Darryl S. Futrell

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It’s hard to believe that Darryl has been gone since August of 2001. It’s highly likely that there would not have been The Meteorite Exchange or Meteorite Times Magazine without our knowing Darryl. Although modern science has solved most of the Tektite origin questions, we wonder how much more we know today because of his passion and never ending battle to prove his theories.

Paul and Jim

Darryl Futrell tektite researcher, author and collector passed away from a heart attack on August 13, 2001. Darryl was a collector since childhood of a variety of objects. But, for more than three decades he had focused his collecting on tektites. One of the champions of the lunar volcanic origin theory he authored numerous articles on tektites in both scientific journals and popular magazines.One of his recent articles appeared in Rock and Gem. It was a two-part article in the February and March 1999 issues. This article was one he was especially proud of. Darryl through his collecting was in an almost unique position. With hundreds of thousands of tektites to examine and cull through he could investigate features not represented in a smaller selection. Darryl strongly believed that many of the secrets of tektites were to be found in the Muong Nong layered variety. This led to the focus of his writings being centered on features only seen in this less understood and less investigated type of tektite glass.

Darryl’s eager participation in the research into tektites never diminished, even though the theory of lunar origin became the less popular one. He believed the glass held the answer and that the glass had not changed. Always, the gracious debater he sought to enlighten more than to win an argument. Darryl was an enthusiastic teacher, sharing reprints and materials with all who showed a genuine interest.

The tektite community has lost two important and historic voices. Darryl Futrell and his mentor John O’Keefe. Our tektite parties to which Darryl was always a popular guest will lack some of their spark. But, I know the conversation will often revolve around things he challenged us to question, things he had himself endeavored to prove.

Darryl’s Email To Meteorite-List Below:

BORN IN EAST LOS ANGELES, CA. CAME DOWN WITH DIABETES AT 8, BUT GOT TO ATTEND A DIABETIC CAMP FOR 10 YEARS AMONG THE SEQUOIA TREES – EVEN GREW ONE FROM SEED UNTIL IT DIED JUST LIKE PROF. MEDCALF SAID IT WOULD FROM THE SMOG AT ABOUT 15 YEARS.

HAD MR. BROCK IN HIGH SCHOOL CHEMISTRY (SINCE MY BEST FRIEND WAS IN THAT CLASS, I HAD TO OUTDO HIM, SO I WAS ONE OF ONLY TWO IN HIS CLASSES THAT YEAR TO GET AN “A”). ATTENDED E.L.A.J.C. AND RIO HONDO COLLEGE (WHICH INCLUDED ASTRONOMY, MINERAL IDENTIFICATION, AND 3 SEMESTERS OF STUDYING THE BEHAVIOR OF MOLTEN GLASS)

DIVORCED AFTER TEN YEARS IN 1977 (DIFFICULT TO FIND FEMALES WHO LIKED ROCKS BACK THEN)

WON A JOB AT FLUOR CORP IN THE DRAFTING DEPT. AFTER WINNING A L. A. COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL DRAFTING CONTEST, BUT GOT LAID OFF IN LESS THAN A YEAR. TIMEKEEPER AT STERLING ELECTRIC MOTORS FOR A YEAR, 4 YEAR AT PETROLEUM TECHNOLOGISTS ANALYZING OIL WELL CORES & DOING THEIR DRAFTING, THEN 30 YEARS AT A NEWSPAPER PUBLISHING CO. IN E LA. (DURING WHICH TIME I DROVE OVER 2 MILLION MILES IN VWs)

STARTED COLLECTING PETRIFIED WOOD WHEN I WAS 4 OR 5 WHILE WE WERE VISITING MY AUNT ON A FARM IN EDEN VALLEY, WYOMING. I WAS SITTING THERE WITH NOTHING TO DO BUT WAIT FOR THE NEXT FEED, AND SOMEBODY SAID THERE WAS PET. WD. OUT IN THE FIELDS. I WAS HOOKED, HAD MY 1ST ROCK EXHIBIT IN JR. HIGH SCHOOL (INCLUDED A NICE POLISHED AGATE I HAD FOUND IN SOME DUMPED TRASH UP IN THE MTB. HILLS WHILE RIDING MY BIKE, SOME BLUE CALCITE I FOUND IN AN OLD 1920’S ROADBED A BLOCK FROM MY HOUSE – I WAS STUCK THERE IN MTB. ‘TILL I GOT MY OWN CAR – I WON’T TELL YOU ABOUT MY “GOLD” DISCOVERY WHEN I WAS ABOUT 7 WAY UP IN THE CORNER OF THE GRAMMAR SCHOOL PLAY FIELD – EVERYONE ELSE WOULD BE PLAYING “BALL” AND I WOULD BE UP THERE FRANTICALLY DIGGING OUT THESE SPECKS AND HOPING NO OTHER KIDS WOULD COME UP THERE. EVERY DAY I WOULD BRING HOME A SMALL TOBACCO BAG FULL OF ‘IT’ AND WEIGH IT ON MY GRAMS SCALE. I STILL HAVE THE TABULATIONS. I FINALLY REALIZED THAT “GOLD” DOESN’T SPLIT INTO THEN SHEETS – TURNED OUT TO BE FLAKES OF MICA FROM AN OLD RUSTED AWAY STOVE. OH WELL, MADE FOR SOME EXCITING GRAMMAR SCHOOL DAYS!). ONCE I GOT A NEW ’56 VW I WAS BACK TO WYOMING EVERY SUMMER. HAVE A LOT OF SILICIFIED FERN STEMS, CANE, VINE, ETC.

