ANTARCTIC METEORITE LOCATION AND MAPPING PROJECT (AMLAMP)
EXPLANATORY TEXT

 

INTRODUCTION TO THE ANTARCTIC METEORITE LOCATION PROJECT

Background

Antarctica has been a prolific source of extraterrestrial material since meteorite concentrations on bare ice stranding sites were discovered in 1969 (Yoshida et al., 1971). Since 1976 the United States has joined Japan and a consortium of European countries (EUROMET), and China as nations that have sent expeditions specifically to search for meteorites in Antarctica. About 35,000 meteorite specimens have been recovered as a result of these efforts. INTRO-Figure 1 (108 KB JPEG) shows the general location of meteorite concentrations and individual find sites in Antarctica. INTRO-Table 1 is a listing of these areas, the name abbreviations used for identifying meteorites found there, and the locale's geographic coordinates.

The United States program was begun under the direction of William A. Cassidy of the University of Pittsburgh and supported by the Office of Polar Programs of the U.S. National Science Foundation.  Ralph Harvey of Case Western Reserve University currently directs the project.  The Antarctic Search For Meteorites (ANSMET) project has been active over much of the Transantarctic Mountain Range. The first ANSMET expedition (a joint U.S.-Japanese effort) discovered what turned out to be a significant concentration of meteorites at the Allan Hills in southern Victoria Land (Cassidy, 1977; Cassidy, 1978; Cassidy, 1979). Later reconnaissance in this region resulted in the discovery of significant meteorite concentrations on icefields to the west of the Allan Hills, at Reckling Moraine, and Elephant Moraine (Cassidy, 1980; Cassidy and Annexstad, 1981; Schutt, 1982; Cassidy et al., 1983; Cassidy and Schutt, 1984; Huss et al., 1987; Harvey and Schutt, 1993).

ANSMET expeditions also have found important concentrations in other regions of Antarctica; the Lewis Cliff-Walcott Névé and Queen Alexandra-Goodwin Nunataks areas in the Beardmore region have proved to be as important as the Allan Hills icefields in numbers of specimens recovered (Cassidy et al., 1986; Cassidy et al., 1987; Harvey and Schutt, 1994; Harvey and Schutt, 1995). The Beardmore region contains many other productive sites in addition to the Lewis Cliff and Queen Aleandra Range sites. The Thiel Mountains-Patuxent Range region also has produced significant numbers of meteorites (Schutt et al., 1983; Harvey and Schutt, 1992). Graves Nunatak near the head of the Scott Glacier has produced many interesting specimens. Meteorite Hills in the Darwin Glacier area has become an important site as well as the Pecora Escarpment icefields and the LaPaz Icefield. Numerous other less productive areas have been identified, as well as a small number of individual meteorite finds (Cassidy, 1977; Cassidy, 1979; Cassidy and Annexstad, 1981; Schutt et al., 1983; Cassidy et al., 1986; Harvey and Schutt, 1992). Additional new and important meteorite stranding sites and individual finds will undoubtedly be found in the future.

A summary of Antarctic meteorite field work, overviews of meteoritic and related glaciological investigations, and discussions on concentration mechanisms can be found in Bull and Lipschutz (1982); Annexstad et al. (1986), Cassidy and Whillans (1990), Huss (1990), Cassidy et al. (1992) and Harvey (2003). Cassidy (2003) has published a personal account of his years leading ANSMET and includes an extensive section on the importance of the Antarctic meteorite collection and scientific results.

The mapping of the locations of meteorites found on the Antarctic icesheet can play an important role in meteorite and glaciological investigations. Maps are visual aids in pairing studies, especially when fragments of the same fall are found in a given area during different field seasons. The spatial distribution of meteorites on a given stranding surface may give insights into the concentration mechanism(s) or define areas in which glaciological studies should be concentrated. Thematic maps and spatial analysis of meteorite types, masses, terrestrial ages, or combinations of those parameters, will yield additional clues.

The AMLAMP initially produced meteorite location maps for specimens found by the ANSMET project field teams and others at selected stranding sites. No updates to these maps have been made since 1994. ANSMET continues to collect meteorite location data and AMLAMP continues to devlope databases and mapping products in a current GIS application. Mapping is now done in the ESRI ArcGIS environment.

