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FLAGSTAFF PUBLIC LIBRARY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
H.H. Nininger
Interview number NAU.OH.28.34


H.H. Nininger (1887-1986), was a meteor specialist and who lived in the Sedona area. Interview conducted by Susan L. Rogers on January 28, 1976. Transcribed by Jardee Transcription, May 1999.


Outline of Subjects Covered in Taped Interview
Tape 1 Side 1
Born in Kansas, 1887
Early childhood
Homes and moves in Midwestern U.S.
Higher education
Interest in Science
McPherson College
Takes teaching job
Different schools attended, and jobs
World War I
Moves back to Midwest
1923, sees fireball
Interest in meteorites begins
Moves to Denver
Meteorite Collection
British Museum
Arizona State University
Tape 1 Side 2
Trips around world
Writing books
Meteor Crater in Arizona
Barringer and Molten
Craters larger than Meteor Crater
Craters on moon
Impact Theory
How often meteorites fall
One landed near Denver
Tape 2 Side 1
Meteorite "rains" on people
Midwest
Meteorite fell in British Columbia
Meteor Crater - Arizona
Private land
Different awards received
Opinions on UFOís
Tape 2 Side 2
Opinions of UFOís (continued)
Verifying observations

This is an interview with H.H. Nininger, who has been in the Flagstaff area since 1946, and is a meteor specialist. The interview is being conducted on January 28, 1976, at 104 Meteor Drive in Sedona, which is his home. The interviewer is Susan L. Rogers, representing the Flagstaff City-Coconino County Public Library.

SUSAN L. ROGERS: Okay, when and where were you born?

H.H. NININGER: Born on January 17, 1887.

SUSAN ROGERS: Okay, and what place?

H.H. NININGER: Conway Springs, Kansas. Thatís in Sumner County, in the southern tier of counties in Kansas. And I lived there until I was about nine. My folks moved then to Missouri - Johnson County, Missouri - Warrensburg. We lived there four years out in the hill country southeast of Warrensburg. Then my father saw fit to move the family to Oklahoma, and we moved to a point about midway between Guthrie and Stillwater, Oklahoma, in 1899 and 1900. It was right at the turn of the century there. I accompanied my mother and my younger brother and a newborn baby by train. And my two older brothers drove a covered wagon along a covered wagon train going from that point in Missouri to the point in Oklahoma where we were headed for. My father went on the train, but went on the stock train where he had some horses and cattle, and he went along to take care of them. So we all arrived in Oklahoma about the turn of the century and lived there until I was about between twenty and twenty-one, and then I went out on my own, decided I needed to get an education.

My folks didn't think much of education above common school, and they didn't approve of my going. It was my father's plan to have me take the farm the next year. And I had no other thought in my mind until during the summer I tried to do some work for a little orphans' home by way of soliciting funds. And after I had met a few people away from home, I very definitely decided I needed an education. (chuckles) I had gotten through the common school there in our community, but it was a very hit-and-miss type of schooling that we had. We would go to school three months in a year, perhaps. School would open in September, and we would finish picking cotton about November, and then go 'til about March. And then we had to come out and start getting ready for another crop. So education had a very low place in our life in that community.

But when I got away and got to a real educational institution - see, I hadn't even seen a high school, let alone attended one - I hadn't SEEN one, until I went to the state normal school at Alva, Oklahoma. My brother was living up there at the time, and he wanted to go to the college there and get some more training, so he invited me to come and live with them. So we together attended that school for a couple of years.

By that time I had become so interested in science that I knew I had to finish getting an education. To me, at the time I made that decision, I thought two years would finish a person. I was so completely ignorant that I thought two years would give a person all they could learn anyway. By the time I got through with the two years, I knew I had to have a FOUR-year course; and by the time I got through with the four-year course, I knew I was in for the rest of my life. So I've been a student of first biology - that was the work I started with. And I graduated with a major in biology and was offered.... Well, I have to go back a bit. After I went two years to the state normal school, I had become greatly enamored by a professor of biology, and he was quite taken with me, apparently. He tried to persuade me not to go away from there to any other school. But my folks were very much afraid that my religion would be spoiled if I got further with any science. They didn't realize I was already into science up to my ears, but they wanted me to go to a church school. So I went to McPherson College.

Well, when I was there about two years, three - let's see, I went in 1909 - three years. It was 1912, I undertook a new type of work to earn money. I was having to earn all my money. It looked like a good deal to take a motorcycle and a camera and go out among the harvesters, first in Texas, and then follow the harvest on north. It was organized by a senior in the college who had been very successful. I had to be talked into it, but I did go. We completely failed, it didn't work at all. By the time the end of June came, we were all broke, and heading each in his own way. And on my way to get a job in the harvest field, threshing field, I stopped to see my old professor that I had so fallen in love with. He was quite surprised to see me and wondered what I was planning to do and I told him. He said, "That's too heavy a job for you. Why don't you stay here and work for me? I'll pay you just as much. I need somebody to help me in the museum this summer." So he had an old friend of mine already working there, and we three worked for a few weeks.

One day the professor said, "You know, I promised the president, no, he said, I asked the president for permission to go to Harvard and finish up my doctor's degree work this fall. He had me promise to get a teacher to take my place while I was gone." I said, "Yes, I heard about that." I didn't think any more of it, we went on working. A day or two later, he said, "You know, I've got to hire this teacher to take my place, and I think I'd like to have YOU do it." And I just blew up! I said, "Professor, you don't think that I would take your classes! You know you're the most popular man on this campus, and here I'm just a kid!" He didn't say much, he just grunted and we went on working. He brought it up another time, and I still said, "No, I can't do it. I'm not near through college yet." I was in my junior year. But about a week later he came in and said, "Well, I saw the president yesterday, and you're hired!" (laughter) So this pretty well knocked me off my feet.

He explained how he would outline the whole course for me before he left. And he literally talked me into it until I took the job. It proved to be an EXTREMELY valuable chapter in my life, because when I graduated, I didn't graduate as an inexperienced person, I had a very satisfactory and commendable experience to refer back to. So it turned out to be one of the great things that happened to me in my life.

I went on from there immediately when I graduated. I took a job at La Verne College, as head of the biology department out there - near Pomona, in California.