SAW MY FIRST TEKTITE IN 1964 AFTER READING ABOUT THEM IN SCI. AMER. I WAS SO IMPRESSED BY THE QUALITY OF THE GLASS THAT I KNEW EVEN THEN THAT IT COULDN’T BE TERRESTRIAL IMPACT MELT. I STARTED BUYING AND TRADING THEM. THEN RON ORITI TALKED ME INTO JOINING THE METEORITICAL SOCIETY. STARTED HUNTING METEORITES ON

DRY LAKES, ETC. EVENTUALLY FOUND A LUCERNE STONE. SOME OF THE EARLY TEKTITE RESEARCHERS (BARNES, CHAO, ETC.) GAVE ME SOME ADDRESSES AND SOON MY TEKTITE COLLECTION WAS REALLY GROWING. FOUND TEKTITES IN CZECH. AND TX BUT THE TWO HOURS I HAD IN AUSTRALIA CRAWLING IN THE RED DIRT DIDN’T PAY OFF, BUT TRADING AND $ ALWAYS DID. JOINED ALSO THE GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA, THE AGU, ALPO, AND THE MSSC. HAVE ATTENDED MANY WORLDWIDE MEETINGS AND VISITED ABOUT 15 COUNTRIES, ALSO ATTENDED VOLCANIC SYMPOSIUMS AND BEEN TO THE TOP OF ITALY’S THREE CHIEF VOLCANOES.

HAD A BURST OF COLLECTING COINS FOR A FEW YEARS WHEN I WAS A CARRIER DELIVERING THE L. A. MIRROR DURING HIGH SCHOOL, BUT SOON HAD TO SELL THEM ALL IN DESPERATION TO KEEP AFLOAT. GOT INTO OLD BOTTLE COLLECTING, SINCE I WAS FINDING THEM WHILE HUNTING METEORITES. STILL HAVE 30 OR SO. HAD ABOUT 20 PAPERS, ABSTRACTS, & ARTICLES PUBLISHED, ALL BUT ONE ON TEKTITE GLASS. THE PETROLOGY OF LAYERED TEKTITES IS MY SPECIALTY. BEEN GIVING SLIDE TALKS ON TEKTITES AND METEORITES FOR OVER 30 YEARS. THREE DAUGHTERS, 9 GRANDCHILDREN. DSF

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The Unusual Evolution Of The Debate
On The Origin Of Tektites
(by Darryl S. Futrell)

In the mid 1960s, about half of the world’s ten or twenty most active tektite researchers favored a lunar origin for tektite glass. Whatever happened to most of these people and their belief?Scientific discussion in print of the origin of tektite glass began in 1787 when Joseph Mayer described moldavites as a glassy species of lava.The first mention of tektites other than moldavites was in 1844, when Charles Darwin described Australian tektites as obsidian.Between 1797 and the late 1950s, at least fifty other scientists had formed opinions on the origin of tektites. Several thought they were a type of meteorite, a few thought that they were man-made glasses, and V.E. Barnes at first considered that they might be fulgurites. But most,early on, believed tektites were a type of terrestrial obsidian. R.D.M. Verbeek, in 1897, was the first to consider them to be obsidian ejected from lunar volcanoes.

In 1933, the influential British scientist L.J. Spencer, after studying glass melted from soils at two nickel-iron meteorite impact craters, decided that tektites had been formed as a terrestrial impact melt in the same manner. By the late 1950s, A.J. Cohen, F. Heide, Z. Kopal, andE.L. Krinov had come to agree with Spencer. And H.C. Urey postulated the impact of a comet rather than a meteorite as producing tektite glass.But had any of these six scientists ever studied the very significant layered tektites before deciding on a terrestrial impact melt origin theory?

