COPINSAY Orkney, Stone (doubtful), fell 1676
GLENROTHES, Fife. Stone (H4?), found 1998
HIGH POSSIL, Strathclyde, Stone (L6), fell 1804
LOCK TAY, Stone (doubtful), fell 1802
PERTH, Perthshire, Stone (LL5), fell 1830
STRATHMORE, Perthshire, Stone (L), fell 1917
Notices of Aerolites. By Nevil Story Maskelyne.
A small stone fell on the field known as the North Inch at Perth on May 17, 1830. The only record of its fall that I have as yet been able to trace is that which accompanied two small specimens of the aerolite, and is in the handwriting of the late Dr. Thomson of Glasgow, in whose collection it was preserved. Mr. Nevill became the owner of the specimens, and presented one of them to the Museum. He very liberally also let me have a microscopic section cut from his own specimen.
The note in Dr. Thomson's writing is as follows:˜-"Part of a meteorolite that fell on the North Inch of Perth during a thunderstorm on the 17th of May, 1830, at half-past 12 o'clock noon. The mass of which this is a portion was about 7 inches in diameter."
The section of this little stone exhibits a beautiful structure, placing it high in the series of chondritic aerolites. The spherules in it are rather numerous and pretty distinct, and exhibit great variety. The fanned kind of spherule, and some very sharp crystals of a mineral with a diagonal cleavage, are set in a small amount of a granular ground-mass. The general aspect of the stone presents a bluish-grey hue.
The iron in it is present in small particles very sparingly scattered, and also in some amount as fine microscopic (introcrystalline) dust. The particles of meteoric pyrites are in considerable excess over the iron particles, and there are seen here and there on a section small isolated spots of rust. Its specific gravity is = 3.494.
Perth County Police were last week engaged investigating an occurance which took place on December 2 in the afternoon. In the Blairgowrie, Coupar-Angus, and Strathmore districts a noise was heard like a peal of thunder, and near Perth a similar sound was heard, resembling distant thunder. The lodge at Keithick House, Coupar-Angus, was struck by a falling object, which penetrated the roof of the house. The article weighs about 2 lbs., is 4 ins. in length, and about 3 ins. in height, bearing irregular marks. It was taken to Perth, and was submitted to Mr. Henry Coates, curator of the Perthshire Society of Natural Science Museum. for examination. He was unable, however, to make any definate statement, and said it will require to be analysed. He described it as looking like a mass of iron slag.
There has been discovered in a grassfield on the farm of Easter Essendy, near Blairgowrie, a large piece of the meteorite that fell in Strathmore last Monday week. When the explosions were heard high in the heavens, Mr, Charles Small, foreman at Easter Essendy, noticed the sheep in a field running off to another part, but thought no more about the matter until the report apeared that a piece of the meteorite had struck a cottage at Keithick, Coupar Angus. On Thursday Mr Steel examined the place from which the sheep had fled, and found a large "stone," weighing 22¼ lb., shaped like a causeway block, buried about 20 inches in the ground. The "stone" is very dark, and pretty much "pitted," and is similar to the part found at Keithick. It has been taken possession of by the county police.
--I send you the following which appeared in the People's Journal, and which
is supplementary to the notes you have already given in your "Scientific News."
Sir,--As there still exists a certain amount of doubt in the public mind regarding the phenomena which were witnessed in the Coupar Angus and Blairgowrie districts on Monday, 3rd inst., I suggested to the Cheif Constable of Perthshire, who agreed, to the publication of the following facts:--
Up to the present time three fragments have been recovered, namely:--(1) The fragment which fell through the roof of the lodge at Keithick, weighing 2 lbs. 8ozs.; (2) fragment, weighing 2 lbs. 4 oz., which fell close to the farm steading of Carsie, 2½ miles S.S.W. from Blairgowrie; and (3) a large mass, weighing 22 lbs. 8 ozs., which fell in a grass field 500 yards from the farm steading of Easter Essendy, in the parish of Kinloch, about two miles W.S.W. from Blairgowrie.