My wife and I were married before we went to California. Stayed there four years, and decided then I should finish, work for my doctor's degree, which was fairly close. I had been doing summer work at the university. So we first planned to not go to the University of California. I had been quite taken with some work I had seen being done in Cornell University. And then I saw another article on the same subject from the University of Pennsylvania. So I wrote to the University of Pennsylvania Medical College, told them what my preparation was, and what I was proposing. I said I wanted to finish my doctor's degree, which the University of California tells me I only need another year for. But I want to make a very special case of my thesis. I want to work on the effects of tobacco on the human body.

About that time, the cigarette people were just flooding the country with their propaganda, and I could see that they were going to take over. And I thought we needed some information more than we had. At that time, no girls smoked. If you'd see a girl smoke, you knew she was a bad woman. So I proposed to the University of Pennsylvania that if they would pay me enough of a salary to live on - my wife and I - for five years, I wanted to work five years in getting material together that would be overwhelming and settle the question of the effects of tobacco on the human body. I outlined the whole program to them. They immediately wrote back very favorably, and said that they didn't have a fellowship to cover this, but they would establish one if I would come.

So we began advertising our furniture. This was in the spring of 1918. The war was pretty hot at the time. But about the time we got ready to move, we got a wire or a letter - I don't remember which - stating that the War Department had taken over their laboratory, so I'd have to wait 'til after the war, and then I should get in touch with them. So we went to the University of California for the summer, and I offered my services to the War Department. I was excused as far as the draft was concerned, but I offered my services, told them what I might be able to do in the way of the food conservation program. So they gave me an appointment to South Dakota as field representative of the Department of Entomology, Washington, D.C.

As soon as the summer term at Berkeley was over, we moved then to South Dakota, and I took up my work there. It went very well, and I was greatly interested in it. But by May, the war closed, and my job closed right then. So I didn't have either the money or the time to prepare to go back to Pennsylvania. And here I had to take up negotiations with them again, and that would take some time. And we had a baby at that time.

Well, I had an offer from a college in Kansas, at Southwestern College in Winfield. That offer had been lying on my.... I didn't have a desk, it was lying in our ______ for two years. And it had been repeated from time to time - they were very anxious to have me come there. So I said to Addie [phonetic spelling] my wife, "I think what I better do is grab that job for the present. Then we'll pick up Pennsylvania again later." She was agreed. So we went to Kansas. She went to her old home at Murdock, Kansas, with the baby. I went to Southwestern, which was about, oh, fifty miles away, I guess. I made arrangements there to work in the fall.

I called the department of entomology at the state college in Manhattan and said, "I've got three months dead time on my hands. Do you need a field man?" And they did. So they put me right in the field with insect control. I traveled the state of Kansas during that summer and saw Addie occasionally, and had a very good summer. In the fall I went to Southwestern and took up the work in the department of biology.

I had a wonderful year there, and it was a place I didn't want to leave. But my old college, McPherson College, had a new president and a big program, and they sent a delegation down there to get me to come up and take the department of biology at McPherson, because the old professor that had been there was retiring, and they just made it look like I had to go - so I went. I taught there at McPherson ten years, and practically forgot about the plan to go to Philadelphia because I never had money enough.

In 1923 - now, this was 1920 I went to McPherson - but in 1923, in the fall, I saw this big fireball come across one evening as we were talking in front of my friend's house. This just changed my whole picture. I had read an article about two or three weeks before this in The Scientific Monthly, which was a co-publication of the science, that journal there which is the, American Association for the Benefit of Science. This was an article about meteorites. And I was so shocked to think that while I thought I'd been pretty well educated, I had never heard anything about meteorites. And here was the most interesting thing I ever heard. I went home and told Addie, "I'm going to make a hobby of this. It's just too interesting to pass up." Then came this fireball a couple of weeks later, and I was all cocked and primed and started right in to chase that fireball. Been at it ever since!

I stayed with the teaching for six years. I told the president that I didn't think it was fair for me to occupy the chair as head of the department of biology and draw a salary for that work when I was bound to spend half my time on meteorites. He said, "You go ahead and spend the time on meteorites. We're glad and proud to have you do it! So give yourself a light load in teaching and put as much time in as you want to." That went on for six years, and then I just decided it wasn't proper anymore. I handed in my resignation and we moved to Denver.

As soon as I had resigned, the local newspaper made an issue of it and it went out on the Associated Press. The Museum at Denver wrote me a letter and said, "We'd like to have you join our staff if you're going to quit McPherson." So that suited us pretty well, if I could do what I pleased. I went out to see them, and I could either take a job as a full-time employee, or I could use it as my headquarters, manage my own affairs, and keep my collection on exhibit in their museum, and take care of any problems which came up in the way of meteoritics. So I chose that, even though it only paid fifty dollars a month, it gave us absolute freedom to do as we pleased. And I didn't know at that time there was a Great Depression gonna hit. The Depression had hit in the East, but for me it didn't mean anything. I hadn't paid any attention to economics.

So we got out there, and before the first year was over, the Depression hit Denver, and we had a pretty tough time, but we made it. We were there fifteen years on that plan, during which I gathered the greatest collection of meteorites that any man had ever gathered in the history of the world. You'll find a statement to that effect in one of the Harvard publications. Dr. Fletcher(?) Watson wrote a book, Between the Planets, and in that he discussed meteorites and mentioned the fact that I was discovering half of all meteorites discovered in the world. So it was the invention of a system, the first and only system that's ever been practical, for finding meteorites. And it's a very simple thing - go out and educate the people, tell the people what theyíre like, offer a bonus if they find any. And in a country where the land is farmed, they will turn up these things. And thatís the way I made the collection.

Well, at the end of fifteen years at Denver, we thought our collection had grown to the point where if we set up as a museum, it'd make us a living. And I wanted to do work out at the Meteor Crater, so we set a museum up there on the highway, opposite the big crater, and offered it there for seven years. By that time, the highway had moved and left us stranded. So we looked around for a place to put it, and finally decided to put some down here in Sedona, and build a building for it, and move the collection here. And we came here in 1953. It went fairly well but was not making us any more than a bare living. And here we had a couple hundred thousand dollars' worth of meteorites. It seemed like as we were getting what people thought was old, and we did too, we'd better cash in on them and let them get where they're doing work as a research collection. But we didn't find anybody that wanted to pay us enough so we could live on it. I offered it to the Smithsonian when I was in one of the very tightest spots financially that we ever got into. I said, "If you'll give me $60,000 now, you can have it, lock, stock, and barrel." "Oh," he said, "we haven't got that kind of money." Well, I knew better. I knew they had it if they wanted it, but they didn't.

