Giant Gold Nugget Found in California

Gold nugget weighing 70 ounces found by an unidentified man in Butte County in California

The “Butte Nugget” was recovered sometime in the summer of 2014 by an unnamed prospector in California using a metal detector. He was expecting to dig up a piece of iron rubbish, but unearthed the find of a lifetime when he unearthed this monster nugget.

It is a spectacular nugget, weighing over 5 pounds of solid gold. It is believed to be one of the largest gold discoveries in California in the past century.

The confirmed weight was 75 troy ounces. The nugget itself has no quartz inclusions and gold from this area is generally very high purity.

Although the exact location of the discovery was not revealed, it was found somewhere in Butte County, which has always been a major producer of gold in the state. Many millions of ounces in gold have been found here since the early days of the gold rush.

Both placer and lode deposits account for the production, but placers account for the largest production records.

Some of the primary mining districts in Butte County when it comes to producing gold are Magalia (Tertiary placers), Yankee Hill (mostly lode, some tertiary placers) and Oroville (Quaternary Placers).

Gold nugget weighing 70 ounces found by an unidentified man in Butte County in California

(courtesy of GeologyIn)

Monster meteorite found in Texas

This view of the 760-pound meteorite shows relatively fresh fusion crust from melting of the outer millimeter or two of the meteoroid during its heated passage through Earth’s atmosphere. You can also see lots of thumbprints or regmaglypts (left side), which form when softer materials in the rock are ablated away by brief but intense heat and pressure experienced during the fall. Credit: Ruben Garcia

On April 6, 2015, Frank Hommel was leading a group of guests at his Bar H Working Dude Ranch on a horseback ride. The horses got thirsty, so Hommel and crew rode cross-country in search of a watering hole. Along the way, his horse Samson suddenly stopped and refused to go any further.

Ahead of them was a rock sticking out of the sandy soil. Hommel had never seen his horse act this way before, so he dismounted to get a closer look at the red, dimpled mass. Something inside told him this strange, out of place boulder had to be a meteorite.

Here’s the crazy thing—Hommel’s hunch was correct. Lots of people pick up an odd rock now and then they think might be a meteorite, but in nearly every case it isn’t. Meteorites are exceedingly rare, so you’re chances of happening across one are remote. But this time horse and man got it right.

The rock that stopped Samson that April day was the real deal and would soon be classified and named the Clarendon (c) stony meteorite. Only the top third of the mass broke the surface; there was a lot more beneath the soil. Hommel used a tractor to free the beast and tow it to his home. Later, when he and his wife DeeDee got it weighed on the feed store scale, the rock registered a whopping 760 pounds (345 kilograms). Hommel with others returned to the site and recovered an additional 70 pounds (32 kilograms) of loose fragments scattered about the area.
At this point, Frank and DeeDee couldn’t be certain it was a meteorite. Yes, it attracted a magnet, a good sign, but the attraction was weak. Frank had his doubts. To prove one way or another whether this rusty boulder came from space or belonged to the Earth, DeeDee sent a photo of it to Eric Twelker of Juneau, Alaska, a meteorite seller who maintains the Meteorite Market website. Twelker thought it looked promising and wrote back saying so. Six months later, the family sent him a sample which he arranged to have tested by Dr. Tony Irving at the University of Washington.

Irving’s analysis revealed bright grains of iron-nickel metal and an abundance of chondrules, round grains composed of minerals that were flash-heated into a “fiery rain” in the solar nebula 4.5 billion years ago. When they cooled, the melted material congealed into small solid spheres several millimeters across that were later incorporated into the planetary embryos that grew into today’s planets and asteroids. Finding iron-nickel and chondrules proved beyond a shadow that the Hommels’ rock was a genuine stone from space.

In an e-mail communication, Twelker recounted his part of the story:
“I get about six to a dozen inquiries on rocks every day. I try to answer all of them—and give a rock ID if possible. I have to say my patience gets tried sometimes after looking at slag, basalt, and limestone day after day. But if I am in the right mood, then it is fun. This one made it fun. Over the years, I’ve probably had a half dozen discoveries this way, but this is by far the most exciting.”

Irving pigeonholed it as an L4 chondrite meteorite. L stands for low-iron and chondrite indicates it still retains its ancient texture of chondrules that have been little altered since their formation. No one knows how long the meteorite has sat there, but the weathering of its surface would seem to indicate for a long time. That said, Hommel had been this way before and never noticed the rock. It’s possible that wind gradually removed the loosely-bound upper soil layer—a process called deflation—gradually exposing the meteorite to view over time.