By permission I took the Keithick fragment to Edinburgh on Wednesday, 5th inst., and had it examined by the officers of the Geological Survey and by Dr. M'Lintock, Superintendent of the Department of Geology in the Royal Scotish Museum. These authorities pronounced it to be unquestionably a meteorite of the variety known as a Siderolite--that is, a meteorite containing both metalic and mineral ingredients. It displays all the characteristics of a typical meteorite both as regards its texture and its configuration.
Two remarkable facts have come to light in connection with the finding of specimens (2) and (3). The fall of the Carsie specimen was actually witnessed by a person who was standing at a distance of about twenty yards from the spot where it fell, and who saw it enter the ground. In the case of the Essendy specimum, the finder was guided to the spot where it fell by the commotion caused amongst a flock of sheep who were feeding in a field. The question arises--Has any mortal hitherto witnessed the actual arrival on earth of one of these celestial visitants?--Henry Coats, Curator, The Museum, Tay Street, Perth, December 8, 1917. Fall of Meteorites in Strathmore, Perth, December 3, 1917. By W. F. Denning, F.R.A.S.
Three fragments fell, viz. (one) at Keithick Lodge, about 2 miles W.S.W. of Cupar Angus (weighing 2 ½ lbs.), where it penetrated the slate roof of the house; (two) at Carsie Farm, about 3 miles N.W. from Keithick (weighing 2 ¼ lbs.), where it was seen to fall into a grass field by a farmer's wife standing about 20 yards away; and (three) near Easter Essendy, 2 miles W.S.W. from Blairgowrie (weighing 22 ½ lbs), where it embedded itself in a grass field to the depth of 18 to 20 inches.
The attention of the police was called to the startling event, and they took possession of the fallen bodies pending further investigations.
Preliminary inquiry as to the nature of the objects proved them to be genuine meteorites of the class known as siderolites, consisting of an admixture of iron and stone.
Observations of the luminous flight of the meteor, before its explosion, fracture, and fall, were numerous, but very rough and not in good agreement. They appear to show, however, that the direction of motion, as estimated, was, in conformity with that suggested by the distribution of the fragments in a line running nearly S.E. to N.W. The apparent astronomical radiant point was probably at R.A. 302° Dec. North 24° in the small asterism Sagitta in about azimuth 310° (counted W. from S.) and altitude nearly 50°. The exact point over which the meteor became luminous is uncertain, but it entered on the coast of Scotland near Wester Anstruther when about 40 miles high and must probably, some time before this, having flashed out in the daylight sky. It passed over the Firth of Tay when about 18 miles high and continued its steep descent until its largest fragment ultimately found a resting place on the farm land at Easter Essendy. (It has since been heard that another fragment weighing 2 ¼ lbs. fell at Corston. This was the first that fell, and the four pieces seem to have been distributed over a line 6 miles long from S.E. to N.W. in direction.)
The radiant point in Sagitta was previously known as one occasionally supplying very slow and brilliant meteors in December. On the nights from the 1st to the 10th of that month in 1917 (the meteorite fell on the 3rd), eight fine meteors were observed and their paths recorded by Mrs Wilson or by others attached to the meteoric section of the B.A.A. We may conclude, therefore, that the Strathmore meteorite formed a member of a well-defined shower and was not apparently isolated in space, as certain other fine objects of this class appear to have been.
Meteorite weighing 22 ½ lbs., that fell at Easter Essendy, Perth, on 1917, December 3, 1.18 pm.
From a photograph by Mr Henry Coates, F.R.S.E., and reproduced by his permission.
On Monday, the 3rd of December, 1917, at a quarter past one in the afternoon,
there occurred in the Strathmore district of Perthshire and Forfarshire one of
the most remarkable meteoric falls that has ever been recorded in the British Isles,
and certainly the most remarkable that has been recorded in Scotland.(See Appendix A.)
The day was a particularly bright one for the time of the year, with clear frosty air,
brilliant sunshine, and only a few cirrus and cumulus clouds covering one-tenth of the sky.
The thermometer, at nine in the morning, had been standing at 20 d'eg. Fahr.,
and the barometer at 30.240 inches, while the hydroscope showed 100 per cent,
of humidity in the atmosphere. The wind was from the S.W., with force one,
equal to two miles per hour. I mention these meteorological details,
not that they have any connection, with the phenomenon itself,
but on account of their bearing on visibility, and the transmission of
sound—important factors in weighing the evidence received from various quarters.