So that was in 1954. And we struggled along 'til 1957, and then the British Museum sent a man here to see the collection. That's what he wrote, that he wanted to see the collection. I didn't have any idea that he was coming to buy it, I thought he simply wanted to see it, because it had in it a lot of very important meteorites. Well, he came, and as soon as he had looked the collection over, he said, "Will you sell it?" I said, "Not outside the United States." We were hard up, and we'd like all the world to sell it, but it belongs in the United States, so I couldn't do that. "Well, would you sell us a split of it?" I said, "Yes, in a way, I wouldnít agree to give you half of it, but I'll make a nice list for you, if you want to consider it." So I did, made a list, came to $60,000. I said to Addie when I put it in the mail, "We'll never hear from this. He isn't going to pay that." It only represented about twenty percent of our collection. He came right back with a letter. He said, "The list is fine, the price is right, but it isn't large enough. We want more of the list than that." And this I think you've never heard anybody say before. He said, "We can raise LARGE sums of money over here easier than we can raise small sums." (laughter) So I sat down and wrote another list. It came to $140,000. Sent it to him. Again I said to Addie, "Now I KNOW we won't hear from him." But he came right back and said, "This is fine, and we're starting out to raise the money."

By that time, word had gotten 'round, and the Smithsonian wanted to buy our collection. And two or three universities were talking about it. We made the sale to the British Museum, and then that gave us time to relax, because we paid off all our debts and had some money to do what we pleased with. So we took a long trip to the Orient, took our collection off the market, 'cause we didn't want to sell any more that year. We were gone about six, seven months. We came back, we sent word out that the rest of the collection would be for sale now. And immediately, the thing began to get hot. The National Science Foundation was persuaded with Arizona State University to come out and look at the collection. They wanted to buy it for the university down there, but they wanted the National Science Foundation to furnish the money. So he came out and talked to them, then he came up and saw us and said, "Now, you've spent your life gathering this collection. And we feel that you ought to have something to say as to where it goes. And we have to buy it, because there are half a dozen institutions as it is now, all of 'em want us to furnish the money, but we think we ought to get your opinion before we decide." And I said, "We have anticipated this sort of thing and have talked about it. And Addie and I have decided that if you will put it somewhere in Arizona, in one of the institutions in Arizona, we'll knock off forty percent of the price, based on what we sold to the British Museum. Well, that settled it then, it went to Arizona State University. And we have retired, but of course I never quit work on a thing like that. Addie and I took a number of trips....

[END TAPE 1, SIDE 1, BEGIN TAPE 1, SIDE 2]

H.H. NININGER: We went to Alaska, and we went down into Mexico, and we traveled in Europe. Always looked for meteorites all the time we were gone. And in the Philippines we found the largest meteorite that I'd ever found, but one. This one weighed about a ton, and we had found one, a third larger than that, years before. But this one-ton meteorite presented quite a problem. We finally got it over here in 1963, I think it was - 1964.

Well, I've written a number of books and have given a lot of lectures, and I'm still writing books. I've got one written that the university is going to publish, and I've got another one about written, but I hope it'll be a general publication. The one in the university will be for scientific people more.

SUSAN ROGERS: Now which university is going to publish that?

H.H. NININGER: ASU. Thatís where the collection is and where they are working on meteorites all the time. So they think they'd like to publish, that suits me. Now, they have published one book for me that I didn't ever plan. I didn't know they were going to publish it until they were all ready, and they asked me if I had any objection if they took all my papers and put 'em into one book. And I said, "I'd like it." So that is one of the nine books that I have published, and I have two more in the works now. Maybe I'll quit when I get those.

I think you would like to read one short paper in there. This is really my biology career, but I'm sure you would like it. This one here. It won't take you very long to read it. (tape turned off and on) We moved out there, and I spent as much time as I could working on the crater, because I was convinced that the crater had never been properly studied. The conclusions drawn by the people who owned it, which had been written up in Mr. Barringer's various papers, was not in harmony with what science had concluded. So I decided that I would investigate the crater from the standpoint of finding out whether there was actually an explosion there, or whether there was a meteorite down in the crater. To be frank with you, before 1933, I believed that Barringer was right, that there was a big mass down in the crater. But after I excavated a little crater in Kansas that was too small to represent one like this up here, but it showed evidence of explosion. And I knew after that, that a big meteorite would explode on hitting the earth, and that's what the best scientists in the world had said all along. Barringer wouldn't accept it, he never did. They hired Dr. Molten at one time, in 1929, to give them an estimate of the amount of ore there was in that crater. He came out with his answer, and it was so discouraging to them that all of the men that were financing Barringer fled, they didn't want anything to do with it, because Molten told them that it could never have been more than 3 million tons, and more likely was only a couple hundred THOUSAND tons. And very little of that would be in the crater, because the meteorite exploded. That made Barringer so mad that he never did have any respect for Molten after that. I used to get amused, 'cause if I talked to him and mentioned Molten's name, he began to cuss. (laughter) He thought he was the worst man in the world.

SUSAN ROGERS: He never changed his ideas on it, huh?

H.H. NININGER: Oh, no. No, he died - I talked to Barringer in the spring of 1928, and he said he was just as sure as he was talking to me, that that meteorite lay under that south rim of the crater. And he would never accept any other statement of it. But in 1929, he died. [Molten's] report had come out in 1929. I wouldn't be surprised at all if that's what killed him, because he was so cut down by it. Those people that were financing him didnít want to finance him anymore. That's never been told, and I have no right to say it as a fact, but it's my OPINION - I don't mind saying that - that Molten's report hastened his death.