The only layered tektites in captivity and available to western world scientists for study during that time period were a number of specimens from the Indochina region that were in the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. In 1935, A. Lacroix briefly described them (in French) in two papers, illustrating two very small specimens in one.Certainly most, if not all of these six scientists had read one or perhaps both of these papers. I’ve learned that F. Heide did acquire two small samples of layered tektites from the Paris museum, and perhaps some of the others did also. But, seeing only a few small layered tektites isn’t necessarily very enlightening. I can find no evidence in the literature or by my inquiries that any of the others, during this period of time, had any hands on experience with this type of tektite and its often obvious (extraterrestrial) volcanic structures.So, the terrestrial impact melt tektite theory bandwagon that so many dozens of other scientists have since climbed aboard was set in motion by several scientists who apparently had little or no experience with this major and very significant type of tektite glass.

The Dutch scientist G.H.R. von Koenigswald, who produced at least twelve tektite papers over a period of forty years beginning in 1935, wrote in 1975 that he had seen small pieces of layered tektites in Paris many years earlier, but had found them to be inconclusive. It wasn’t until about 1974, while looking at many larger layered tektites in a collection in Heidelberg, that he realized they must have had the same manner of origin as banded obsidian from Indonesia which he had collected in the 1930s. These observations resulted in his final tektite paper, in which he concluded tektites are volcanic products ejected from the moon.

I acquired some small layered tektites from the Paris museum in 1967,plus several larger specimens a few years later direct from Thailand. However, it wasn’t until 1973, when I was able to visit a volcanic dome with obsidian outcrops in the Coso Range of California, that I first noticed the many very obvious structural similarities between layered tektites and banded obsidian. This later led to several published descriptions of internal structures that could only have been formed during re-occurring volcanism.

In the early 1960s, the terrestrial impact melt theory for the origin of tektite glass gained two additional supporters. one is S.R. Taylor, who became an associate editor of two of the most relevant journals:Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta in 1964, and Meteoritics in 1988. The other is V.E. Barnes, who late in 1960 collected a large number of layered tektites in Thailand and published several related papers. He chose to explain layered tektites as being terrestrial impact melts that flowed along gently inclined surfaces to collect in puddles in low places, and many agree with this concept to this day. However, there are others, including myself, who have presented evidence that layered tektites, shown by several researchers to be welded accretions of microtektites, could not have flowed in such a manner from one point to another. I’ve examined thousands of specimens and find that most were slightly stretched while soft on a scale of mm to a few cm, and many others experienced slumping or compression with resulting folding on acm scale.

Also in the early 1960s, several other scientists, including NASA scientists Dean Chapman and John A. O’Keefe, proposed that tektites were impact melts ejected from the moon. By the mid 1960s, the world’s top ten or twenty tektite researchers were more or less evenly distributed between lunar and terrestrial origin theories. However, by 1970 this balance began to change drastically for a variety of reasons:

1. Everyone in the 1960s who believed tektites were lunar in origin believed that they had to be ejected impact melts because a few of them contained some very small nickel-iron spherules which they felt had to be from impacting meteorites. This theory would have required most of the lunar surface to have a relatively high silica content, as do most tektites, because impact is a non-selective process. But then, almost all of the Apollo lunar samples turned out to have a lower silica content. So, by the early 1970s, the situation became rather untenable for the lunar impact people. It wasn’t determined until 1983 that these rare NiFe spherules in tektite glass were NOT a result of meteorite contamination. This eliminated the impact origin and ejection requirement, but by then, most of the ‘lunar’ people, with the exception of O’Keefe, had moved on to other jobs and were working on other subjects. For instance, NASA researcher Dean Chapman, who by 1971 had published some thirteen papers demonstrating that the ablation evidence on Australian tektites requires a lunar origin, left NASA and became a professor of astronautics and aerodynamics at Stanford.

2. The number of impact geochemists who work on impact craters, meteorites, etc. has grown rapidly as more and more terrestrial impact craters are discovered. As a result, more and more of them have become reviewers for the relevant journals, and therefore, for some time now,have been able to exert more and more influence over which tektite papers they feel should be accepted for publication.