Under these conditions, then, and about the time specified, a visitor from space was seen to enter our atmosphere. I say " seen," because, as will soon be evident, it is necessary to draw a-sharp distinction between what was seen and what was heard. The appearance which presented itself in the heavens was that of a ball of fire swiftly moving across the sky, leaving behind it a brilliantly luminous trail, gradually becoming more attenuated, until it seemed to end in a shower of sparks. (Plate 5). This description I take from the combined reports of several witnesses. One witness, viewing it from a geographical distance of over 40 miles, describes it as a truly magnificent spectacle, even as seen in the brilliant noonday sunshine of a particularly bright day. The same phenomenon seen on a dark night would have been awenspiring indeed. The head of the comet-like body is described by some as being of a fiery red colour, but witth a yellowish tinge in it, while the trail was of a pale blue-green colour, shading off into what looked like red-hot sparks.
This body was seen from Aboyne, Aberdeenshire, in the north; from Hexham, Northumberlandshire, in England; from St. Boswells, Roxburghshire, in the south of Scotland ; from Edinburgh, I.eith and Musselburgh; from St. Andrews and Crossgates in Fife; and from Perth and Burrelton in the immediate neighbourhood. So far as my information goes, only one person both saw the meteor and heard the subsequent detonation. I am not now, of course, referring to the fall of the actuail meteoric fragment, which was witnessed by Mrs. Welsh as it reached the earth at Carsie. What I am referring to is the incandescent mass as seen in the high heavens before its disruption. The person who witnessed this and also heard it explode was Mrs. Alex. McLaren, living at 40 Queen Street, Craigie, Perth. She says that while gazing up into the sky, as she frequently does, she saw a ball of fire, followed by a trail of light, rush across the sky, and disappear behind a small grey cloud. Before it had time to emerge on the other side of the cloud, she heard the sound as of a terrific explosion, and saw nothing more. It is true it was both seen and heard from Aboyne, but not by the same people.
It is a remarkable fact that while the meteor was seen by a large number of people at distances of forty miles from Strathmore, we have only two records of its being seen from points at distances less than forty miles, namely, the Perth record, already referred to, and one at Bunrelton, only about two miles from Coupar Angus, where Mr. George Miller, Innkeeper, saw what he describes as " two swirls in the sky." The explanation of this, no doubt, is that at a distance of forty miles or more the angle of vision would be a comparatively low one, so that a person who happened to be walking in the proper direction, and whose gaze was elevated even to a moderate extent, could hardly fail to see it; whereas, nearer to the centre of disturbance, an observer would require to have been gazing nearly vertically upwards, as Mrs. McLaren said she frequently did.
When we come to analyse the records of what was heard, we find that they are in exactly the inverse ratio from the records of what was seen. The former diminish with the increase of the distance from Strathmore and practically cease beyond thirty miles, while the latter diminish as we approach Strathmore, and practically cease within the thirty mile radius, with one or two notable exceptions in both series. This will be strikingly apparent on comparing the tables of distances and directions which are appended to this paper,(See Appendix B.)
Practically all these witnesses agree that the meteor, when they saw it, was travelling in a direction approximately from South East to North West, the angle of elevation, of course, varying with the point from which it was seen. It seems to have entered the earth's atmosphere and become luminous somewhere off the south-east coast of Scotland, and to have travelled in an oblique and gradually descending course until after it had crossed the Carse of Gowrie and the Sidlaws. Up to that point, the friction exercised by the atmosphere, acting against a body travelling at a stellar velocity of some twenty miles per second, would be a constantly increasing quantity, as the body gradually descended into the regions of increasing atmospheric density. At length a point would be reached when the surface tension of the glowing mass would not be able to resist the enormous force generated by the difference in temperature and pressure between the interior and exterior of the body, with the result that the whole mass disrupted into fragments, producing in doing so a detonation which was heard over an area of hundreds of square miles. Judging by the curvature of the outer surfaces seen in the fragments which have been recovered, I have estimated that the original body, before its disruption, must have been at least four feet in diameter, although this calculation is subject to certain doubtful factors. If it approached anything like that size, however, it is evident that only an infinitesimal proportion of the whole has been recovered. No doubt many fragments may have fallen in the water or waste land or among vegetation, but probably the largest proportion was dissipated into dust and gases, as it the case with the vast majority of the meteorites or " shooting stars " which enter our atmosphere every night.