Well anyway, I came out here, and I.... Before I came, I wrote to Harvard to Dr. Shapley [phonetic spelling]. This was in 1939. I didn't come out 'til '46, so you see it was quite a long time. But in 1939, I wrote Shapley and said, "If Molten is correct, then I think we've been working at the crater in the wrong way all the time. The thing to do is to study the surroundings of the crater, not the crater pit. Because if that meteorite exploded, the evidence will be on the plains AROUND the crater. Would you get me some funds so that I can go out there and work on that premise?" Well, he sent me, or got the American Philosophical Society to send me $250. That was quite a bundle. He said, "You have to match this with another $250." So what I did, I went to another man and got the other $250 and then got my old friend Gillespie [phonetic spelling] in Denver to let his workmen build the kind of a magnet that I wanted. We got together enough that by giving our time and expense, we went down and spent the summer of 1939 searching for little particles around the crater. Called it a magnetic rake that we had. And we concluded that the material that was out on the plains was lying in a radiant distribution, that it had been thrown out from the crater. And I said, "This supports my idea, but it doesn't by any means finish the job." So in 1946, when we moved out here, I began to make an extended search around the crater for everything I could find. And I found that millions, even billions, of tiny little droplets of nickel iron were distributed around that crater on the plains. I'll show you a sample of 'em. (pause) You got good eyes?

SUSAN ROGERS: Yeah.

H.H. NININGER: Well, those are mostly round - they're not exactly round. And when they're polished - there's a layer of them, put in that plastic and polished - you see they're a bright metal. And that bright metal is rich in nickel. Well, the long story of that has been written up in my book on the crater, Arizona's Meteorite Crater, and that was one of the most important discoveries ever made at the crater. Then I found impactite out there, and impactite, I don't have any samples here, is blobs of country rock that were melted and sprayed out when the meteorite hit. It was sprayed as drops of molten rock. And in them you find a lot of these things, because they were flying about at the same time when they got mixed up, so that these impactite blobs were full of little particles like this, and smaller than those you see there. And I made a number of other finds at the crater, all of which are written up in my book. And if you haven't read that, you should, because it's the only thing that's ever been written describing the recent work at the crater. Now the U.S. Geological Survey is now making studies out there, but they're making entirely different studies that would not be understandable to the public. They're useful, but they're useful to scientists. Mine are also scientific, but they're also plainly understood by the public who care to read.

Well, the one thing that I am very sorry has happened, the people at the crater who operate it, will not sell any of my literature because I don't agree with Mr. Barringer who owned the crater until he died, and his son still owns it. It disagrees with everything he thought about the crater. It's a sad thing that an important - that's the most important spot on the face of this earth, scientifically.

SUSAN ROGERS: Is that the biggest one?

H.H. NININGER: Not the biggest one, but it's the best preserved. Now we've found craters so big that this would be a baby beside them. But they're so mutilated, nobody can see them, except the scientist who does scientific work on them, does seismic work and geological work, and investigates all the aspects of the effects of a large impact. But when they find them, they find actually the roots of craters, because the part of the crater that you see up here, you have been out to see this, that would have been all planed off, and you'd have only seen a slight depression in the bottom, 'cause the craters they're finding in Canada - and there they've done more work than anywhere else - they range all the way from five times the size of this crater - five times the diameter, I mean - to a HUNDRED times the diameter of it. Some of 'em forty miles in diameter! But it's just a lake. There's nothing there to excite people. In fact, they didn't know they were there until after. They never even began finding these until after 1950. And they're finding 'em all over the world now - they WILL find 'em everywhere. For all you and I know, we may be sitting in one here. I don't mean that, but this could be what you see could be a crater, but it could be that there was one here. But these rocks are all sediments that have been deposited in whatever the situation was 200 million years ago, and then the canyons and the mountains you see were all the result of erosion. But who knows, maybe 100 million years before those red rocks were laid down, this may have been a crater. I don't see any evidence of it. I've looked far and wide, but I don't see any evidence of it. But I'm sure of this, that practically every square foot of the earth's surface has at some time been a part of a crater. Why? Because the moon - you study the pictures of the moon, and you KNOW that every foot of it has been hit over and over and over. Mercury the same way. Mars the same way. Venus, probably the same way, though we don't get to see Venus, except the clouds. We do have some pictures now that show that it has a rocky surface, and there is evidence of pitting there, but you'll never see it clearly.

What I'm trying to say - and I've said it in several little articles - is that the geology of the earth has now got to be rewritten. The greatest force that has ever operated on this earth is the force of impact. There have been impacts on the earth, like those on the moon and on Mars and Mercury, and what would one of those big ones look like if it had been preserved on the earth? Can you imagine? Let me give you an example. I transposed a map off of a photograph of the moon, a map of Mar Imbrium. You remember Mar Imbrium on the moon? That's the biggest basin that you see on the moon. I transposed that to a map of the United States, to scale, and what do you suppose it covered? The basin itself covered all of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, most of Missouri, all of Kentucky and Tennessee, part of Michigan, and half of West Virginia. Now, that was the basin. The mountains that were thrown out, that you see on the moon as plain as you can see those trees out there, would cover the rest of the eastern half of the United States. Now, there's one other one on the moon that big. Three others well over 200 miles across. And still one other very dimly there, that's probably bigger than Imbrium. That's on the moon. On Mars is a crater that's 1,400 miles across. That's as big as the whole United States, if the United States were rounded and formed. On Mercury there's another 800-mile crater that we know of, on the part we've seen.

In other words, what I'm trying to get over is the fact that our part of the solar system has been built into the form we see it by impact - probably out of the asteroid belt. And the astronomers are going to have to reorient themselves regarding the solar system. And the geologists have got to reorient themselves with reference to the forces that have made our mountains and our plains, our oceans, our lakes, and everything - all modified, of course, on the earth by erosion. And you don't have to look farther than out of this window to see that erosion on the earth can carve canyons like this, or the Grand Canyon - everybody knows THAT'S erosion. It can also FILL cavities as big as an ocean or a lake or a ______. And erosion is simply the superficial action that has taken place. It's been going on a long time, of course, but it doesn't take it VERY long to make a canyon like this. I asked the best geologists, who've studied this canyon, how old it is. They think one or two million years. Well, what about one or two HUNDRED million years? Think of the stirring up, the plowing up, if you wish, and the plowing under that could happen in 500 million years. And it has happened all over the face of this earth. And in doing so, it has taken a crater like this up here in Arizona, it's just a very short duration. It's wiped out, there's no trace of it after a million years. This one's not very old, a few thousand years old. That's why.... And it's in a very lucky location. If it had happened, say, 100,000 years ago in a mountainous area, it would now simply probably be the head of a canyon. It would have filled with water, would have spilled over, been cut out one side of it. And you'd see no evidence of a crater, except some slanting rocks.

Well, the world has got to be reviewed, and geologists have got the job. They're not taking hold of it very fast, but it's hard for a geologist to think in terms of a force that made mountains, other than the forces he's known all the time. Well, there isn't any force known to geologists that's equal to the force of a great meteorite hitting the earth, or a great asteroid. It's the greatest force known.