3. Researchers interested in doing tektite research at universities and other institutions must often first try to obtain funding or grants. If a proposal hints that the work might end up favoring a lunar origin for tektite glass, well, lots a luck! If funding is obtained for research that results in a paper that does end up favoring a lunar origin, then there remains the task of finding a journal whose editor is willing to seek reviewers who have an open mind, since the majority now feel that the origin of tektite glass has already been decided, and that no further discussion is needed. If the paper survives and is finally accepted and published, the researcher must be willing to face possible ridicule and scorn from those of the majority opinion, including some in positions of influence. For example, O’Keefe was severely criticized in1971 by Nobel Laureate Harold Urey (Science 171, pgs. 312-313) for his papers claiming that tektites are from the moon. Another example is Elbert King’s 1977 review of O’Keefe’s 1976 tektite book (Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 41, pg. 841). King ridicules O’Keefe, and, in a sense,dares anyone to come forward and support O’Keefe’s views. Since I am not employed by any university or other institution, and have never been dependent on tektite research for my livelihood, I have been able to continue MY study of tektites and their origin independently.

4. It has apparently become the custom at schools of higher learning to tell new students of meteoritics to ignore the analytical data produced prior to a few decades ago, the reason supposedly being that the newer analytical equipment is more accurate. This pretty well eliminates any study or mention of most of the evidence supporting the lunar origin of tektite glass, since the majority of this work was published prior to afew decades ago. How many students would want to waste time looking up this earlier work when they know that any mention of it in their examinations or dissertations might result in chastisement or possibly even a lower grade? And, for what purpose, except possibly for the determination of trace elements and isotopes, is the newer equipment really that much more accurate? For example, in 1992, C. Koeberl found the major element compositional data of silica rich layered tektites performed by Chapman and Scheiber back in 1969 (which happen to be a portion of a large number of analyses that indicated an extraterrestrial igneous origin for tektite glass) to be in good agreement with his new data obtained on the most modern equipment.

A very unscientific result of ignoring the earlier tektite research is that many of the present generation of impact geochemists and others working on tektites appear to have little concept of the several varieties of tektite glass types and structures that exist, nor of the numerous arguments that still preclude an impact origin. There are numerous examples of this. Consider, for instance, the following quote from an abstract by four researchers which was presented at the 26thLunar and Planetary Science Conference held in Houston: “Tektites are naturally occurring, aerodynamically shaped silicate glasses …. “These four had worked on one indochinite teardrop and apparently considered its teardrop shape to be a result of aerodynamic ablation.If they had read the still valid tektite papers written prior to a few decades ago by those convinced of a lunar origin, they would have found that this teardrop shape is a typical splashform shape formed in the vacuum of space, and has nothing to do with any aerodynamic (ablation)shaping; that less than one percent of the worldwide recovered tektite population shows any effects of aerodynamic shaping; and that those splashform tektites that do show evidence of aerodynamic ablation entered the atmosphere as cold and rigid splashform bodies. And,what about the many tons of layered tektites that in some areas of the Australasian tektite strewnfield are the only type of tektite found, and in some other areas outweigh the total weight of the splashform tektites from these same areas? Not even mentioned, as though they don’t even exist!

Three of this same group made another attempt to tell others what tektites are in 1997 at the 28th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.This time they said “Tektites are shocked natural glasses ….” They did, however, this time acknowledge that there are several forms, and mentioned layered, splashform, and aerodynamically shaped flanges. No doubt, when they said “shocked” they were thinking about the sub-mmcoesite grains that have been found in some layered tektites. But, layered tektites have been shown by several researchers to consist of welded accretions of micro tektites, with sparse scatterings of sub-mm mineral grains, including coesite, found in some specimens of higher silica content. This means that all of these mineral grains have also accreted, or fell, with the micro tektites, onto some planetary surface to form the original sheets of layered glass. This in turn means that these grains were preexisting, and blew or fell in from some other source. Being preexisting, these coesite grains could be thousands or even millions of years older than the freshly formed micro tektites. This would be possible in a lunar pryoclastic event where such grains could be from the walls of the vent, and blown out of the vent to be deposited, with the micro tektites that formed from the boiling magma, onto the surrounding surface.

Evidence for such a scenario can be found in my AGU Fall Meetingabstract published in the supplement to EOS, vol. 73, #43, Oct. 27, 1992 on pg 328.

The point is, there are no tektites that are “shocked natural glasses”. These researchers were more erroneous, in their second attempt to explain what tektites are, than in their first! Most of the researchers who insist tektite glass is an impact melt product pretend the lunar volcanic theory is extinct. A recent example of this can be found in 1996 in vol. 31 of Meteoritics on pg. 5. Here, S.R. Taylor was apparently concerned about the discovery (reported in that same issue) of what in reality can only be hyper velocity micrometeorite impact pits that were found on an Indian Ocean micro tektite (this one example grew later that year to sixty). He states “…. hopefully this new observation will not encourage a Lazarus-like reappearance of the lunar origin hypothesis.”

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