Monday, June 18, 2007


Long story today. Earlier this year, we visited the Halver Straight Mineral Collection and the Mark Bandy Mineral Collection at Drake University in the Harvey Ingham Building. Loved it. The kids didn't want to leave. The best part was having a teacher leave his lab class to come talk to us. I didn't get his name. He belonged to the Central Iowa Mineral Society, and had many cool things to show us. My kids were on fire for rocks when we left.

One cool thing that he showed us was a gallon bag of "black sand." He said that he had been collecting this sand by dragging a magnet across various beaches during the last five years. He said that the sand was meteorites, or space dust. At, it says that "Each day Earth is believed to gain over 1000 tons of mass from the infall of tiny meteorites. Most of these meteorites are the size of a dust particle or sand grain."

So today, I thought we would do a double whammy by geocaching and beach combing. Cool weather, strong breeze, great conditions. We didn't do very well with geocaching because of all leafy, signal-blocking tree cover. If the gps-r says that I'm 50' away, but has only 59' accuracy, then am I really gaining anything by using the gps-r? I wimped out and ditched. There were too many places the cache could have been. Like two hours worth of looking.

But we did score some black sand. Using strong magnets, the kids hopefully dragged their tools over the sand and found what looked like iron shavings. Remember the little cardboard toy where you make Pete have a beard by moving the iron shavings around with a magnet pen? It looks like what the kids found. They have a tiny corner in their sandwich bags filled with meteorites. Then a hard rain came down and we left.

We're still hoping to have a chunk of rock jump up out of the earth at us. The kids say they will continue collecting meteorites. I am sure they will. And they want their dad to see the mineral collections, so I am sure we will visit Ingham Hall again. It's free to visit the collections, and open to the public as long as school is in session and the building is open. When I asked for details, I got this email from Lawrence Staunton, chair of the Physics and Astronomy Department:

"The mineral collections are in the hallway of the top floor of Harvey Ingham Hall at Drake. They are open for viewing anytime the building is open, basically 8:00am till 5:30pm Monday through Friday. Harvey Ingham Hall is on the south side of Forest avenue, directly across the street from the western edge of the stadium. Park on Forest avenue."

Happy meteorite hunting, everyone!


Heather's Moving Castle said...

You write about things that are so foreign to me. Thanks for the learning!!!

juliecache said...

For those wondering about the magnets, the easiest is this -- find a wall of sewing supplies. You will see a magnet for picking up spilled straight pins. Less than $10. My kids wear theirs on a string around their necks. And yes, I wonder about the daily 1000 tons of mass, too.

Anonymous said...

Julie, or anyone else that lives in or near the insurance capital of the world, The Central Iowa Mineral Society meets at 7:30 P.M. on the first Friday of the month at Meredith Hall on the Drake campus. You can visit our website at We do not have geocache people in the club but it would be a fun activity to start.

Mike the President