SUSAN ROGERS: How often do meteorites fall? Did you say? You said that they hit every square inch, you don't see 'em.

H.H. NININGER: They fall oftener than you'd think, but it's over very quickly. Now, I just returned from Denver where my son-in-law, Mr. Hutz [phonetic spelling] who knew a lot of people, you know. And Mr. - well, can't think of his name - at the museum there in the city park in Denver - was working with Mr. Hutz on a fireball that came down about two weeks ago up there. Came over Denver, going south and a little east. And thousands of people saw it, because it happened in daytime. And they'd been getting reports so fast they can't run them down fast enough. My daughter, I called her one day - I didn't know about this thing, and I called her for something, I guess to ask about my wife. You know, she's in a nursing home over there.

SUSAN ROGERS: Oh, no, I didn't know.

H.H. NININGER: Yes, she can't participate any more in anything. Well, my daughter said, "Our phone has been ringing steadily for twenty-four hours!" Everybody seemed to see that meteorite, because they were going home from work. But they were all in their cars, and they can't do much in the way of furnishing information. But they were working on it, and had worked a great deal before I got up there, and they were working on it WHILE I was up there. And they think they know about where it landed and maybe they'll find some of it. But remember this, if that meteorite, for instance, weighed a ton, it all went into a thousand pieces at the end of its life, which was about twelve or fifteen miles above the earth. From then on, dark objects, with no fire, sprinkled themselves over an area. And if they've got the right area, they may find some of 'em.

SUSAN ROGERS: But they usually, actually donít hit like the meteor craters, I mean how often?

H.H. NININGER: That, of course, only in case they're very big. And one that size, I estimate one the size of this Arizona Crater would be formed perhaps every 50,000 years. But two-thirds of 'em would be in the oceans, so you wouldn't know about 'em. And the other third, it would mean that one every 150,000 years hit on the land somewhere. Well, half of the land is either arctic or antarctic, or jungle where nobody would know it.

SUSAN ROGERS: It would be VERY unusual for somebody to see it then, huh?

H.H. NININGER: Well, you see, a thing of this kind can be happening, and we're in the midst of it, but we're born and die between acts. A whole civilization can be born and die between GREAT impacts, such as, for instance, from that spot there on the Hudson Bay. I say "formed it," I think (moves away from microphone) it did, Whether that shows it or not. No it doesnít, I havenít got that much of a map. But you know what I mean, I think.

SUSAN ROGERS: Yeah.

H.H. NININGER: (still far from microphone) There, the Canadians are working on that one, and they believe that it is a meteorite crater. (moves back to microphone) Here you see it. That's nearly 300 miles across.

SUSAN ROGERS: Oh, youíre saying this whole thing.

H.H. NININGER: Yeah, yeah. See, it would have come on out there. Working on a thing like that is very difficult. They're going to have to work YEARS before they find positive evidence. But there are a few people that recognize that this thing has to be true. There's no place that the earth could have hidden during the years that the moon was being bombarded like that. We're practically against each other. The moon is a little part of us that's circling around out here, about thirty diameters of earth away from us. Well, astronomically, that's practically up against us. Hold on a minute, I want to show you an article. (tape turned off and on) Two young scientists about 1968 - hardly seems possible, that far back - in which they advocate the impact idea that I'm talking about. If you wanted to take the time - I'm sure you don't, because it'd take quite a while to read this - they believe that most of the earth had been bombarded in the fashion.... Well, right under your thumb there, you'll see some of the marks that they put down as where large meteorites had hit. They wrote that article, it was written very carefully. Now it's been almost ten years - it's been seven years since they wrote it. I've never heard a comment on it, by anybody.

SUSAN ROGERS: Did you know these people (

H.H. NININGER: Yes.) so that they had worked out the idea with you?

H.H. NININGER: One of them works for my son. My son is assistant director of the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, and this man, Sharp [phonetic spelling], works for them out in Utah. They have an office in Utah. So I wrote him the other day, I said, "I've lost your article and I want to get a copy of it," so he sent me this. Now, this is an example of how difficult it is for a new idea to come into acceptance. There was one other young fellow wrote an article in which he advocated the very same thing. And he was in good standing as a scientist. But I haven't seen anybody quoting him, I haven't seen anybody criticizing him. Like my papers, Susan, you don't hear anybody criticizing my work. I still write articles. I've written all these books. But nobody ever says anything about it because they like to talk about the thing that's already well established, and they learned it when they went to school. They read their notes and they give what they heard. There's got to be a generation of scientists die off before this gets goin', but it'll come. You'll live to see it. Sorry I won't!

[END TAPE 1, SIDE 2, BEGIN TAPE 2, SIDE 1]

H.H. NININGER: In 1932, there was a meteorite fell south of Kansas City, about fifty miles, at a little place called Archie, Missouri. I was at that time working for the Smithsonian in the field up in Oregon, and I didn't get to work on it until months later. But after about four months, and I was back in Denver at our home, I went over to do some more work. I didn't think enough had been done on this fall. Some meteorites had been picked up, and the main one had gone to the Smithsonian, and one or two somewhere else. I asked the Smithsonian if they would pay my expenses if I'd go over there and try to get them some more material. They chose rather, they said, "We'll agree to pay you a good price for anything you get, but you pay your own expenses." Well, I went. The most important thing I found was another fall that had nothing to do with the one I went to investigate. But between Archie where the ones that I went to investigate had hit, and the good-sized town ten miles north of Archie, in between there, there were some vacant farms where I didn't see any rocks, and pretty nice little fields. I said to myself, there ought to be a meteorite found in this. So I went out there one half day and talked to the farmers in that community. Three days later, one of the housewives brought over a four-pound meteorite, wanted to know if that's what I was talking about. I said it was. Well, word began to spread, and in a little while they had forty or so stones out of that little area. I was glad the Smithsonian hadn't agreed to pay me to come over there. It was a good deal better that I found this myself! (laughter)

