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Meteor Fall – 1838

Meteor Fall

DIE KOUE BOKKEVELD METEOORVAL, 1838

Die ouer inwoners van ons omgewing het almal die Aardbewing wat in 1969 plaasgevind het in ons geheue as die grootste natuurverskynsel wat ons omgewing getref het. En tog was daar ‘n sterk mededinger wat aan die meeste van ons inwoners onbekend is: n meteoorval in die Koue Bokkeveld op 13 Oktober 1838.

Die uniekheid van die verskynsel is daarin geleë dat dit, eerstens, die enigste gedokumenteerde meteoorval (let wel, nie fonds nie) in Suid-Afrika is. Dit beteken dat dit die enigste keer was waar só ‘n verskynsel sigbaar en hoorbaar waargeneem is en die meteoriete opgetel en in bewaring geplaas kon word. Daar was elders in Suid-Afrike wel meteorietfondse (brokstukke opgetel), maar die gebeurtenisse was nie dokumenteerbaar nie, want daar was nie bekende waarnemers nie. Tweedens is dit lid van ‘n baie skaars tipe meteoriet (achondritiese tipe). Dit bevat, benewens ‘n hoë koolstofinhoud, ook aminosure en ander chemiese elemente, in teenstelling met metaal soos die meeste meteoriete. Derhalwe is dit besonder waardevol uit die oogpunt van wetenskaplikes en versamelaars gesien. Klaarblyklik is die meteoriet ouer as die aarde self en het wetenskaplikes gehelp om die ontstaan van lewe op ons planeet beter te verstaan.

Die meteoor het die aarde se atmosfeeer met n onaardse rammeling binnegedring en ‘n strooiveld van brokstukke in die Koue Bokkeveld gelaat. Die gebeurtenis het om 09:30 op daardie windstil en helder Oktoberdag plaasgevind en is deur ses aangetekende waarnemers gerapporteer. Die donderende rammeling kon 120km ver tot in die Karoo, Clanwilliam, Kaapstad en die Sonderend gehoor en gerapporteer word. ‘n Ondersoekspan onder leiding van Thomas Maclear van die koninklike sterrewag in Kaaptad is uitgestuur, onderhoude met waarnemers is gevoer en meteorietstukke is versamel en vir ontleding na Londen versend. Vandag word brokstukke steeds in ses museums wêreldwyd gehou.

Uit waarnemers se vertellings en aanduiding van waar vuurwarm (gras is aan die brand gesteek) brokstukke geval en opgetel is, kon die meteoriet-strooiveld akkuraat herkonstrueer word. Dié hemelliggaam het uit die noordweste oor die plase Molenrivier, Het Kruis en Driefontein na die suidooste ingeval. Die strooiveld was na raming byna 2km breed en sowat 20km lank.

Lê daar steeds brokstukke in die veld rond? Hoewel een brokstuk “te swaar om te perd te vervoer” gerapporteer is en verdwyn het, is die waarskynlikheid dat verdere brokstukke in die veld gevind kan word maar gering, omdat die koolstofryke meteoriet bros en oplosbaar is. Indertyd is gerapporteer hoe brokstukke verkrummel het waar dit op harde oppervlakke geval het, terwyl een wat in ‘n vlei geval het wel ‘n groot impakgat gelaat het, maar dadelik begin week het in die water. Bykans tweehonderd jaar se reën en son het waarskynlik oorblywende spore in die veld uitgewis. Tog ─ as jy dalk ‘n snaakse stuk klip, wat soos ‘n braaibriket lyk, uit Oupagrootjie se solder in jou besit het, neem dit na die Togryersmuseum ─ dis dalk net die vermiste skakel met die Koue Bokkeveld Meteoor!


THE COLD BOKKEVELD METEOR FALL, 1838

The older residents of our area all remember the Earthquake that occurred in 1969 as the biggest natural phenomenon that hit our area. And yet there was a strong competitor unknown to most of our residents: a meteor fall in the Koue Bokkeveld on 13 October 1838.

The uniqueness of the phenomenon lies in the fact that it is, first of all, the only documented meteor fall (note, not find) in South Africa. This means that it was the only time such a phenomenon was observed visibly and audibly and the meteorites could be picked up and placed in preservation. Elsewhere in South Africa, there were indeed meteorite finds (collected fragments), but the events were not documentable, because there were no known observers. Secondly, it is a member of a very rare type of meteorite (achondritic type). It contains, in addition to a high carbon content, also amino acids and other chemical elements, in contrast to metal like most meteorites. Therefore, it is seen as particularly valuable from the point of view of scientists and collectors. Apparently, the meteorite is older than the earth itself and has helped scientists to better understand the origin of life on our planet.

The meteor penetrated the earth’s atmosphere with an unearthly rumble and left a scatterfield of fragments in the Koue Bokkeveld. The event occurred at 09:30 on that windless and clear October day and was reported by six recorded observers. The thunderous rattle could be heard and reported 120km away as far as the Karoo, Clanwilliam, Cape Town and the Sonderend. An investigation team led by Thomas Maclear of the Royal Observatory in Cape Town was dispatched, interviews with observers were conducted and meteorite pieces were collected and sent to London for analysis. Today, fragments are still held in six museums worldwide.

From observers’ accounts and indication of where hot (grass was set on fire) fragments fell and were picked up, the meteorite scatterfield could be accurately reconstructed. This celestial body fell in from the north-west over the farms Molenrivier, Het Kruis and Driefontein towards the south-east. The scatterfield was estimated to be almost 2km wide and about 20km long.Are there still debris lying around in the veld? Although one fragment was reported as “too heavy to transport on horseback” and disappeared, the likelihood of further fragments being found out there is slim, because the carbon-rich meteorite is brittle and soluble. At the time, it was reported how fragments crumbled where they fell on hard surfaces, while one that fell in a swamp did leave a large impact crater, but immediately began to soak in the water. Almost two hundred years of rain and sun have probably obliterated any remaining tracks in the veld. Still ─ if you hold a strange cobble which looks like a braai briquette from Great Grandfather’s attic in your possession, take it to the Togryers Museum ─ it might just be the missing link with the Koue Bokkeveld Meteor!