CASABLANCA METEORITE WORKSHOP 2006
A meteorite workshop was organized by Dr Hasnaa Chennaoui in Casablanca on August 3-4, 2006. It has been a very interesting meeting, attended by many attendants of the Meteoritical Society's annual meeting that took place just after in Zürich, and scientists from the Saharan countries such as Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia... but also from other countries such as Oman and Chile.
We all agreed on the high quality and interest of this meeting that could only happen thanks to the huge efforts of Dr Hasmaa Chennaoui who did a great job.
You can see more official details about this meeting at:
Marvin Kilgore and I were the only two meteorite hunters present at this workshop, Marvin was actually the only professional hunter present as I consider this activity as a hobby as far as I'm concerned.
A major target of the workshop has been to create links between scientists from countries that are rich in meteorites, generally considered as "non well established" countries and scientists from let's say "well established countries", in order to encourage scientists of the first countries to study meteorites. This is definitely a way to have improvements in the way those countries consider meteorites and what can be done to get both domestic research and commercial point of view better considered.
As mentioned before, we attended some very interesting speeches from scientists who have been working on Saharan meteorites but as I am not a scientist myself, I do not wish to try and write anything about that because it would most probably not be expressed in a scientific way! Therefore I will rather give some information about the discussion that occured later on, more realated to the different ways that could be studied in order to have clear, fair and efficient regulations regarding Saharan meteorites.
As we all know, many Saharan countries have decided simply to forbid to pick any meteorite and of course to export them. The result is that any meteorite found in those places are now proposed to both collectors and scientists as NWAs, most of the time without any clue of where they come from and through an unformal circuit. The point here is not to debate about the scientific interest in knowing the place of discovery or not, but simply to consider the fact that since it is forbidden to search for meteorites in those countries it did not stop them to flow through the borders and to reach collections and labs. It appears then that this solution is not appropriate and should for instance Morocco decide to do the same, meteorites will then be proposed through another place and the problem will still be the same.
We had some speeches about the Omani-Swiss meteorite searches, also about the Libyan-German programm and it is definitely part of the solution when we consider the scientific research alone. Both have provided good results and a number of new meteorites that were fully documented and have been or are being studied. But the commercial point of view should not be forgotten as if not fairly regulated, it always find a way to exist "underground"...
Of course this meeting could not give answers already about how to regulate hunting and exporting of meteorites, but it gave the opportunity to ask the questions that had never been really openly asked before.
One of the ideas that came out of our "brain storming" has been to imagine the creation of museums in Saharan countries where meteorites can be found, in order to curate at least a specimen of each find, based on the same principle as the type specimen that has to be kept by the institution that has classified a meteorite. Of course it means that there must be an official wish and will to do so, that goes together with the developement of the scientific study of meteorites in the same countries. This way, both fully documented finds and "NWAs" could be officially exported and proposed to both the scientific community and collectors, with at least a piece of each one staying in the dedicated museum of the exporting country. Further regulations could be added to this basic idea of course, but this could be a first step!
Anyway, the right questions were "put on the table" I guess and we should just hope now that there will be some feedbacks to those questions with some attemps to bring some tangible and reasonable answers. I'm an optimistic person and will wait anxiously for more developments!
In the meantime, you will find hereunder some pictures that I have taken during those two days.
Before that I wish to thank again Hasnaa Chennaoui for her outstanding efforts and to congratulate her again for the success of this workshop. This opinion was shared by any of us in Casablanca and is not mine only!
CLICK ON PICTURES TO ENLARGE THEM