Once a meteorite has been analyzed and classification, the information is published in the Meteorite Bulletin along with a chemical analysis and circumstances of its discovery. Meteorites are typically named after the nearest town or prominent geographical feature where they’re discovered or seen to fall. Because it was found on the outskirts of Clarendon, Texas, the Hommels’ meteorite took the town’s name. The little “c” in parentheses after the name indicates it’s the third unique meteorite found in the Clarendon area. Clarendon (b) turned up in 1981 and Clarendon (a) in 1979. Both are H5 (high metal) unrelated stony chondrites.

When Clarendon (c) showed up in the Bulletin late last month, meteorite hunter, dealer and collector Ruben Garcia, better known as Mr. Meteorite, quickly got wind of it. Garcia lives in Phoenix and since 1998 has made his livelihood buying and selling meteorites. He got into the business by first asking himself what would be the funnest thing he could do with his time. The answer was obvious: hunt meteorites!

These rusty rocks, chips off asteroids, have magical powers. Ask any meteorite collector. Touch one and you’ll be transported to a time before life was even a twinkle in evolution’s eye. Their ancientness holds clues to that deepest of questions—how did we get here? Scientists zap them with ion beams, cut them into translucent slices to study under the microscope and even dissolve them in acid in search of clues for how the planets formed.


DeeDee and Frank Hommel pose with the 760 pound (345 kilogram) Clarendon (c) meteorite discovered on their land. The stony meteorite may be the second largest single chondrite ever found in the United States. It displays dark fusion crust on the topside; the bottom side, which faced down in the soil, is covered with caliche (ka-LEE-chee), a cement-like mineral deposit of calcium carbonate. Credit: Ruben Garcia

Garcia contacted the Hommels and posed a simple question:

“Hey, you have a big meteorite on your property. Do you want to sell it?”

They did. So Mr. Meteorite put the word out and two days later a buyer was found: Texas Christian University (TCU) in Ft. Worth, home to the famous Monnig Meteorite Collection. After a price was agreed upon, Garcia began making plans to return to Clarendon soon, load up the massive missive from the asteroid belt on his trailer and truck it to TCU where it will be put on public view, a centerpiece for all to admire.

“How amazing to walk into a dude ranch and see a museum quality specimen,” said Garcia on his first impression of the stone. “I’ve never seen a meteorite this big outside of a museum or gem show.” Ruben joined Frank to collect a few additional fragments which he plans to put up for sale sometime soon.

So how does Clarendon (c) rank weigh-wise to other meteorite falls and finds? Digging through my hallowed copy of Monica Grady’s Catalogue of Meteorites, it’s clear that iron meteorites take the cake for record weights among all meteorites.

But when it comes to stony chondrites, Clarendon (c) is by far the largest individual space rock to come out of Texas. It also appears to be the second largest individual chondrite meteorite ever found in the United States. Only the Paragould meteorite, which exploded over Arkansas in 1930, dropped a larger individual—820 pounds (371.9 kg) of pure meteorite goodness that’s on display at the Arkansas Center for Space and Planetary Sciences in Fayetteville. There’s truth to the saying that everything’s bigger in Texas.

Every meteorite has a story. Some are witnessed falls, while others fall unnoticed only to be discovered decades or centuries later. The Clarendon meteorite parent body spent billions of years in the asteroid belt before an impact broke off a fragment that millions of years later found its way to Earth. Did this chip off the old block bury itself in Texas soil 100 years ago, a thousand? No one can say for sure yet. But one April afternoon in 2015 they stopped a man and his horse dead in their tracks.

(courtesy of GeologyIn)


Time for Tea

Tea Time Etiquette & the History of Afternoon Tea

There are many ideas about tea etiquette and the when and how tea was first made popular in England. Charles the II grew up in exile at The Hague and thus was exposed to the custom of drinking tea. He married Catharine of Braganza who was Portuguese and who also enjoyed tea. Catharine had grown up drinking tea in Portugal-the preferred beverage of the time. It is said that when she arrived in England to marry Charles II in 1662, she brought with her a casket of tea. She became known as the tea-drinking queen — England’s first.

In England she invited her friends into her bedroom chamber to share tea with her. “Tea was generally consumed within a lady’s closet or bedchamber and for a mainly female gathering. The tea itself and the delicate pieces of porcelain for brewing and drinking it were displayed in the closet, and inventories for wealthy households during the 17th and 18th centuries list tea equipage not in kitchens or dining rooms but in these small private closets or boudoirs.” (Taken from “A Social History of Tea” by Jane Pettigrew — my favorite book about tea which is currently out of print). In the 18th century it was custom for highborn ladies to receive callers with their morning tea while “abed and bare-breasted.”

