Meteorites have excited me since I was a child. But it wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I really set out to hunt them down. These were movies like King Solomon’s mines and Lawrence of Arabia this must have inspired me with the need for adventures in distant – and preferably slightly dangerous – places. In an era before streaming or even VCRs, these films were rebroadcast during the holidays of my youth. And the glittering deserts and the majesty of the unfamiliar landscapes seemed especially intoxicating, seen from the gray and rainy old London.
I didn’t know much about meteorite hunting then. But I was lucky and decided; I found a few meteorites myself. Then, in 1996, a curious person on the Internet found me. His name was Steve Arnold and he told me he was a full-time meteorite hunter.
I was overwhelmed. He was very carefree about it, as if anyone could do it. Although this may not be true, Arnold started my career as a meteorite hunter. I joined him on an sometimes terrifying trip through the Chilean Atacama Desert in a two-wheeled Toyota Toyota, which I don’t recommend trying. However, during the three-week search, we found hundreds of small meteorites. I knew I could never go back to normal. I was addicted to the thrill of the expedition, especially if it took me far, far into the empty desert, like those movies I loved as a child.
Years later, Arnold and I were going to star together in a hit TV series for the Science Channel called Men meteorites.
Over the years, I’ve crossed the Sahara in a battered Land Rover. I was thrown by helicopter into a 35 million-year-old impact crater in Siberia. I found a 69-pound iron meteorite in the Arctic that was transported there by a glacier during the last ice age. And I took zoomorphic cosmic rocks (those shaped in animal forms) from the surface of the worn-out Nularbor Plain in Australia. My goal has always been to reach the most inaccessible places where meteorites have fallen, to find them and bring them home.
Not only the act of collecting meteorites took me across six continents, but also the desire to explore the history of the collections of others. Cosmic rocks from historical collections are highly valued by enthusiasts, perhaps because they give us a tangible connection to those who passed before us, those who carefully curated the specimens to survive the centuries and continue to admire them today.