This web site provides a background to continued meteorite recovery and mapping activities. It is at once a catalog of meteorite find sites in Antarctica and a brief history of search and recovery efforts. Most of the information in this series pertains to the activities of the United States sponsored ANSMET program. Significant discoveries have been made by the Japanese, German, and Italian Antarctic programs, as well as other smaller program efforts. The results of those efforts are generally beyond the scope of AMLAMP, except where meteorite finds have been made in areas where ANSMET has been active.

The explanatory texts have been organized into a broad, regional scale with local sub-series within regions. Currently, the regions, which progress along the Transantarctic Mountains from the David Glacier at one end to the Patuxent Range at the other, are:

These regions are shown on INTRO-Figure 1(108 KB JPEG) (AVHRR mosaic image of Antarctica by Remote Sensing Division, RAE, Farnborough, England). 


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History of Meteorite Location Maps and Field Mapping Procedures

Yanai (1983 and 1984) published meteorite location sketch maps for the Yamato Mountains and the Allan Hills. The Allan Hills map shows the locations of specimens recovered during the 1976-1977, 1977-1978, and 1978-1979 seasons. The Antarctic Meteorite Location and Mapping Project (AMLAMP) grew out of a need to document, maintain, and present the location data that had been acquired in subsequent years by the ANSMET expeditions.

The first maps of the Allan Hills Main and Near Western icefields and the Elephant Moraine Icefield were hand-drawn versions. Tony Meunier (U.S. Geological Survey) produced a computer generated map showing meteorites recovered during the 1982-1983 search of the Far Western Icefield. A copy of the Cartographic Automatic Mapping (CAM) program that he used was acquired from the U.S.G.S. and installed, after modification, into the DEC-VAX computer system at the Lunar and Planetary Institute. The CAM program was a powerful cartographic mapping software package, capable of generating maps in many map projections. By present standards, however, it is a cumbersome and inelegant program with numerous limitations. Many corrections and enhancements had been made to the CAM program. Because meteorite locations are often close together a utility program was written so that name placement overprinting is minimized. An interactive editing program is used to finalize name positioning. Numerous other programs have been developed to deal with the different kinds of data and data formats. We have essentially created a crude geographic information system (GIS). Thematic maps may be created within our framework of programs. However, the location data is in geographic coordinates and therefore can easily be imported into a dedicated GIS environment. The CAM program has been retired and the AMLAMP databases now reside in the ESRI ARCGIS environment.

Separate databases have been created for each of the icefields from reduced field and survey data and from computer databases at the Antarctic Meteorite Laboratory at the Curatorial Facility, Johnson Space Center (JSC). To date, these databases include specimen names, classifications, masses, locations, and map data. Terrestrial ages of the meteorites will be added when a sufficient number have been determined. The AMLAMP databases are updated once a year to included any new information.

A variety of field methods have been used to document and determine the locations of meteorites. Crude surveying methods (with an estimated precision of 10 meters) were used from the 1978-1979 season until late in the 1983-1984 season, when a theodolite and electronic distance measuring (EDM) instrument became available. During the 1982-1983 season a TRANSIT satellite surveying instrument was used to make precise position determinations of three base stations at the Allan Hills Far Western Icefield (Cassidy et al., 1983). In the following season, an open survey traverse was made from these points, crossing the Middle Western and Near Western icefields, and ultimately tying into the network established at the Main Icefield by Nishio and Annexstad (1979). Although subject to the accumulation of a large error, this traverse tied the icefields together and provided base stations to which individual meteorite locations could be tied. Two base stations at the Lewis Cliff were initially placed by surveyors from the U.S.G.S. during the 1985-1986 season. The geographic position of one of these was determined by resection methods and is the basis for the network of base stations used for surveying in the Lewis Cliff area. At the Texas Bowl Icefield, during the 1990-1991 field season, a TRANSIT satellite surveying instrument was again used to determine, by translocation, the geographic coordinates of two points used as base stations for the local survey network.

During the 1990-1991 season, Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers were acquired. GPS has become the standard means of determining most base station positions and meteorite positions. All of the locations of meteorites recovered from the Queen Alexandra Range-Goodwin Nunataks area in the 1990-1991 season, the Wisconsin Range - Upper Reedy Glacier area, the Patuxent Range-Brazitis Nunatak Icefield, and the Thiel Mountains-Moulton Escarpment icefields were determined by averaged point positioning of GPS determinations. Tests indicate that the accuracy of this method is highly variable, but at worst is around ±30-40 meters. In other areas where meteorite are abundant and closely spaced, a differential method of post-processing GPS data is used to achieve higher positional accuracy of ±1 meters for most of the location determinations.


