Adelie land meteorite
This small meteorite (originally weighing one kilogram) was the first one discovered in Antarctica and was found by Francis Bickerton during Sir Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911–14. The meteorite was found lying on the snow in a shallow depression, about 32 km west of Cape Denison, Commonwealth Bay, Adelie Land, Antarctica, on 5 December 1912.
West of Cape Denison, Adelie Land, Antarctica
9 x 11 x 10 cm
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Bickerton was the leader of a team mapping coastal highlands west of the party’s main base while Mawson was leading a separate eastern team. Although its dark colour would have contrasted with the white landscape, it is remarkable that such a small object was found in the vast wilderness of ice and snow. The team reported it as ‘a highlight in an otherwise difficult outward journey’.
The meteorite was later analysed and described with the results published in the expedition scientific reports in 1923. It belongs to a group of stony meteorites called chondrites, which represent the outer granular layer of an asteroid. Because it was sliced for study, we can see its mottled interior, speckled with small bright flecks of nickel-iron metal. When first found, its rounded outer surface was completely covered with a dark brown fusion crust.
Although tens of thousands of meteorites have since been found on the Antarctic continent, mainly by American, Japanese and European teams, the discovery of the Adelie Land meteorite by pioneer Australian explorers working at the limits of human endurance, made scientific history.
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