Nininger Moment #27 The Bondoc Philippine Meteorite Recovery Story

One of the largest and best meteorites might have gone undiscovered in not for Nininger’s effort and that of his friend John A. Lednicky. Only 2 other Philippine specimens had been found prior to the Bondoc find. It started when Nininger and Addie were on their 5 month long tour and after the sale of the first part of their collection. Nininger had been seeking tektites from south east Asia and visited the National Bureau of Mines in 1959. There Nininger found a sample sent in as iron ore that was round and badly weathered. The Mass having “stony” material attached and testing positive for nickel set Nininger’s mind into motion. After seeking Permission to hunt the material down he was given the name of Senator Tanada of the Filipino Congress who Nininger visited. The matter had been transferred to the Senator’s Son a lawyer who shared the prospect with his friend Mendoza another lawyer who lived closer to the site a remote jungle far down the Bondoc Peninsula.

The two young lawyers contacted two Japanese geologists who sought finding an iron mine. The two Japanese geologist went to check out the possible iron deposit but returned discussed and disappointed as it was only something that had fallen out of the sky and they sought an iron mine. Part of the state of mind of the geologists was due to the great effort to reach the site. Several hours journey by slow train. Then waiting hours for a bus that ran on days the roads were passable and dry. A full days journey 40 miles to a small village. Then from the small village by boat down the coast to the mouth of a river. Down the River as far as the boat could go then trampling on foot ten hours through crocodile and snake infested jungle! Nininger attempted to make the trip himself along with his wife Addie with guided help but twisted an ankle before they were very far along. He then turned for help asking his friend John Lednicky who assisted in the hunt.

The process of locating, finding a way to extract, floating the specimen to the small village and finally getting it to Nininger was a three and a half year process. Estimated recovery cost was $3750.00. Lednicky hired men who loaded it on to a wooden sled but three caribou were unable to move it. Neither was a small bulldozer. A larger bulldozer was then used to bring the specimen to the mouth of the river. A raft was then constructed of bamboo to tow the specimen on to Manila. The effort to float it to Manila was a nightmare with much risk involved. While transporting the specimen a typhoon hit the area and huge waves rocked the raft and meteorite. Two fishing boats with motors were hired to help stabilized the cargo. One sank in the process and four men nearly drowned. Difficulty in hiring a truck was the next problem after the storm, as roads were washed out and dangerous and risked recovery of the specimen. Finally a truck was hired from a friend of the men who were hired to bring the specimen to Manila.

After reaching Manila more red tape and delays plague the shipping of the specimen to Nininger. The specimen weighed Just under one ton (1955 lbs) and was the second largest stony meteorite recovered at that time. Upon reaching Nininger’s newly built home in the hills, he placed the meteorite just inside a window where his shop was. Nininger studied the specimen’s outside structure before attempting to cut a slab from it. Nininger invited about 60 friends and colleges over before the first slab was taken from it for an “opening party”. Nininger knew that the specimen was a unique one from the original sample and he was very curious as to the internal structure. At the party Nininger started the saw which ran for 162 hours and cut the first end piece off weighing 120 lbs. Of the distinguished guests Carleton Moore was there and carried the first slice back to the laboratory at Tempe Arizona for the University of Arizona as a gift from Nininger. Nininger stated the real hero as John Lednicky who’s relentless effort brought about recovery of the specimen at great personal time and sacrifice. Only expenses and satisfaction of success were his requirements for payment. Nininger later sent him a special meteorite gift as an added thank you.

Source: Find A Falling Star By H.H. Nininger

The Nininger Moments are articles or books written originally by Harvey Nininger and put into a consolidated form by Al Mitterling. Some of the items written in the moments might be old out dated material and the reader is advised to keep this in mind.

–AL Mitterling

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