But the thing I DID find on the one I went to investigate answers your question a while ago. Some people about three miles west of where the seven stones were found that were picked up, a group of neighbors were out in the yard that afternoon about one o'clock when this happened, and these people were out there under a tree eating watermelon. And this thing came over and of course made a big disturbance, and everybody quit whatever they were doing and went to look. In a little bit they heard a sprinkling-like hail on the cornfield adjoining the house where they were being entertained. That meant little particles were falling THERE. Well, six miles EAST of there, which was as far the other side of the fall area, as we were on the west side, a little girl eight years old was out playing in the yard on the southeast side of the house. Her father was out working on a piece of machinery west of the house, and he, after hearing this noise and seeing this little cloud that formed up here, and he'd gone back to work, and pretty soon he felt the rain of what seemed to be sand and gravel on his shoulders and hat. And the little girl came running to him, crying, said, "It's raining rocks out here!" So you see, there were two points, six miles apart, where this thing was happening. Well, in between them, down on the creek, a high school boy - because this was not a school day - he was down there hunting squirrels along the creek, and he heard the noise of this, and he thought it was a shotgun. He said it seemed awfully loud, but that's all he could think about. And pretty soon, he said he heard things hitting the leaves of the trees, coming down like hail around him. And he thought it was somebody playing a trick with a shotgun to scare him, and had shot over him. And he got scared and went home. As he went, he heard something hit ker-splash in the creek. He said it sounded like a rock about the size of his fist that hit there. Now, you know, there's an area six miles one way, and they don't know how wide the other, that was sprinkled by particles that you talk about.

Well, in 1916, there was a little meteorite hit a house down in Southern Missouri that went through the roof and hit the studding that made the ceiling, and lodged in the attic, right over a woman's head, where she was washing dishes here in the kitchen. Farmers that were in the field that morning - this is about 9:30 in the morning - about a half-a-mile from that house, felt a shower of sand and gravel on their clothes. So, you see, in both these cases, we were unable to pick up anything, because it was too long afterwards. The one over in Missouri, it was four months before I got there, and there had been heavy rains and snows and plowings and all that sort of thing, so we were not able to pick up any little stuff.

Now, those are a few of the cases. Well, in the Philippines in 1938, there was a meteorite fell, must have been quite a sizeable one, quite a number of pieces were picked up. And my friend over there, who had graduated from McPherson College just before I did, he had been in the Philippines ever since. He said in investigating this fall, which he was doing because he knew I was working on meteorites, he thought this was a good chance for him to contribute something, and he said he found that all the houses in a wide area there - most of which had tin roofs - had heard a sprinkling of particles, like rice grains, coming down on the roof after that big fireball that disappeared, and a few pieces had been picked up around there.

So itís happened, but it's awfully hard to trace these things. I learned in 1965 or '66.... (aside about book) This was done in honor of me. The World Chemical Society decided to dedicate that volume. That is one volume of their journal. In that I can look and see the date that I want to get. All those papers were given by men at that meeting. (pause) Here it is, '67. April 20. No, wait a minute, that's when the paper was received. "In 1965, March 31, there was a tremendous...." You want to look at it some more while I talk?

SUSAN ROGERS: [Okay.]

H.H. NININGER: There was a tremendous fireball witnessed and heard in the region of Tantictin [phonetic spelling] of British Columbia. Unfortunately, they didn't get very much of anything from it, because these men went hunting for a crater, when they should have been out on their snowshoes hunting for tiny particles. They thought this thing made a crater. Quick as I saw a little fragment of it, I said, "It couldn't have made a crater, it would have been scattered. It was exploded above the earth and scattered over a wide territory, so you should have been looking for small stuff." But it was too late then; I hadn't even heard of it 'til nine weeks after it happened. But the point I want to make is this, that on that occasion, two days after that big fall, out in the San Francisco Region, the U.S. Geological Survey man who was working particularly on fall of meteoritic dust to the earth, said that the amount of nickel-bearing particles arriving was multiplied by 200 times, I think, right after that fall. So you know....

SUSAN ROGERS: Yeah.

H.H. NININGER: Takes a long time for 'em to come down from a height of twenty miles. This thing exploded about twelve miles over the earth. So when it was going over California, it would have been a couple hundred miles high. Well, things don't fall fast, you know, when they're small - the air holds 'em back. There's beginning to be gathered a lot of information on this thing. But we still don't know much about it. In other words, the whole picture of meteorites, it's so difficult because of the answer to your question that you made a while ago, they happen so infrequently, they happen so quickly, and they're over with when they DO happen. And if they are big enough to make a big disturbance, there's only one in 50,000 years or so, so that our whole history - we're celebrating 200 years of history now [referring to the Bicentennial of the U.S.A. (Tr.)], well probably two THOUSAND years ago, or FIVE thousand years ago, or FORTY thousand years ago, there was another crater like this formed somewhere, maybe in the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, or somewhere nobody knows anything about it. So you see how difficult it is for us to get quick results when we go to investigate.

I've been a bit more fortunate than most people. I've had fifty years in which to observe and study and research this thing since I got interested in it. And I got interested in it after I had already had a good career at teaching biology.

SUSAN ROGERS: Right.

H.H. NININGER: And soon - well, I've passed my eighty-ninth birthday. I'm now living in my ninetieth year. If I keep on, maybe I'll learn something!

SUSAN ROGERS: Let me backtrack just a little bit here. Do you know why is Meteor Crater private land? Why can't that be owned by the government?

H.H. NININGER: That's an awfully good question. It's an accident, in one way. In the first place, at the time it was found, in 1890 or thereabout, nobody knew about meteorite craters. There just wasn't anybody knew about 'em. And when Mr. Barringer, who is not a scientist, but he was an engineer, when he heard about it from a forestry man, Mr. Helsinger [phonetic spelling], Helsinger said, "You know, there's a big hole up here." They were down in Tucson to talk to him. He said, "There's a big hole up here east of Flagstaff that a lot of people think was made by a meteorite." And he told what it looked like and all, and how they had picked up meteorites all around it. Now, this was in 1902, in the autumn of 1902. Barringer got all excited about it. He was a mining engineer, and he thought if that was a meteorite crater, then there's a big hunk of meteorite down in there, and that's a rich mine proposition. He went right to work and filed on all the land covering that crater - some of it in his name, and some in his friends' names. Within months, he applied for a title to it, and GOT title. And right there, the law was broken, because nobody has a right to apply for a title for a mining claim until he has proven it a commercial proposition. He's owned it now seventy years, and it's never produced a ton of ore. But you see, he was able to convince the Land Department, and they gave him the title. I won't say that there was anything crooked about it, but it was illegal, of course - illegal on the part of the Land Department to GIVE him a title, illegal for him to APPLY for a title. But they did, and it happened. So that's how it got into private hands.

