Daniel Barringer’s Mining Efforts Cratered

The Barringer Crater, circa 1920. Image from the  University of Southern California LibrariesOn May 25, 1860, influential geologist Daniel Moreau Barringer Jr. was born in Raleigh.

In 1902, Barringer became intrigued by a crater in Northern Arizona, known today as Barringer Crater, that was surrounded by scattered deposits of meteoritic iron. He immediately recognized the crater as the result of a meteorite impact.

The meteorite that formed the crater was 150 feet wide, weighed 300,000 tons and was travelling at a speed of 26,000 mph when it struck the earth’s surface 50,000 years ago. The impact left a crater measuring three quarters of a mile wide and 750 feet deep.

Barringer incorrectly assumed the meteorite could be found beneath the crater’s floor and began a mining operation to harvest the 10 million tons of iron he assumed was there. In 1929, after 26 years of mining without result, scientists determined the meteorite in question hit with such force that it vaporized on impact, meaning no substantial iron deposits were present beneath the crater’s surface.

Barringer’s investors abandoned the project, which at its end had a total cost of $600,000 with $120,000 coming out of Barringer’s own pocket. The news may have been too much for Barringer, who died three months later of a massive heart attack.

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