If we next examine the evidence as to the nature, intensity, and direction of the sounds which were heard, we find that there is pretty general agreement amongst the various witnesses, the testimony varying chiefly according to the distance and angle from which the sound was heard. Thus in the immediate neighbourhood over which the explosion took place, it is described not only as a very loud but as a very sharp explosion. Many of the witnesses speak of the first explosion being followed by several reports of less intensity. These were probably produced by reverberations from clouds, or perhaps from inequalities of land surface. Others again speak of a loud humming sound, as of a projectile or an aeroplane rushing through the air. This may have been the sound of the original great mass being hurled through the atmosphere before its disruption. The observer at Aboyne estimated the time which elapsed between the meteor being seen and the detonation heard, and, allowing for the rate at which sound travels, he calculated the distance, at the time of the explosion, to be 70 miles. As Aboyne is at a horizontal distance of 40 miles from Strathmore, this would imply that the body was about 50 miles vertically above the earth's surface when it exploded. Mr. W. F. Denning of Bristol, however, one of our leading authorities on meteoric falls, to whom I sent all the evidence I had collected, gives it as his opinion that it had reached an elevation of only 14 miles from the earth's surface when it became non-luminous and exploded.(See Appendix C.)
We have now reached the stage in the history of our celestial visitor when it ceases to be a meteor, and becomes a congeries of meteorites, that is, a number of fragments of inert matter, still warm, but not glowing with incandescence of white heat; and falling towards the earth by the attraction of the force of gravity, but not with the velocity of a stellar body. When at length they reached the solid surface of the earth, all the available evidence seems to prove that both their great initial velocity and their great acquired heat were almost or altogether exhausted. These conclusions we arrive at because, as regards (i) the velocity, we find that the Keithick fragment, while it pierced the slates and roofing boards of the Lodge, had not sufficient impetus left to penetrate the lath and plaster ceiling of the room; while the Carsie fragment, weighing 2¼ lbs., was only able to sink to a depth of some six inches into the soil of a ploughed field, while the Essendy fragment, weighing nearly ten times as much, penetrated only" eleven inches through the turf of a grass field. As regards (2) the heat, again, we find that the Keithick fragment produced no appearance or smell of burning in the roof or ceiling of the Lodge, while the Carsie fragment, which was extracted from the ground by M.rs. Welsh's son ten minutes after it fell, produced no noticeable effect of heat or cold in his hand, and the Essendy fragment caused no appearance of scorching in the grass surrounding the hole, or even in the clods which were thrown out by the impact. The conclusion is, therefore, that the energy which the body possessed before its disruption must have been dissipated, partly by the opposition it encountered through the friction of the atmosphere, and partly by the expenditure of energy in the actual disruption itself, and its accompanying' detonation.
We have now brought our fragments to earth, and to rest, and their interest changes from the astronomical to the mineralogical sphere. To us, inhabitants of the earth, they have become meteorites pure and simple, inert bodies of a definite mineralogical character and chemical composition, susceptible of microsoopical examination, chemical analysis, and tests for specific gravity, besides the more obvious investigations of weight and measurement. For the result of some of these methods of investigation, we shall have to wait for a considerable time, as the processes involved are of extreme delicacy and complexity, and can only be carried out by the aid of the highest skill available in the country.
In the meantime, however, it is possible to give a general description of the external characters of the various fragments which were recovered.
