The best place to look for and find meteorites are in arid climates, deserts are a perfect environment for meteorites.
Meteorites contain iron (chondrites) and some (about 5%) are iron, hence iron meteorite. Most people when they are introduced to meteorites think of iron meteorites because they "look" more like people think they should look. Take the Sikhote Alin meteorite that fell in Russia in 1947. This iron meteorite is a perfect example of what a meteorite should look and they are highly sought after by meteorite collectors all over the world for their aesthetic value.
Metal detectors are used to find meteorites below the surface, but a magnet stick/cane (basically a gold club shaft or walking stick with a strong rare earth neodymium magnet attached) will work very well. Metal detectors don't work very well on dry lake beds because of the high mineralization of the ground, this produces lots of noise and false signals.
Dry lakes beds in the deserts of the southwest are great places for beginner meteorite hunters to start looking. They are easy to navigate, no brush or trees, boulders or washes to worry about. Just a nice smooth surface to walk across. The other nice thing about hunting dry lake beds is the light color of the ground. This contrasts nicely with the dark color of meteorites and makes finding them visually relatively easy. The hard part is patience. Meteorites are rarer than gold, and it take a trained eye to find them effectively and consistently.
Try hunting along the shoreline of the dry lake. Hunting the center is good too, and you might find one there, but you're more likely to find meteorites along the shoreline because over time meteorites migrate down from the hills from rains and erosion through washes. Wind or floods will cause some meteorites to move to the center of the lake bed, and new fresh falls could be located there as well.
If you do use a detector, use it around the outer edges of the lake bed. The bushes and boulders will sometimes catch meteorites, and old gold prospectors may have thrown a meteorite in the bushes because they thought it was a hot rock. Many meteorites have been found by hunters laying atop old dig holes left by gold hunters not knowing what it was, perhaps mistaking the meteorite for a hot rock.
Another great place to hunt for meteorites is just about anywhere. I know that's vague but think of it this way. Meteorites have been falling and striking the Earth for millions of years. Over time there have been literally billions of meteorites that have impacted the surface. Some big, some small. Keeping this in mind, realize that 70% of the Earth's surface is covered in water. This means that 70% of all meteorites that have ever impacted our planet have gone right into our beautiful blue oceans. ;) Kinda sucks, but I guess that's just the way it goes.
Now I know that if some of my meteorite friends read this post they'll be razzing me that I said you can find meteorites anywhere. This is true, however, meteorites deteriorate over time. How long it takes is arguable... Meteor Crater in Arizona for example had an impact some 50,000 years ago from an iron meteorite weighing around 300,000 tons and measured some 150 feet across. The impact created a crater almost a mile wide, 570 feet deep and pushed up the earth around the crater more than 150 feet from the surrounding plains. It also scattered fragments of meteorite covering and area 8-10 miles in diameter across the desert floor.
The pieces from this meteorite are still very much intact and well preserved and will still probably be here for hundreds of thousands of years more. Unless it floods.
See, meteorites are very susceptible to their environment, if an iron meteorite falls in the ocean you can imagine it would rust away completely in a relatively short amount of time. If a chondrite (stone meteorite) falls in the ocean, the iron in it breaks down and corrodes the meteorite very quickly. It will crumble into nothing in a very short period of time. This is why more meteorites are found in dry arid regions across our planet than any other areas. Water, humidity, and wind erosion contribute greatly to a meteorite’s demise.
Meteorites have been found everywhere on this planet, Antarctica, Africa, North and South America, Russia, China, Europe and Australia. In fact Australia is a great place to hunt for meteorites.
Meteorites are in fact everywhere. Swamps wouldn't be a good place to look, but anywhere that is relatively dry, with old ground is a great place to hunt. Especially if people have never hunted meteorites there before. Gold producing areas (that are legal to hunt on) are good places to look because people have already been out there with detectors hunting gold. When you find a hot rock, what do you do with it, toss it in a bush right? Check the bushes! They are great places to find meteorites.
Hunting meteorites is one thing, finding them is quite another story. I'll leave that for my next article.
Copyright 2008 Eric Wichman – MeteoriteWatch.com – MeteoritesUSA.com