Hoba: The Largest Known Iron Meteorite on Earth

It was Grootfontein in North Namibia, where a giant meteorite struck some less than 80,000 years ago. It remained at the same place since the time it arrived on the blue planet. The reason is nothing but its incredible weight. 🙂

We drove on the gravel road about 20 km west from Grootfonteint to see this giant extra-terrestrial body. We found the place very serene. There was dense vegetation. We started walking towards the meteorite. The short shady trail was quite soothing during the warm daytime.

hoba-meteorite

There are two stories behind the discovery of Hoba. According to the first version, in 1920, when a hunter named Jacobus Hermanus Brits was hunting at Farm Hoba West, he came across a strange dark grey colored surface surrounded by soil. He found the surface to be unusual so he scratched it with his knife. To his surprise the scratches shone and confirmed that it was a part of some metallic piece. Then Jacobus tried to find out more. He removed the surrounding soil that revealed entire body of the boulder. Then he chiseled off a small piece of the suspicious boulder and sent it to South West Africa (SWA; now Namibia) Maatskappy (this Africans word means company), which determined it to be an age-old meteorite.

The other version of the story says, Jacobus was a farm owner. Once while ploughing in Hoba West farm, his iron plough got stuck in the soil with a banging noise. When he dug around to remove the soil, this meteorite was revealed from underneath.

The most amazing features of Hoba meteorite are its shape and content. It is in the shape of a brick; as if some artists started sculpting it, reached the shape of a box, and left sculpting it in the middle for some reason. It is made of 82.4% iron, the substantial figure to name it as an iron meteorite. The rest 16.4% portion contains Nickel, Cobalt, Phosphorus, Carbon, Copper, Zinc, Gallium, Iridium, and other minerals that are not found on the earth. The local guide showed us the portion where iron piece was chipped off. It was shining so brightly in the Sun!

hoba-meteorite-iron-contentOnstudying the radioactive nickel isotope present in the boulder, the geologists figured out Hoba’s age to be at least 190 million years and at most 400 million years. It is estimated to weigh 66 tons at the time when it struck the earth. Later, due to oxidation, high winds, erosion, and vandalism, it lost its mass. Today, Hoba is estimated to be weighing about 60 tons.

The American Museum of National History at Manhattan initiated the purchase this meteorite from Namibia in 1954. The idea did not materialize due to transportation problems. The local community intimated Namibian Government about this and then the meteorite was declared as a national monument in year 1955. In 1985, Rössing Uranium Ltd. provided financial support to Namibian Government to guard the meteorite against public vandalism. Today, Hoba is surrounded by a cement structure and steps to enhance its view and facilitate the tourists to observe it from very near.

The curious cats like us wondered; what formula(e) did the geologists use to calculate its

hoba-meteorite-top-view

Hoba Meteorite Top View  Image, taken from a helicopter. Courtsey: Sqn Ldr Raja Pandiyan

 

weight, when there is absolutely no chance to move it?

How did Hoba acquire its box shape naturally? Was it semi-molten, so could achieve this shape while striking the earth?

How come there are no creators formed on nearby land, when such a massive object struck the Terra Firma? Have they vanished under trees or soil?

The local guide could not provide us answers of these questions. But nature is a good teacher. It teaches that not all questions have answers. Some questions have no logical answers; or no answers at all…

Determining to find out more information on our unanswered questions, we boarded our car and started journey back to Grootfontein.

Quick Facts of Hoba Meteorite

Here are some quick facts of Hoba meteorite:

Weight:            60 tons
Dimensions:  Length 9 ft  x  Width 9 ft  x  Height 3 ft
Contents:        82.4% Iron + 16.2% Nickel + Other minerals
Location:         Near Grootfontein, Northern Namibia.

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