Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Cranbourne Meteorites

The first meteorite discovered in the Cranbourne region was in 1853. The first time they came to the public notice was in 1854 at the Melbourne Exhibition when a horseshoe was exhibited made from a specimen of iron from Western Port (1) This iron turned out to have come from the Cranbourne No. 1 meteorite. Another crop of iron (Cranbourne No.2) had also been discovered 6km from the first however it wasn’t until 1860 that the two outcrops of ‘iron’ were identified as meteorites. This publicity bought to life another meteorite which had been unearthed in 1857. This meteorite is known as Cranbourne No. 3. These meteorite discoveries created interest overseas partly due to their size, and were reported in scientific papers.

We will look at the meteorites in detail. Cranbourne No. 1, weighs 3,550kg is now housed at the National History Museum in London. It has been in England since 1865 when it was acquired by the British Museum. Alexander Cameron (1815-1881), the father of modern Cranbourne (2), was one of the first people to bring to a wider public the discovery of the Cranbourne meteorites. The first meteorite was discovered by William MacKay, around Craigs Road in Devon Meadows, and he assumed that it was part of an iron deposit. He had made it into a horse shoe and it was displayed  at the Melbourne Exhibition of 1854.  In 1860 Cameron took the horse shoe to Melbourne to a conference to convince the powers that be that Cranbourne should have  a railway line due to the commercial possibilities of this iron deposit.  At the conference the Town Clerk of Melbourne, E.G Fitzgibbon,  thought that this was not iron but a meteorite and he then presented his findings to the Royal Society and this put the Cranbourne Meteorites on the world stage with interest from the British Museum and the Emperor of Austria (3).

Cranbourne meteorite with the chain which was employed to pull it from its position for transport to the Melbourne Museum, 21 February 1862.
Photographer: Richard Daintree.
State Library of Victoria Image H36595

Cranbourne meteorite with the screw-jack with which it was moved from its position for the first time since its arrival on this planet, 21 February 1862.
Photographer: Richard Daintree, Richard
State Library of Victoria Image H36594

Cranbourne No. 2 weighs 1,525 kg and is at the Melbourne Museum, though it was initially purchased by the British Museum for £300 in 1862. Colonial scientists strongly protested at the loss to England of both these meteorites and so Cranbourne No.2 was returned to Melbourne. It had been discovered in Clyde at the property owned by James and Charlotte Lineham. In an article (reproduced below) in the Pakenham Gazette on October 3rd 2001, there was an interview with two great grandchildren of James and Charlotte, Glenda Tait and Jean Hermon, who remembered stories their grandmother Susanah Beazley (nee Lineham) told of the meteorite Grandma said the meteor was worshipped by the Aborigines who came to the property and that it was special to them and they cried when they saw it being taken away.

Pakenham Gazette October 3, 2001. Click on image to enlarge it.

Cranbourne No.3 was discovered in 1857 and was 6.8kg. It was found on the same farm as Cranbourne No.1 and had been broken in two, one part being used as a kitchen hob. Unfortunately both pieces are now lost. Cranbourne No.4 is 1270 kgs and Cranbourne No.5 weighs 356 kg. They are both at the Melbourne Museum and were both unearthed in separate locations in 1923 in the Devon Meadows area between Browns Road and North Road.

Cranbourne No.6 was discovered in Pakenham, west of the Toomuc Creek, during works connected to the widening of the Princes Highway, in 1928 and weighs 40.5 kg. Numbers 7 & 8 were both discovered in 1923, in the same paddock as No.5 and weigh 153 kg and 23.6 kgs respectively. Numbers 4, 5, 6 and 8 are at the Melbourne Museum and no.7 is at the University of Melbourne.

No.9 was discovered in 1876 in a railway cutting about three kilometres east of the Beaconsfield Railway station and weighs 75 kg. It was broken up into samples which are now at various Institutions around the world. Cranbourne No.10 was found at Langwarrin in 1886, by a farmer ploughing his field. No.11 was discovered two kilometres north of Pearcedale in 1903. No.10 is 914 kg in weight and is at the Melbourne Museum and No. 11 is at the National Museum in Washington, and weighs 762 kg.

Number 12 was also found in Pearcedale, in 1927 though it was not identified as a meteorite until 1982. This 23 kg piece was on display at the now demolished City of Casey Civic Centre at Narre Warren, I believe it is currently in storage.  The last and thirteenth meteorite was found on a market garden at Clyde, and weighs 83 kg. The farmer had being working around this rock for years, but it was only dug up and identified as a meteorite in 2008. Though he could have sold it for a large sum of money, he generously donated it to the Melbourne Museum and it is now on display at the Casey RACE Leisure Centre at Cranbourne.