Before describing them seriatitn, it may be well to enquire as to which of the three recognised types of meteorite they should be referred. These three types, which merge gradually into each other, are represented by meteorites which consist (a) mainly of iron, (b) mainly of iron and stone, both in large proportions, and (c) almost wholly of stone (Fletcher), and are known respectively as Siderites, Siderolites, and Aerolites. On a first cursory examination, I was inclined to classify the Strathmore Meteorites as belonging to the second group (Siderolites), as they manifestly contain a very appreciable proportion of iron, but Dr. McLintock has no hesitation in referring them to the third group, and pronouncing them to be Aerolites. Certainly the non-metallic stony material largely predominates in their composition, although the metallic particles glisten throughout the mass. Where an edge has been chipped, so as to reveal a fresh fracture of the interior mass, the latter is seen to present the appearance of a fine-grained crystalline rock, of a light grey colour, resembling perhaps a very fine granite more than any other known terrestrial rock, and yet differing from it in some particulars. Through this grey magma are scattered the metallic particles already referred to, consisting, most probably, of an alley of iron and nickel. For particulars regarding the remaining constituents we must await the results of the detailed analysis.
These characters being common to all the fragments recovered, we may now take up the examination of the fragments individually. Four in all were found, three in Perthshire, and one in Forfarshire. Taking them in the order in which they were got, they are as follows:—
1. The Keithick Fragment, weighing 2 lbs. 8 oz. (Plate 6).' This was the fragment which crashed through
the roof of the South Lodge, Keitthick (Plate 7), 1¼ miles south-west from Coupar Angus, occupied by
Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hill, and their daughter, Miss Mary Hill. It was first discovered by the latter,
who climbed on to the low roof by means of a ladder immediately after the fall, snd saw it resting
on the upper surface of the ceiling below. It was not removed until the following day, however,
when Mr. George S. Mann, slater, Coupar Angus, took it out, and repaired the hole in the roof.
This fragment is roughly cuboidlal in shape, two of the axes being about three inches, and the
third axis about five inches. Two of the surfaces are slightly spherical, and represent the outer
surface of the original mass. The other four are fractured surfaces. All six surfaces exhibit the
characteristic black coating of thin fused skin, except where they have been chipped in striking
the roof of the Lodge. One end is rather smaller than the other, and is evidently the one which was
in front in travelling through the air, as it is more damaged than the other end. The great interest
of this fragment lies in the fact that it seems to be the only one which has been recorded in this
country as having struck and penetrated a building, although one similar incident has been recorded from India.
2. The Carsie Fragment, weighing 2 lbs. 6 oz. (Plate 8). This fragment is in some respects the most remarkable of the four. It is conical in shape, coming to a sharp point at one end, and exhibits in a very perfect degree the stream-lines which are sometimes produced in meteorites by a creeping or flowing motion set up in the fused and semi-fluid outer layer during its rapid passage through the atmosphere. These striae, or stream-dines, all run from the pointed end backwards, indicating that the fragment travelled through the air in the same position as does a pointed shell from a gun. An interesting feature of this fragment is that its fractured surfaces show only a rudimentary crust, which must have been caused by rapid partial fusion, after the disruption of the original mass.
This fragment fell close to the farm steading of Carsie, 2½ miles south from Blairgowrie, occupied by Mr. and Mrs. James Welsh and their son, James Douglas Welsh. Mrs. Welsh was standing at the door of her house, within twenty yards of the spot where it fell, and actually saw it enter the ground. (Plate 9). So far as I am aware, there is only one other record of a meteorite having been seen to fall to the ground in this country, and only one or two in other lands.
3. The Essendy Fragment, weighing 22 lbs. 4 oz. (Plate 10). This is a truly magnificent specimen of a meteorite, which has few rivals among British examples. It forms nearly a perfect cube, each face being some seven or eight inchs square. It is coated on all sides with the usual black varnish, or fusion crust, and exhibits besides very characteristic pittings, or " thumb-marks," on three of the sides, produced by the great heat to which it had been subjected. The remaining sides are comparatively smooth, and represent the original curved outer surface.
This fragment fell to earth in a grass park on the farm of Easter Essendy, in the Parish of Kinloch, two miles south-west from Blairgowrie, belonging to Mr. Charles Howard Scott. (Plate 11). In this park a flock of sheep were feeding, which scattered in all directions when the meteorite fell among them. Charles Smart, the foreman on the farm, and two of the ploughmen, were standing at the steading, about 500 yards distant, and saw the commotion, hut it was not until the following day that they went into the park, and discovered the cause. The hole in the ground was about 18 or 20 inches deep, and about as wide. It had a slight dip towards the north-west, and on that side some clods had been thrown out, showing that the meteorite had fallen in a slightly oblique direction, from the south-east. The ground, both here and at Carsie, was frozen at least as far down as the fragments had penetrated, otherwise the holes would doubtless have been deeper than they were.
