduate and graduate Cal students.

Ultimately, four Cal students recovered fragments of the meteorite, myself included. Peter and Barbara also found stones, as did Mendy Ouzillou, a meteorite collector from South Bay who hunted with us.  We spent a great deal of time in the field showing locals (and other hunters) what to look for, and these efforts were not in vain.  A local family recovered two additional stones as the result of our outreach efforts.  In total, our group was responsible for the recovery of over 60 grams of the Sutter’s Mill meteorite — SM#’s 23, 24, 25, 26, 42, 52, 77, 78, as well as a small fragment that was never recorded.

We focused our efforts on any open areas of ground — roads, trails, campgrounds, etc.  Even the closely-cropped grass of a lawn could hide the tiny stones that rained down upon the Coloma/Lotus region. We spent significant time covering all kinds of terrain, but found only one stone in dense vegetation.

Here are some photos from the hunt.



…And here’s a bit of a mystery.  The following photo was circulated a few weeks after the fall by a few meteorite dealers.  The metadata on the image suggested that it was taken with an iPhone and it had attached GPS coordinates.  The photo was taken towards the Southern end of Cronan Ranch, right where you would expect large stones to have fallen, based on the radar data:

Did a meteorite dealer go on a long hike, and place a large Murchison individual on the ground for reasons unknown, or was a large Sutter’s Mill stone actually found, but never published?

Maybe time will tell…