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AMLAMP Meteorite Location Maps - An Overview

Up until 1994, AMLAMP had been developing large-scale meteorite location maps of meteorite stranding sites for which the detailed, systematic searches by ANSMET field parties is essentially complete. For other sites, meteorite location data exist and maps are in various stages of development, but formal maps and databases had not been produced. 18 map sheets for 13 major meteorite stranding surfaces were produce. These are no longer available. The Allan Hills-David Glacier Region Map Series and the Beardmore Region Map Series were the most fully developed. All mapping is now done in the ESRI ArcGIS environment.


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Explanatory Texts and Meteorite Listings Overview

Explanatory texts for the meteorite location maps are found by following links in the Table of Contents. Detailed background, meteorite, and map information are given for each icefield. Included are listings of all meteorites recovered from the given icefield, except for the Allan Hills Main Icefield 1976-1977, 1977-1978, and 1978-1979 collections, which have been documented by Yanai (1983). The listings of meteorites recovered from the different areas are directly from the databases provided by the Antarctic Meteorite Laboratory at the Johnson Space Center and contain information current with the date as noted. Meteorite name, classification, weight, and grid cell coordinate are provided. Also included in the listings is the Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter reference (Vol.(No.)) for each meteorite and in some meteorite listings, pairing information. In some cases, there are multiple newsletter references because of classification changes. Collections for some of the map areas are yet to be completely classified, therefore such information could not be included. Also included are tables which list the types of meteorites recovered and their numbers from a particular icefield. Further information on specific meteorites can be obtained from the Lunar and Planetary Bibliographic Database maintained at the LPI as well as the Antarctic Meteorite Newsletter. A table containing all classifications as of December 1993 is included in Meteoritics 29, p. 100-142 with updated list in Meteoritics and Planetary Science 31, p. A161-174 current to April 1996. The web site at the Antarctic Meteorite Laboratory has up-to date antarctic meteorite information and data.


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General Description of Meteorite Stranding Sites

Icefields with meteorite concentrations are always associated with single or multiple escarpments or step-like topographic features. Superglacial moraines or nunataks are often associated with the stranding sites. The upper break in slope generally parallels the long dimension of an icefield, and usually strikes perpendicular to the direction of ice sheet flow. Slope profiles are given in the explanatory texts for some of the mapped icefields. These profiles are based on widely spaced survey data and field observations, and are therefore only diagrammatic. The profiles were selected in areas where a reasonable amount of survey data was present and they may not be entirely representative of other sections on that particular icefield. The downslope katabatic wind flow, which is responsible for exposing the ice, preventing snow accumulation, contributing to the ablative effects, and the concentration of small meteorite specimens at the downwind ice edge, is generally normal to the escarpments. More complete descriptions of the field settings of meteorite concentrations can be found in Annexstad, et al. (1986), Bull and Lipschutz (1982), Cassidy and Whillans (1990), Cassidy, et al. (1992), and Harvey (2003).


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Acknowledgments; The surveying and mapping of the meteorite locations and icefields could not have been accomplished without the assistance and perseverance of ANSMET expedition members, often under adverse conditions. Roberta Score, Cecilia Satterwhite, and Terry Bevil have provided considerable assistance with the JSC meteorite databases. Robert Walker provided some of the enlargements of the satellite images used in the explanatory texts and support for AMLAMP and the initial acquisition of GPS equipment. Kevin Burke, David Black, Kin Leung, Brian Fessler, and many others on the staff of the Lunar and Planetary Institute gave cheerful support and advice to the project. Amanda Kubala and Eleta Malewitz assisted in the production of CAM maps and database updates. The LPI Publications Services staff, Renee Dotson, Sarah Enticknap, Steve Hokanson, Christy Owens, and Linda Tanner contributed significantly to the printed technical reports. The Meteorite Working Group was also forthcoming with encouragement and support. Michael Zolensky offered helpful suggestions and comments on the much of the original text. Kelly Brunt, GIS Specialist of Raytheon Polar Services Co., has provided invaluable assistance in overcoming problems in the AMLAMP GIS development. ANSMET field work was conducted under National Science Foundation Grants DPP 77-21742, 78-21104, 83-14496, 88-17083, and 91-17558. Many, many others have contributed to the success of ANSMET and AMLAMP.


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