Now, there were two mistakes made, at least. One was made by Barringer, thinking he had a mine; the other being by the Land Department in accepting his speech, apparently, that he had a proven case. And in my book, I have therefore in the last chapter of my book, Arizona's Crater, suggested that the proper thing would be for this to be in the hands of the Park Service, and that it would be the greatest honor that the Barringer people could do to their father, who got the thing by mistake, at least - that's the most favorable thing you can say on it. It would be a great thing to have them turn this back to the people for a public park, and let it be run for purely scientific and scenic purposes. It is not being well taken care of now - it never has been. They dislike me for suggesting this, so you won't get any favorable remarks from what I've told you. They think I'm doing them a great disfavor to suggest that it ought to go back to the people. I think definitely it should. It belonged to the people in the first place, it was gotten away from the people illegally, and it's the greatest scientific object on the face of this earth. And to have it in the hands of private people.... Just as an example, look what they've done in the last year. They've hauled thousands of tons of volcanic cinders out there and piled them up in the territory that needs to be investigated for that crater. And when I protested, I got no satisfaction at all, except figuratively a few kicks in the pants from people who don't like me to say that sort of thing. Well, heavens and earth! I've worked out there around that crater, and I know what those cinders are gonna mean. They're gonna mean that whole territory to the north and northwest of the crater is IMPOSSIBLE to work in a scientific manner.

SUSAN ROGERS: Are there any scientists working out there right now?

H.H. NININGER: I think the USGS has a man, Mr. Roddy [phonetic spelling] I think is doing some drilling - he was a few months ago. The USGS is planning and trying to do some work on it. I don't know anything about the details, because I haven't meddled with the deal. But I know that I had a letter from Mr. Roddy saying that he had drilled a number of holes out there, all of which gives information. That kind of thing, the cinders aren't going to interfere with. But the kind of thing that I did, which was the most productive work that's ever been done out there, I found so many new things that surprised everybody. I didn't consider that I had finished the job, by any means. There ought to be a lot more done.

SUSAN ROGERS: How about that plane crash out there? Were you there when that happened? Do you know anything about that plane crash?

H.H. NININGER: I know very little about it.

SUSAN ROGERS: Okay! Wasnít sure.

H.H. NININGER: Well, maybe not, because there's nobody there now that was there when that happened. But I saw the results of it soon after it happened. To give you any facts, I wouldn't attempt it, because I don't like to play with facts lightly.

SUSAN ROGERS: Right. Okay. I was going to ask you maybe about some of the different awards that you've received. And also, did you have some kind of - I don't know what you call it - contest for students to write a paper on meteorites or something?

H.H. NININGER: In recent years, you mean?

SUSAN ROGERS: Right. Anything like that that you've done.

H.H. NININGER: Well, I don't seem to remember THAT. I received a number of awards, and whether I can recall them or not.... I've got the certificates around here somewhere. I received a doctor of laws degree from the university down here. I received a doctor of science degree from McPherson College for the work I had done on meteorites. And I did receive the honor of the dedication of that book I handed you a while ago.

SUSAN ROGERS: Say the name of this book so we have it on tape.

H.H. NININGER: The name of it is - let me see it a minute so I get it right - Meteorites and Tektites, published in the journal of Geochemica et Cosmochemica - I hate that term, I do! You'll have to write it down.

SUSAN ROGERS: Okay, right, I will.

H.H. NININGER: Which is the official organ of the Geochemical Society, which is an international organization. And they dedicated that one volume to me on the occasion of my eightieth birthday. Now, the significance of that may kind of come to you in the fact that ordinarily that journal is about that thick. When they announced that this was going to be dedicated to me, this was the result that came. So I felt rather honored. And I didn't know about it until they had it all ready to publish. They never told me anything about it. They meant it to be a complete secret 'til the time it was presented, but it didn't quite make that.

I received a certificate from the State down here. I don't remember things like that well. I've got 'em stashed away out here.

SUSAN ROGERS: Okay, thatís fine, whatever hits your mind, uh. That's fine.

H.H. NININGER: I've received two or three special citations from my old alma mater, McPherson College. I was honored here on the occasion of just before my present birthday, by being invited to institute a series of lectures at my alma mater. A friend of the college, an alumnus of the college, decided to endow a series of lectures, special lecturers brought into the college once a year from now on. And he furnished the endowment to pay for that. And I was invited to give the first one of those lectures. And I was up there on the thirtieth of October, last, to give that lecture.

I have been invited to supply a biographical sketch to various Who's Whos all over the world - two in Europe and several in this country. I never asked to get into any of 'em - they've always asked me to join. So you'll find my name in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in the World, and Men of Achievement, Who's Who in Colorado, Who's Who in Arizona, and all that sort of thing. I appreciate it, but I never asked for any of these things.

SUSAN ROGERS: Let me ask you a far-fetched question. I don't know how much this is related, but I was just thinking with all these meteorites, and youíre talking about other planets and everything: On a scientific basis, how much do you believe in UFOs? Do you think it's possible?

H.H. NININGER: It's possible.

SUSAN ROGERS: Or do you think maybe some of these reports are really meteorites maybe?

H.H. NININGER: BARELY possible. But I know that most of those things that I have investigated turned out to be meteorites. Now, I've a book here. It's a borrowed book. I didn't borrow it, but it was brought TO me, and I was asked to read it and comment on it. I don't know where it is now, but it's a book that I finished reading the other day, written by the man that talks most about UFOs. He's head of this NICAT (spells acronym) - whatever that stands for, I don't know - an organization that keeps this whole pot boiling by repeating all of these, putting on record all of these cases, and so forth. He claims there are thousands of them on record that are kept secret by the Air Force. The Air Force denies it. I read his book. His book now recounts hundreds of cases. The best cases that he presents are PERFECT examples of large meteorite [sightings?]. Does he ever mention anything about meteorites? No! I don't know why. I don't know why a man could be so interested in UFOs that he ignores all fireballs - of which there are many on record. And he cites a number of them, which I know exactly when I read his descriptions, exactly what happened. But he says that this was a crew of people in a UFO that are investigating this country. Some of the most ridiculous things that I can imagine! He takes, for instance, an observatory in Siberia, and he said the astronomers there one night saw this object, a crescent-shaped object with a tail behind it, going across. They were all excited about it, but it was all over in a few seconds. The picture is a perfect example of an ordinary fireball - nothing unusual about it at all. Did he mention fireballs? No. He said that was some space vehicle investigating the earth, and taking five seconds for it. Long investigation, isn't it? And he cites other cases like that.

