Tag Archives: Grootfontein

Meteorites – Nature’s gifts from the sky

We were up very early last week hoping to see the Leonid meteorite shower, but unfortunately we have a huge hill behind our property that obscured our view.  The Leonid shower occurs every year in November, but this year it was more visible than usual due to the phase of the moon being new,  making the night sky much darker than in previous years.

I have mentioned in earlier blogs that the Namibian sky is spectacular for astronomy – one can almost always be guaranteed a cloud-free view of the milky way, millions upon millions of beautiful stars, meteorites and occasional comets.

On the subject of meteorites, though, did you know that the largest meteorite in the world is found in Namibia?  I’m referring to the Hoba meteorite near Grootfontein.  This magnificent object landed some 80 000 years ago – hopefully there were no humans or animals directly in its path!

The Hoba meteorite found on the farm 'Hoba West'

The Hoba meteorite found on the farm 'Hoba West'

It didn’t break up on its journey to the earth, however, and to quote Wikipedia “it is inferred that the earth’s atmosphere slowed the object down to the point that it fell to the surface at terminal velocity, thereby remaining intact and causing little excavation.  The meteorite is unusual in that it is flat on both the major surfaces, possibly causing it to have skipped across the top of the atmosphere in the way a flat stone skips on water.”

Weighing in at over 50 tons - this is one big meteorite

Weighing in at over 50 tons - this is one big meteorite

The meteorite has been declared a National Monument and a tourist centre has been opened at the site.   Every year thousands of visitors come to Namibia to see it or include it in their travels.  This board gives a little bit more information about its composition.

Information board at the Visitors Centre

Information board at the Visitors Centre

In Windhoek’s Post Office Mall one can see fragments of the Gibeon meteorite shower, which was one of the most extensive showers ever experienced on earth.  They have been beautifully mounted and tagged so that visitors can read all about how they fell and what they are composed of.   Other fragments can be seen at the museum of the Geological Survey of Namibia and in museums around the world.

Far more visible than being in a museum

Far more visible than being in a museum

They were discovered in 1838 by James Alexander and get their name from the area around Gibeon where they were found.  Long before their discovery the native folks of the Gibeon area had been using the meteorite pieces to make spear points and other implements.

A look inside a meteorite

A look inside a meteorite

The Gibeon meteorites are classified as octahedrites and consist of taenite and kamacite – crystalline varieties of an iron-nickel alloy.  As can be seen from the scratches on the metal above, vandalism is always a problem – or is it just curiosity?

A trifle bizarre!

When you think back over your life, who are the folks that you remember most? It’s not the quiet peaceful guys that stand out in your mind but those unconventional people who did extraordinary things, drove you mad, or made you laugh. It’s these delicious characters who make life colourful and its always a delight to come across them. You’ve probably met quite a few in your lifetime and no doubt they will spring to mind when you read this. Perhaps you’re even one of them! If so, good for you.

My own family has been blessed with crazy souls – I remember my eighty year old father-in-law replacing the entire roof of his house without any help whatsoever. This was an amazing feat for an octogenarian, but sometimes his enthusiasm for the job was so overwhelming that he forgot to dress appropriately and on at least three occasions he was caught working in his slippers which didn’t give him any grip on the slanting roof.  His craziness wasn’t limited to fixing roofs in his eighties, but we won’t go there right now.

You have to be a bit weird to ride a bicycle across continents don’t you think. I have to admit that being married to someone who does this occasionally makes for an interesting life. We met an Australian male nurse one Christmas and told him that Rob had ridden across Australia in just twenty-eight days (see account of this trip and others under his Cycling page on this site) but this gentleman was totally unimpressed, telling us that he had ridden around the whole perimeter of Australia on a horse. Well not exactly one horse – it had taken him four years and numerous horses to make this incredible journey. His hobby was to go around the world and join in re-enactments of cavalry charges of famous battles. I just love these people who travel the road less ordinary.

I could go on about eccentrics and achievers we know, but let me tell you that unusual behaviour is not limited to homo-sapiens. We’ve seen quite a few animals that defy typical behaviour for their species.

Some people take domestication of animals to extremes. We came across this goat at the same place where we met the Australian horseman and were amazed at how this animal was addicted to TV. According to his owner he loved watching sport and would sit on the couch for hours glued to the telly. However, if they changed channels to SkyNews, it would really get his goat (sorry about that) and he would promptly drop off to sleep. This same household also had a beautiful otter as a pet, but it’s toilet training left a lot to be desired. 

Oh no! Not SkyNews again!

Oh no! Not SkyNews again!

We spent last Christmas at a farm in Namibia called Namibgrens and here we came across a tame baboon that had been hand-reared by the farmer when its mother was killed accidentally. Bobby was a real character because he grew up with a herd of goats and didn’t realize that he wasn’t one himself. He spends his days harassing the goats on the farm to such an extent that one has to feel quite sorry for them. Bobby’s fame spread far and wide when he captured the imagination of the editor of a magazine called Drive Out and featured in a little write up on the leader page.  

Bobby thinks he's a goat

Bobby thinks he's a goat

At Roys Camp near Grootfontein we were preparing a New Year’s Eve braai when an Eland walked into our campsite and helped itself to half a loaf of bread on the table. Once it had finished eating it came and said hello before disappearing into the bushes. We were left wondering what his story was.  

Rob and the Eland

Rob and the Eland

At most of the campsites we visit we usually find hungry cats and always put milk out for them. They are mostly wild and very timid. However, at Harnass, a wildlife rehabilitation centre on the eastern side of Namibia, we were visited by an enormous ginger cat and his companion, a mongoose. What an unlikely friendship.

Strange friends

Strange friends

If you spot warthogs in the wild they usually run off at great speed with their tails straight up in the air. At the Chobe Safari Lodge campsite in the Caprivi, we were a little intimidated when an enormous warthog came into our space. We needn’t have worried though, as he turned out to be quite docile with a penchant for Romany Cream biscuits!

Warthog at Chobe

Warthog at Chobe

Even birds sometimes show their little characters in delightful ways. This crow at Sossusvlei caused much amusement in our party when he aggressively jostled with the bulbuls and sparrows for bread. He didn’t eat it however, but buried it all around the area to dig up at a later stage. I guess that is a survival thing in the desert. We had to hang onto our food as he was quite prepared to grab it off the table in front of us. 

Bread thieving crow

Bread thieving crow

And lastly, this sweet little Trac Trac Chat greeted us on arrival at the Moon Landscape near Swakopmund and followed us around as we checked out the scenery. He was no slouch as can be seen from his dead straight back. I immediately stood more erect in his presence! He so impressed our party that  my brother Vaughan and Mary made up a limerick about him on our drive home.  (This is an abridged version!   Note:  Vaughan and Mary join our list of weird and wonderful people as they make up limericks about everything in sight)

The chat is a quaint little bird
Who lives in a place quite absurd
With just desert and sand
And no food right on hand
He’s thinking of moving, we’ve heard 

Welcoming Trac Trac Chat

Welcoming Trac Trac Chat

These wonderful encounters, both human and animal, make life so interesting and I can’t wait to see who or what will be next to enrich our lives.