THE SEYMCHAN PALLASITE
The modern Seymchan settlement began in 1940; during World War 2, an airfield was built there to allow aircraft to be delivered there through the Lend-Lease program, whereby the USA would supply the United Kingdom, Free France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, and other Allied nations with supplies like food, oil, and weaponry.
In 1949, and through 1955, a sub-settlement located a few kilometers south housed the Dalstroy prison camp, part of the Gulag camp network. Dalstroy was also called the “Far North Construction Trust” and used prisoners in the mining of gold and tin, as well as some timber production. Dalstroy was disbanded a few years after Joseph Stalin’s death in 1953.
The Seymchan meteorite was found in a dry river bed in the area in 1967 by Russian geologist F. A. Mednikov. The massive space rock was found lying among river stones; it was triangular-shaped and displayed thumbprints its surface. It was originally classified as an IIE iron; these are octahedrites, the term given to iron meteorites with a crystal structure that mimics an octahedron.
When new material was found to contain olivine crystals, Seymchan was reclassified; its designation was changed to pallasite in 2007. As the Seymchan mass was hurtling through the atmosphere, we imagine that chunks of Seymchan were sheared off at the nickel-iron/olivine borders. Because of that, some areas of Seymchan display olivine-rich clusters, and others consist almost entirely of nickel-iron.
Seymchan belongs to the main group of meteorite pallasites, though scientists find that it contains a high percentage of iridium, a rare, silvery-white chemical element. Iridium is brittle, despite being considered to be one of the densest metals. On Earth, it’s found in ore mined from South Africa, Brazil, Russia, Australia, and Alaska, USA. Iridium is found in much higher abundance in meteorites than on Earth, which makes a case for asteroid mining.
Seymchan meteorites are attractive to collectors for various reasons; it has an interesting back story and slices can have many different appearances; some areas display olivine-rich clusters, while others consist almost entirely of nickel-iron. Worldwide interest in meteorites continues to grow and olivine-rich Seymchan specimens are now extremely difficult to acquire.
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