[END TAPE 2, SIDE 1, BEGIN TAPE 2, SIDE 2]

SUSAN ROGERS: Okay.

H.H. NININGER: The book seems to depend entirely on the rank or the position of the men that he calls authorities. And those people, with whom I've been dealing for fifty years, are no more reliable in their judgment than any ordinary person of good sense - without any scientific training at all, they can tell you what they see. Well, these fellows he takes because they see the same thing and give the same kind of report, but because they have a great title, either in the Army or the Navy or science or somewhere, and considers they've got to be, their opinion must be recognized. One of the men that he cites oftenest among great scientists, I listened to a few years ago give a lecture down at Tucson. After the lecture, I called up his residence in a motel there, and said, "Dr. MacDonald [phonetic spelling], would you do me the favor of coming over? I'd like to talk with you more about this subject." And he did. He came over to my motel about nine o'clock. As I remember, we separated sometime between twelve and one, talking all the time - mostly he talking and me asking him questions. I concluded and told him, I said, "Dr. MacDonald, the manner in which you've done your investigating, to me would not hold water at all. I don't consider any of these things that you learn by simply calling somebody on the telephone and getting his report, as something to be relied upon. Now, I've for fifty years been experimenting with the same thing you have, really, but I never take anybody's report seriously until I have been to him or her, asked them to take me to where they were at the moment they saw this, point out everything as they saw it. And when I've had that chance to size up the personality and to view the facts as they repeated them, then I reached some sort of conclusion. But the way you've reached conclusions, I couldn't take any of 'em." Well, unfortunately, MacDonald is no longer living, but he is one of the good examples of well-trained physicists, he was trained in atmospheric physics, he was trained in astronomy. If he just would sit down long enough to figure out what must be the conditions under which a man testifies, in order to evaluate his testimony, he'd have been a good man [and a good scientist! (Tr.'s cheeky comment)], but he didn't do that. Now, I've HAD to do it, because my life depended on, my bread and butter depended on me finding this meteorite. And most of the people that I investigated were not much help, because they don't make careful enough observations. But when I found one that could, I always went to where he was. I said, "Where did you make this observation?" And we went there.

Let me give you an example. Here's a man, a college graduate, who's a successful businessman. He's running a garage, car sales connected with it, in a small town, but a good county seat in Eastern Colorado. This was back in the year 1931. And I had worked on a fireball quite some weeks, had it very well pinned down. I knew practically where it disappeared, at about what height it disappeared, and over what location. I got a letter from him saying that he had seen this smoke cloud that followed the fireball, from his place, and he thought I might like to know that from his place he observed the smoke cloud at the height of 75o above the horizon. I read the letter, and of course thought of it in terms of all the other testimonies I had. I had been over in the area where this happened, on all sides of it, and I knew he couldn't be right. I didn't tell him so, but I wrote back and said, "Will you please check that matter of height again? Seventy-five degrees doesn't agree with what I already have, and I thought maybe you didn't write quite the way you meant to. But please check it again and write me." He did, said, "I can't do any better than 75o above the horizon." I knew he was wrong, but I didn't say so. I waited 'til I happened to be in that community again, and I went over and called on him. I said, "Just for my records, will you take the time to go out where it was you were the night you observed this?" - or the day, it was a daylight meteor - "and I've got an instrument, we'll register the degrees as you remember them, on the instrument." We went out, he pointed out, and I knew he was way down around 10o-15o, instead of 75o, just by pointing. But I didn't say anything, I said, "Now, here's the instrument. You site it, and I will register the degrees." Ten degrees above the horizon. Now, there is a college-trained man, he's a good businessman, he's an honest man, but he never had any training in the thing that he's reporting on. And that is the classification you can put most of the professors in. How many professors have you ever seen? I've talked to hundreds of 'em, and I've never found a dozen that ever took the matter seriously of registering what they see in the way of a meteorite. Therefore, they don't do a very good job. They viewed it alright, but it's a special thing. It's something that you have to take training in that you don't get out of a book. You have to get it from somebody who has been working at it, and has been effective in working at it, who has gotten results that you can pick up in your hands to prove that he was right, and let HIM tell you how to do this thing. But they don't do that. (moves away from microphone) I wanted to show you, there's a little article in here that I wrote. Is that the right one? Yeah, guess itíd have to be. You don't need to read it, but I just want you to know that it's there, in case....

SUSAN ROGERS: Do you want to put the name of this on the tape, too, so that we know that it's in there?

H.H. NININGER: Yes. It's Arizona, The Grand Canyon State: A History of Arizona, Volume I and Volume II, published by the Western States Historical Publishers, Incorporated, Westminster, Colorado. They have gotten out such books on several other states. I don't remember which ones, but that will be easy for you to locate.

Now, I have wanted to show you something else they did. They did make a mistake - somebody made it. I'm afraid that it's right along the line I've been talking, because here is a man, holds a high position, he's in the astrogeological laboratory there in Flagstaff, and he writes this story of their laboratory, and he puts this map in. Now, that map is turned 90o. THIS runs west, runs from the south to the north, WEST of the crater. There's a mistake that will be responsible for a thousand other mistakes. I don't know who to blame. I've written the publisher about it.

SUSAN ROGERS: You don't know if they've.... Yeah, right, if they put it in their layout wrong or something.

H.H. NININGER: If they'd have just turned that around. It's a good map. As a matter of fact, I had that map copyrighted in 1956, it's in my book on Arizona's Crater, but it's turned around. I don't know where he got the picture. I don't care if he got it. It was my copyright, because I suppose the copyright's about out of date anyway now. I don't know what the rules are, but I wouldn't have cared ANYHOW. He could have had [it], it wouldn't have cost him anything.

But it's a case of some people think that things relating to such things as meteors and meteorites [are] not important. I say they are basically important, because they are a going-on process, that's been going on for billions of years, and we're living with the results, but we haven't learned to leave them.

SUSAN ROGERS: Yes. Right. Well, I think this has been a real good discussion. Let me....

[END OF INTERVIEW]