Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Colombia's Favorite Meteorite

What's left of the meteorite of Santa Rosa on display in the Museo Nacional in Bogotá.
A midget on the meteorite.
In April 1810, a meteorite fell from the sky near the town of Santa Rosa, in Boyaca, Colombia. The metallic rock's voyage didn't end there, however. Today, the meteorite's pieces are distributed throughout museums and universities in Colombia, United States and England.

It was a young girl, Cecilia Corredor, who discovered the meteorite, called an aerolito, while chasing a bird. Villagers dragged the 750 kilogram rock into town, where for years it found use as a blacksmith's anvil. Later, the town built a pedestal and placed the rock in a position of honor in the town's plaza.

There it sat for almost a century until American meteorite collector Henry A. Ward got wind of the huge rock. He traveled to Santa Rosa, where he made a deal with the governor: In exchange for the rock, he'd give the town a bust of Pres. Rafael Reyes. The deal was sealed, and Ward's men proceeded to haul the rock off of its pedestal.

Ward poses by the stone,
while still on its pedestal.
But exporting a huge rock isn't easy - physically or politically. Colombia was still smarting from the loss of Panama, which had been sliced off and made independent by U.S. Pres. Theodore Roosevelt. Should a gringo be able to carry off a national heirloom?

"That meteorite is mine, by all rights human and divine," Ward wrote to a U.S. friend.

After an exchange of letters - in which U.S. officials spelled Colombia 'Columbia' - Ward received permission to cut off 100 kgs from the meteorite. He instead sliced off 300.

That material is now distributed throughout universities and museums in the U.S. and England. But the largest piece of the stone, weighing 411 kgs, is in the Museo Nacional in Bogotá, where an exhibition illustrates the rock's wanderings.

Want to learn more about the famous meteorite? Visit the museum, or read all about it here.
Ward's men haul off the rock.
The meteorite being cut, a 14-day process.
The remaining meteorite in the Museo Nacional.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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