This map, showing the locations of the Meteorite finds, is reproduced from a tourist brochure produced by the Shire of Cranbourne to promote their Meteorite display on the South Gippsland Highway in Cranbourne. Click on image to enlarge it.

Most of these meteorites were discovered by chance, mostly by farmers ploughing their paddocks. The Meteorites were all located in a straight line, except for the slight deviations of No.6 and No.11, and are 21 kilometres apart (see map above). There are no large craters, such as the one at Wolfe Creek in Western Australia, as the Cranbourne Meteorites impacted at a low angle on swampy or sandy ground. Our meteorites are iron of the Octahedrite type, the most common type of iron meteorite and are some of the heaviest in the world.  I also googled “Cranbourne meteorites” and came across an interesting report (4) where the Cranbourne No.1 meteorite was used to test the theory that there was water on the moon. The actual experiment involved comparing the akaganeite which formed on the meteorite to akaganeite taken from rocks collected by Apollo 16 from the moon. The Cranbourne Meteorites are of international importance and I wonder how many other meteorites may still lie undiscovered in our area?

(1) Gunson, Neil The Good Country: Cranbourne Shire (F.W. Cheshire, 1968), p.63.
(2) Gunson, op. cit., p. 52
(3) Gunson, op. cit., p. 64
(4) The article referred to is Experiments on the stability of FeOOH on the surface of the moon by Lawrence A. Taylor and Jacqueline C. Burton. Published in Meteoritics, v.11, no.3, September 30 1976.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Ruffy Brothers of Cranbourne

The Ruffy Brothers were some of the earliest European settlers in the Cranbourne area. They squatted on the Tomaque run, after having arrived from Tasmania in 1836 (though some sources say they left Tasmania in March 1837). Tomaque was situated between Dandenong and Cranbourne. The brothers had Tomaque until 1850, however in the 1840s they also took up the Mayune Run of 32,000 acres. Mayune was situated around what is now the town of Cranbourne. The Brothers held Mayune collectively, until Frederick took over the lease from 1845 to 1850. The Ruffy brothers also owned the Cranbourne Inn, which some suggest was the original source of the name of the town of Cranbourne. Cranbourne is a town in Berkshire, England.

Frederick Ruffy. Drawn by George Henry Haydon. Reproduced from The Good Country : Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson.

Who were the Ruffy brothers? There is not a lot of information on the brothers but from various sources we can piece together a bit of their family history. William Joseph Ruffy and Louisa Ann Kingham were married at St Martin in the Fields in Westminster in London on May 15 1799. Ruffy was a joint editor of the Farmers Journal and Agricultural Advertizer, an English publication, from 1808-1832. The Farmers Journal was one of the first Agricultural journals in England. They had nine children of which five sons lived at Western Port - Thomas (1800 - 1882) William James (1802 - 1884) Frederick (1804 - 1872) Henry (1808 - 1847) and Arthur Wiggett (1817 - 1893). William Joseph Ruffy died in Launceston in 1836 aged 61 and Louisa Ruffy died in Campbell Town in 1859 aged 79.

Of the five sons who came to Cranbourne - Henry died while the brothers where at Tomaque, Arthur married Caroline Sawtell in 1852. She was the daughter of Edwin Sawtell. I presume that this is the same Edwin Sawtell, after whom Sawtell Inlet in Tooradin is named. Sawtell was a storekeeper who arrived in Melbourne in 1838. It seems likely that he had land in the area and that Thomas Rutherford, after whom Rutherford Inlet is named, managed his run. Sawtell died in 1892 aged 94. William married Janet Stewart in 1867. I cannot find any record that the other Ruffy brothers married and the only off spring I can locate of the two married brothers were the two children of Arthur & Caroline, of whom the eldest Frederick lived only 15 months (1853 - 1854). Their other son was Arthur Edwin Sawtell Ruffy, born in 1861.

Squatter hut, drawn by George Henry Haydon. Reproduced from The Good Country : Cranbourne Shire by Niel Gunson.

By the 1850s the Ruffy Brothers had moved on and had taken up leases on various runs around Seymour, Avenel, Longwood and Molesworth, and since the township of Ruffy is in the centre of these runs they presumably had the township of Ruffy named after them. Frederick Ruffy was at one time (from 1860-62) the licensee of the Royal Mail Hotel in Avenel. There are accounts of the Ruffy Brothers and other early squatters in the novel The Australian Emigrant : a rambling story containing as much fact as fiction by George Henry Haydon. Haydon spent New Years Day in 1845 with the Ruffy Brothers at Mayune, and sketched them and their hut - shown above. Haydon himself was an adventurer, who arrived in Melbourne in 1840 and returned to England in 1845. During this time he spent six months on French Island chopping mangroves and reducing them to ash for use in salt making, he also sold illustrations to the news papers. Collections of his illustrations are held at the National Library of Australia.