4. The Corston Fragment. (Plate 12). This fragment, which weighs 2 lbs. 5 oz., fell on the lawn adjoining the farm house of South Carston, tenanted by Mr. Thomas A. Buttar, two milles south-east of Coupar Angus, and on the Hallyburton Estate, in Forfarshire. (Plate 13). At the time of the fall, on 3rd December, some of the farm workers, who were in an adjoining field, about 200 yards distant, were under the impression that something had' fallen near the house, but it was not until four days later, on the morning of Friday, 7th December, that the fragment was found by William Duff, gardener at Corston. It had made an oblique hole in the ground, about five inches wide and six inches deep, dipping towards the north-west at an angle of about 20 degrees. The spot was only a few inches from a flower bed, where it might easily have been overlooked, and not fifty yards from a pond, where it would certainly have been lost. This fragment shows the same tabular form as the Essendy and Keithick fragments, showing very evidently that it has come from the same original mass. It exhibits two faces of disruption fracture, which are practically at right angles to each other. The surface is entirely covered with the usual black fusiion skin, except at one point, where it seems to have struck a stone on entering the ground, and got chipped. It shows several well-defined "thumb-marks," and numerous stream lines, or striae, running from the point backwards. It is sf ins. long, the other two dimensions being 2¾ ins., and 2 3/8 ins. (= 143 x 70 x 60 millimetres).
It is interesting to note the geographical relation of the spots where these four fragments fell.
They are all practically in one straight line, extending a distance of about six miles, from South Corston
on the south-east to Easter Essendy on the north-west, and passing through Keithick Lodge and Carsie at
intervals of about two miles, more or less. (Plate 14). This corroborates the view that the path of the meteor,
before its disruption, was from S.E. to N.W.
It now only remains to mention the destination of tlhese four fragments, at the date of reading this paper. All four were claimed by the Crown Authorities, and were sent to the King's Remembrancer for Scotland in Edinburgh, for disposal. The Director of the Royal Scottish Museum was instructed to select two of the fragments for that Institution, and he chose the Essendy and Carsie Fragments, as exhibiting the most interesting and characteristic features. The remaining two fragments were directed to be returned to the finders, those being Miss Mary Hill in the case of the Keithick Fragment, and Mr. Thomas Buttar in the case of the Corston Fragment. The Keithick Fragment is now in the possession of Miss Brodie-Wood, the owner of the Keithick property. The final destination of the Corston Fragment is uncertain. In the meantime, Mr. Buttar has very kindly placed it on temporary loan in our Museum, and has indicated that in all probability the Perthshire Natural History Museum will form its ultimate Testing- place. I am indebted to my friend, Mr. Thomas M'Laren, Burgh Surveyor, for preparing- the three diagrammatic sketches which accompany this paper.
APPENDIX A. The Perth Meteorite of 1830
(this has been placed under the entry for the Perth fall)
APPENDIX B. Records of Distances and Directions from which the Meteor was seen, and the Detonation heard. Place. Distance. Direction. Seen by Heard by. Miles. In the District, 0 —- -- 10 Burrelton, 2 S.W. 1 -- Dundee, 12 S.E. -- Several. Glencarse, 13 S.5°W. -- Several. Perth, 14 S.W. 1 9 Cotton, 16 S.W. -- 1 Forfar, 16 E.N.E. -- Several. St. Andrews, 22 S.E. -- 1 Crossgates, 32 S. 1 -- Bridge of Allan, 37 S.W. 2 -- Leith, 39 S. 1 -- Aboyne, 40 N.N.E. 1 1 Edinburgh, 41 S. 7 -- Callander, 42 W.S.W. 3 -- Musselburgh, 44 S.10°E. 1 -- Port of Monteith, 46 S.W. 2 -- St. Boswells, 71 S. by E. Several -- Hexham, 126 S.S.E. 1 -- N.B.—The distances and directions are reckoned from Coupar Angus.APPENDIX C.