Queen Anne drank tea so regularly that she substituted a large bell-shaped silver teapot for the tiny Chinese tea pots. The earliest tea service dates from her reign.

Coffeehouses were popular in the 18th century. Women were forbidden to enter them. In 1675 members of the government persuaded Charles II to suppress them as centers of sedition. The men were so outraged that the king canceled the proclamation. Coffeehouses were also called “penny universities,” in reference to the conversation they bred and the penny admittance fee.

During the 18th century tea gardens became popular. The whole idea of the garden was for ladies and gentlemen to take their tea together outdoors surrounded by entertainers. They attracted everybody including Mozart and Handel. The tea gardens made tea all the more fashionable to drink, plus they were important places for men and women to meet freely.

History of the Afternoon Tea Party

While drinking tea as a fashionable event is credited to Catharine of Braganza, the actual taking of tea in the afternoon developed into a new social event some time in the late 1830’s and early 1840’s. Jane Austen hints of afternoon tea as early as 1804 in an unfinished novel. It is said that the afternoon tea tradition was established by Anne, Duchess of Bedford. She requested that light sandwiches be brought to her in the late afternoon because she had a “sinking feeling” during that time because of the long gap between meals. She began to invite others to join her and thus became the tradition.

Various Tea Times

  • Cream Tea — A simple tea consisting of scones, clotted cream, marmalade or lemon curd and tea.
  • Low Tea/Afternoon Tea — An afternoon meal including sandwiches, scones, clotted cream, curd, 2-3 sweets and tea. Known as “low tea” because guests were seated in low armchairs with low side-tables on which to place their cups and saucers.
  • Elevensies — Morning coffee hour in England
  • Royale Tea — A social tea served with champagne at the beginning or sherry at the end of the tea.
  • High Tea — High tea co notates an idea of elegancy and regal-ness when in fact is was an evening meal most often enjoyed around 6 pm as laborers and miners returned home. High tea consists of meat and potatoes as well as other foods and tea. It was not exclusively a working class meal but was adopted by all social groups. Families with servants often took high tea on Sundays in order to allow the maids and butlers time to go to church and not worry about cooking an evening meal for the family.

Etiquette when attending a tea party

  • Greeting/handshake
  • After sitting down — put purse on lap or behind you against chair back
  • Napkin placement — unfold napkin on your lap, if you must leave temporarily place napkin on chair.
  • Sugar/lemon — sugar is placed in cup first, then thinly sliced lemon and never milk and lemon together. Milk goes in after tea — much debate over it, but according to Washington School of Protocol, milk goes in last. The habit of putting milk in tea came from the French. “To put milk in your tea before sugar is to cross the path of love, perhaps never to marry.” (Tea superstition)
  • The correct order when eating on a tea tray is to eat savories first, scones next and sweets last. We have changed our order somewhat. We like guests to eat the scones first while they are hot, then move to savories, then sweets.
  • Scones — split horizontally with knife, curd and cream is placed on plate. Use the knife to put cream/curd on each bite. Eat with fingers neatly.
  • Proper placement of spoon — the spoon always goes behind cup, also don’t leave the spoon in the cup.
  • Proper holding of cup — do not put your pinky “up”, this is not correct. A guest should look into the teacup when drinking — never over it.

Since ancient Rome, a cultured person ate with 3 fingers, a commoner with five. Thus, the birth of the raised pinkie as a sign of elitism. This 3 fingers etiquette rule is still correct when picking up food with the fingers and handling various pieces of flatware. This pinky “up” descended from a misinterpretation of the 3 fingers vs 5 fingers dining etiquette in the 11th century.

Tea cups did not always have handles. Chinese tea bowls influenced the first European teacups. At first, the English made cups without handles in the traditional Chinese style. Not until the mid 1750’s was a handle added to prevent the ladies from burning their fingers. This improvement was copied from a posset cup, used for hot beverages-hot drink made of milk with wine, ale or spirits. The saucer was once a small dish for sauce. In Victorian days, tea drinkers poured their tea into saucers to cool before sipping, this was perfectly acceptable. This is what writers of the period mean by “a dish of tea.”

Originally tea was poured into small handle-less Chinese porcelain bowls that held about 2-3 tablespoons of tea. It is said that the idea of the saucer developed in the 17th century when the daughter of a Chinese military official found it difficult to handle the hot bowls of tea she brewed for him and asked a local potter to devise a little plate on which to place the bowl.

(Courtesy of Jane Pettigrew, author of “A Social History of Tea”),204,203,200_.jpg