Burnin' Desire

Tue, 4 Jun 2002

While watching TV(WZVN tv - Naples, Fl.) one morning, I was amazed to hear about some young people finding a meteorite in Naples, Florida. (not far from Fort Myers) The young people had heard a noise and found the 'hot meteorite'. The report showed the tree base where a fire was started by the "meteorite." A tupperware bowl containing a grey palm frond (with scorch marks) and three/four small white fragments. The remains of the burning "meteorite". The report said the meteorite was "magnetic."

I immediately emailed the following to the News Director:

Hi. The "hot" meteorite found in Naples by the young person is probably a hoax. The video footage of the "meteorite" in the bowl does NOT appear to be meteorite fragments. Meteorites of this size do NOT land hot!

Ken Newton

He replied:
Thanks for your comments. NASA is testing and they will let us know for sure. [Which later proved to be not true!-kn]
Darrel Adams
News Director

The TV evening report included that 'many persons' had phoned in after the earlier report and some had doubted that it was a real meteorite.(Hum?) (This was said in a matter suggesting "How could anyone question this story???") Also added were comments from an expert from the Smithsonian Institution that hot meteorites are extremely rare but possible.(Hum? Hum?)

I then emailed Kevin Kichinka to see if he knew any extra. Kevin was way, way ahead of me...

Kevin Kichinka reported:
Last night and again this morning, the local NBC affiliate has featured a "meteorite " that was discovered in Naples, Florida just down the road from my town of Fort Myers. Any meteorite from Florida would be especially interesting since we only have Bonita Springs H5 (found in an Caloosa Indian midden where a 7-11 now exists), Grayton H5 (found on a beach in an Indian midden), Okeechobee L4 (probably dredged up when they dug the channel across the lake, misspelled in the Cat of Mets as "Okechobee") and Eustis H4 (plowed up in a central FLA field- shades of Nebraska!).
I was alerted to the story by a friend and called the station to talk to the reporter. I was told by the receptionist that the specimen(s) had already been sent to Tampa for authentication
[also untrue-kn]

I'm not aware of anybody in Tampa that would know a chondrite from a conch shell. Esteemed list member Greg Shanos lives 1/2-way there in Sarasota, however. And for an extra dime, they could send the mess to Dave Weir near Orlando........
The reporter came on the line and told me that:
1. Some of the rocks stuck to a magnet
2. They were burnt and smelled burnt
3. Where they fell they caused a palm tree to catch fire.
4. The rocks were hot when they were picked up
5. The girls that collected the rocks heard a noise from the sky.
The reporter said that she had the rocks in a Tupperware container and hadn't sent them off yet.
[so they weren't at NASA!-kn]
We agreed to meet at a KMart parking lot.
At 7 tonight, the reporter and her photographer met me for our Tupperware party. I looked at the collection of rocks and burnt pieces of palm fronds, asked some questions and discovered these facts.
Two girls, age 11 and 14 live with their high-school-age brother and a single Mom who works in the tile business. They live in a condo in East Naples. Only the Mom was interviewed by the reporter and she called in the secondhand report.
This last Saturday afternoon, a hot and sunny day, the girls were playing "Barbie" (the reporter found this a "little unusual" considering the girls ages) in their common area. Suddenly they heard a noise (unwitnessed by others) and another noise in a cabbage palm tree about 30'/9m away from them in a landscaped area. At the base of the palm tree they found burning palm pieces (from the palm "boots") that they claimed had been torn off of the trees and ignited by the hot burning meteorites they also found under the tree. They "stamped out the fire" and collected the palm pieces and rocks (hot, but not too hot). They showed them to their Mom and older brother and everyone agreed that they were meteorites.....or space debris. Notably, and to his credit, the older brother has a bedroom full of space memorabilia and enjoys looking through his new telescope.
The reporter called Florida Gulf Coast University and spoke to a Professor who said that "Space Debris is extremely common."
And all of this is on TV.
The rocks were small, relatively light in weight and internally beige colored. Under a 10x they exhibited porosity and reflected round crystals. They were burnt, and the ash coated my fingers.
"These are most likely coral rock or limestone that were burned in a fire."
Two very small slivers were attached to a magnet. I pulled them off and checked them out. They were rusty and probably just construction, not space, debris.
One of the palm tree pieces was about 6"/15cm and had a burned end far in excess to the tiny size of the collected stones.
The story also appeared on the ABC affiliate, his final verdict - "We'll probably never know if these rocks were meteorites."
Yes, we will.
And Moms, don't let your kids play with matches.
Kevin Kichinka

Epiloque: I have emailed the News Director three times asking about the NASA report. He has not responded.
There has been no follow-up to correct this misleading story.
Thank you - Kevin for seeking out the truth!
Ken Newton

SEE: Fourth-grader finds meteorite in yard

SEE: Boy Sees Meteorite Land In Backyard

SEE: Teenager Hit by 'Meteorite' Seeks Expert Opinion