An Interview with Images of America: Meteor Crater author, Neal F. Davis

What motivates you to write?

My primary the site motivation for writing is meeting all the people, their individual stories and connection to the story and, of course, the education. This included all the traveling and meeting the various sources as the story becomes a “living” book of information and knowledge. My motto for this project was/is, “never stop learning.”

What was your favorite thing about publishing a book?

My favorite thing about publishing the book was/is seeing all of the effort, time, travel and research coming together as a story and ultimately the excitement of the book being published!

What was the hardest part about writing your book?

My most difficult task was building the story utilizing the support of all the sources, scanned photos and images – over 300 – and then figuring out the, “elusive starting point.” For example, what should make up the first chapter, how do I arrange the photographs/images and supporting captions to present an interesting and educational story flow, etc.  

Can you share any fun facts or stories about Meteor Crater?

In chapter four, The Meteorites, we introduce a meteorite called, The Basket Meteorite due to its shape--it is indeed shaped like a basket. This 59 pound “rock” was found by local rancher, Ernest Chilson in the 1940’s–his ranch, the BAR T BAR surrounded the crater and he found the meteorite during ranching operations. The meteorite was stolen in 1968 but was returned by an individual living in the Midwest that purchased the meteorite at a garage sale and had been using it as a paper weight! Working with a local scientist, Dr. Paul Sipiera with the Earth & Space Science Museum in Illinois, they determined the source of the “lost” meteorite.  They contacted Meteor Crater and the individual that owned the meteorite personally drove the rock back to the site for personal delivery to the crater museum in 2009. Today, The Basket Meteorite is on display at the Meteor Crater Visitor Center.

Is there anything that surprised you about the history of the crater?

A major surprise was the fact that the Meteor Crater was not fully accepted, in the scientific community, as an impact crater (vs. volcanic crater) until the 1960’s.  The controversy over the origin began at the turn of the 20th Century.  Chapter one, entitled, The Early Scientists, Barringer, and Controversy, outlines the story details and arguments among scientists and others of influence at that time.

Could you share a quick story from your book?

One of the many interesting stories within the book is about the famous Astrogeologist, Eugene (Gene) Shoemaker. He not only trained all of the Apollo Astronauts (some would later land on the moon) on impact crater geology but in 1963, he also published the landmark paper analyzing the similarities between the (Barringer) Meteor Crater and craters created by nuclear test explosions in Nevada. Carefully mapping the layers of underlying rock and ejected rock, he demonstrated that the nuclear craters and the Meteor Crater were structurally similar in nearly all respects.  His paper provided the clinching arguments in favor of an impact, finally convincing the last doubters (that the crater was formed by an asteroid impact vs. from an internal explosion). 

What impact do you hope to leave by publishing your book?

While the Meteor Crater is the focus of the book, it could not come alive without the people and that is what my focus was in writing this story.   As stated in the book introduction,
“There have been numerous books and periodicals written about Meteor Crater, the meteorites, and the crater’s scientific value, but this book, with supporting images, is more about the people, from the early scientists to the many visitors, from famous astronauts that walked on the moon to elementary school students on class field trips from neighboring Winslow.” 

And for fun—what book(s) have most influenced your life?

Three influential books include: Centennial by James Michener, Men to Match my Mountains: The Opening of the Far West, 1840-1900 by Irving Stone and The Right Stuff by Tom Wolf. I love history and specifically the history of the American West and the history of our space program that put the first man on the moon.

Purchase: Meteor Crater