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Tirhert (Morocco, 2014)

On July 11, 2014, many messages are posted on social networks, and particularly on Facebook. Some people announced that a new meteorite fell on July 9, 2014, at 10.30pm, near the town of Foum El Hisn, south Morocco.

Fabien Kuntz and I were preparing our bags to go the Kosice strewnfield, in Slovakia, to spend good time eating food specialties and to find some stones from this 2010 fall.

Our plans had to change but positively.

We cancelled our booking and car rental then we took a flight ticket to Agadir.

On July 12, two days and a night after the meteorite fall, the plane landed at the Agadir airport in the morning ; just after getting the keys of our rent car, we headed south-east for a 4 hours driving trip.

We arrived near Foum El Hisn early in the afternoon.

After a short stop in Borj Biramane, a nice hotel managed by a French man in Icht, we hurried up to reach the area of the fall.

We had some indication on the location, thanks to some moroccan contacts.

 

But first of all, here are the facts !

At 10.30pm on July 9, 2014, inhabitants of the provinces of Agadir, Tiznit and Guelmim saw a bolide in the sky and heard three detonations (some witnesses indicated five detonations).

Rumors said that a meteorite had just fallen near the little city of Foum El Hisn, 250 kilometers south-east of Agadir.

The next day, many people from Morocco and Mauritania reached the area and started finding the first specimens ; the first pictures were published on Facebook on July 11, around 9 o’clock.

Everybody remember the Tissint meteorite (2011) which fell not far from there, near Tata. It was an amazing martian meteorite whose beauty had caught a price spike. Any fragment sold for 1,000 dollars a gram at the time of fall.

Nomads and inhabitants of the country hopefully expected such high prices for this new meteorite ; many believed it was also a martian meteorite, even before it was analyzed.

The pictures published on Facebook showed clearly a eucritic origin.

Me and Fabien knew then that negociation would be long and complicated.

After leaving our luggage to the hotel, we headed to the strewnfield area with our small car ; we drove accross Foum El Hisn then took the road to Assa. After five kilometers south of Foum El Hisn, we started looking people in the desert. Then as we approached more, there were hundreds of people searching and other coming by car, bicycle, bike, or even donkeys !  The desert area was covered with people. It was amazing. The indications of my local contact were really accurate.

We had never seen such an event and we understand now why moroccan and saharian people are good at hunting meteorite strewnfields. Not a single speck of meteorite was left on the ground.

The western part of the strewnfield is a plain covered with large stones, and surrounded by hills and mountains. Not a really nice place to search for small meteorites.

The southern and eastern part of the strewnfield is a more sandy area and is relatively flat. There’s also the nice village of Tighrirt (also written Tirhert) in the middle of the plain, in an oasis. It’s near this village that the main mass weighing more than a kilogram was found.

The fact is we didn’t rent a 4WD car and it was first perceived as a handicap as we couldn’t drive far away from the paved road but in the other hand, it was probably better as it was a good way to speak with people, meet locals and go to their camp to see specimens and negociate.

We thought it would be a meteorite fall with many little stones and some larger, like in Puerto Lapice or Camel Donga.

But in the end, we met many people who had absolutely  found nothing. They just had what they called ‘échantillon’ bags (sample bags) with a tiny fragment of the meteorite to help them searching the good type of stones.

After several days on the field, we just saw a 500 grams stone, three or four 50 to 70 grams specimens, two or three stones weighing 1 to 2 grams and several tiny fragments.

Some people told us a 8 kilograms stone was found but we never saw it. It may just be rumors, who knows.

After a week searching and trading under the sun, most of the hunters and dealers had left the place. Some say two of them died of thirst ; it was the Ramadan at that moment of the year. Temperatures exceeded 50 celsius degrees, me and Fabien had never felt such heat, even in Middle East.

We met in the strewnfield Stefan Ralew, a german meteorite hunter, Hasnaa Chennaoui, a famous moroccan scientist of the Hassan II University of Casablanca, and also « Rudy », a mineral dealer living in Agadir.