This is a piece of coal from the Titanic‘s debris field. Around 1994 a company called RMS Titanic, Inc., took out an ad soliciting pre-orders of these, claiming they would use the revenue to fund a scientific expedition to Titanic, and claimed the ship itself would not be disturbed. Then they promptly used the money to obtain sole salvage rights and sell berths on a cruise ship that sailed to the site, where passengers witnessed another ship the company had hired make a total botch of trying to raise a massive section of the hull, which promptly broke loose and planed back down far from where it had originally been.
Then they mounted a traveling exhibit of items they had pretty much indiscriminately raked up from the debris field. They charged admission, naturally.
I wrote them a really nasty letter because I felt my money had been ill-gotten and used for this debacle. And I admit I have really mixed feelings about the fact that I think that it is so cool that I own something from Titanic.
This is a piece of trinitite. That’s the name given to the desert sand that was fused into glass by the heat from Trinity, the world’s first nuclear detonation, in White Sands, New Mexico, in July 1945. So yes, I own an artifact produced by the first atomic explosion. And no, I am not going to tell you where I got it, except to say that I did not buy it.
This is the Gregg Press hardcover edition of Samuel R. Delany’s novel Dhalgren. I’ve posted at length about the novel itself, but the short version is that Dhalgren is the book that made me want to write for a living. It has a pretty solid claim as science fiction’s first legitimate bestseller; as I recall over a million copies of the paperback original sold when it first came out.
But there were only 300 of the Gregg Press hardcovers produced. These puppies go for about $1500 nowadays — if you can find one. I didn’t buy mine. But I ain’t telling you how I got it. (Okay, okay: It was a present from someone who did some serious dickering & favor-trading to get hold of a copy.)
I have several books that would be hugely valuable if it weren’t for the fact that my books are read. I beat the shit out of them and I don’t feel remotely bad about it. But I wuv this thing. It’s my fav-o-rite material possession. You can’t have it. Don’t even touch it. In fact, I think you’ve been looking at the picture a little too long now.
This is a fragment of the Zagami meteorite,a 40-pound hunk of rock that fell from the sky and into a cornfield in Zagami, Nigeria, in 1962. What makes it unusual is where it’s from.
A billion years ago, give or take a few, there was this piece of volcanic basalt just laying around on the surface of the planet Mars. Things went going pretty swell until about 2.5 million years ago, when a comet or asteroid slammed into the surface of the planet so hard that it blew chunks out of the atmosphere entirely — including our little basalt hero. It went tumbling through space for a couple million years and 35 million miles (give or take a few), until October 1962 when it landed 10 feet away from a farmer in Nigeria. Gasses from veins of the original impact melt scattered throughout the meteorite matched the atmopsheric composition of Mars.
Yeah. I own a piece of Mars, beeyotch.
(A coda to Zagami’s long journey that I find absolutely wonderful: A little piece of the Zagami meteorite was only on Earth for 34 years — because a geology professor named Phillp Christensen attached it to the plaque on an instrument on board the Mars Global Surveyor. That’s right: He sent it back. Little Zagami is, best I can determine, history’s first recorded interplanetary round trip. And hardly anyone knows about it. That’s heartbreaking, I swear.)
Yeah, I know, this looks like the last picture. It’s a fragment of lunar tektite, a little sliver cut from a piece of impact ejecta that probably landed in Antarctica. Or, to make it simpler (and much more cool-sounding): I own a piece of the moon.
Of course it’s entirely possible these last two objects are crap some dude found in his back yard and shucked off on some sucker. But I bought these two items from a meteorite dealer, and all meteorite dealers have to trade on is reputation.
There are some other things I admit I really really want. One is a nice piece of cuneiform. I just think it’s amazingly cool to own a piece of the first writing. I don’t care if it’s a laundry list. I would go nuts if I had a protohominid fossil. A teacup from Titanic.
Some people have told me they think my passion for these things is dorky. Maybe so. But I’d rather be a dork than be immune to the poetry of an object’s history.