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KRONOS Vol II, No. 1

On The Origin Of Tektites

In a previous article, "Tektites and China's Dragon,"(1) I offered some corroborative evidence in support of the notion that tektites might owe their origin to meteoric impacts and/or interplanetary discharges which took place on the Moon during some of the cosmic catastrophes described by Immanuel Velikovsky in Worlds in Collision. Needless to say, the belief in the lunar origin of tektites did not originate with me. Dr. Dean Chapman, aerodynamics specialist at Ames Research Center, among others, had long held that tektites were lunar fragments which had been hurled into space during "meteoric collisions with the moon."(2) So, also, according to J. A. O'Keefe.(3)

It was earlier pointed out to me, however, that "any thought of a lunar origin for tektites was dispelled by the manned lunar landings."(4) Among those who had already debunked such a genesis for these glassy meteorites were Virgil E. Barnes,(5) William K. Hartman(6) and H. C. Urey.(7) In an addenda appended to my earlier article, I then raised my own objections and, with the artillery available to me at the time, defended as best I could the contention that these crystallized droplets could still have originated on the Moon, especially during the excavation of such craters as Tycho which Velikovsky had earlier attributed to interplanetary discharges.(8) Moreover, I also pointed out that, despite the wealth of lunar geologic material which the U. S. astronauts succeeded in returning to Earth, in no way could it be said that the few and scattered manned landings on the Moon had "dispelled" such an origin for tektites.

When I wrote my 1975 article, I was unaware of the existence of a paper, "Tektite Glass in Apollo 12 Sample," written by John A. O'Keefe of the Laboratory for Space Physics, Goddard Space Flight Center, which appeared in the June 5, 1970 issue of Science. In that article, O'Keefe analyzed the comparison of one of the lunar rocks (sample # 12013), returned by the team of Apollo 12, with javanites (tektites from Java) and other terrestrial rocks. The result of this analysis showed clearly that sample # 12013 "is more like the javanites than like the terrestrial rocks, even if the differences in the oxidation state of the iron and in the water content are, for the moment, overlooked."(9) O'Keefe's article, therefore, seems to provide still further evidence in favor of a lunar origin for tektites.

Writing in 1973, Hartman, who seems to have been as unaware of O'Keefe's 1970 paper as I was, was still stating that the Moon's rocks are mainly igneous and not, like tektites, silica-rich.(10) Yet, according to O'Keefe, "for the kind of oxide ratios that we observe, the silica content of sample 12013 is unusually high" (italics added).(11) Besides, as O'Keefe also makes clear, the difference between tektites and igneous rocks is not so drastically demarcated as to render them entirely incompatible. In fact, "a tektite generally resembles an unusually potassic intermediate igneous rock that has been diluted with too much SiO2."(12)

"It has often been suggested that these chemical peculiarities are the result of a sedimentary origin: the excess silica is attributed to mechanical differentiation of a sediment, with enhancement of the quartz content; the general deficiency of alkalis to leaching; and the potassic character to the tendency of clays to hold potash. It is now clear that these arguments are not compelling; the moon can produce< the same properties" (italics added).(13)

O'Keefe admits, however, that the glass content of lunar sample 12013 differs slightly from tektite glass in as much as the agreement of its trace elements is somewhat unsatisfactory when compared to javanites. Discrepancies of a factor of 10 occur for some trace elements while "smaller, but still significant" discrepancies are found for others.(14) In 1972, D. L. Showalter et al. made much of these trace element discrepancies in a renewed effort to dispel the lunar origin of tektites. Basing their study on the chemical composition of sawdust from the same lunar sample that O'Keefe had earlier analyzed, they came to the conclusion that "no fragment or sawdust of rock 12013 that has been analyzed to date is chemically similar to tektite glass" even though they had to admit that "the abundances of major elements in tektite J2 [a javanite] are similar to those rock 12013" (italics added).(15)

The objection of the trace element discrepancies, however, may not be as serious as Showalter et al. try to indicate. O'Keefe himself had already forestalled the objection when he stated:

"At the present time very little is known about the trace element composition of tektites in this range of silica content. Most of the material is in the form of microtektites; and, although they form the vast majority of all tektite material on the earth, the total amount in the laboratories is still too small for trace element analysis."(16)

In fact, O'Keefe was so satisfied with his analysis that he was able to conclude that:

"The glass of sample 12013 appears to be tektite glass by all the usual tests. Its constitution answers the arguments given by proponents of the terrestrial origin of tektites to the effect that only sedimentary processes can produce the typical tektite composition. There appears to be no sound reason not to say that tektites come from the moon" (italics added).(17)

The only objection that O'Keefe raises is to his own previously held belief that tektites were "removed" from the lunar surface by the impact of meteorites.(18) He bases this objection on several observations, the least convincing of which is that tektites removed by impact "would be expected to be a random sample of the lunar surface."(19) He does not seem to take into consideration the metamorphism which the fragments would undergo due to the heat generated by the impact. Thus he continues by stating that tektites could not come from the lunar maria because there is good evidence that the maria are mainly basaltic; nor from typical highland areas "because these areas must be old and they may well be anorthositic."(20)

Another difficulty that O'Keefe pays reverence to is the lack of meteorites found on Earth that have a composition comparable to that of any of the lunar sites investigated so far. This argument is only as good as that of Hartman who based his own objection on the premise that no tektites have yet been found on the Moon.(21) Besides the fact that O'Keefe's findings have now nullified this premise, I can only repeat what I had earlier stated in my previous article on the subject, that it can hardly be said that the surface of the Moon has been fully explored.

On the other hand, I do not wish to give the impression that 1, personally, favor the "removal" of tektites from the lunar surface by meteoric impact. E. J. Opik has already pointed out that shock alone will not invest large particles with enough velocity to free them from the gravitational pull, weak as it is, of the Moon (although he does state that such high velocity could be imparted by the gas ball" produced by such an impact).(22) Meanwhile, as O'Keefe pointed out, this objection applies with even greater force against any theory which seeks a terrestrial origin for tektites since the velocities demanded by such a theory would have to be at least 50% higher.

O'Keefe himself now favors the propulsion of tektites by lunar volcanism as had been suggested earlier by R. D. M. Verbeek.(23) But if lunar volcanism is anything like its terrestrial prototype, the ejecta should, like the lunar maria, be basaltic. Obsidian, therefore, should be a more likely product than tektites. Or, conversely, if lunar volcanoes could eject tektites, then so should terrestrial ones.

To repeat my earlier argument: Tektites are jets of fused silica. Silica can be, and is, fused by lightning bolts. According to Velikovsky, the Moon was subjected to colossal planetary discharges which, during the cosmic catastrophes that he describes, excavated most, if not all, of the rayed craters we find scattered across the lunar terrain.(24) Such a rayed crater, named Sharp, was visited by the team of Apollo 12, the very same team which retrieved lunar sample # 12013.(25) It is therefore my belief that had the astronauts roved farther afield during this mission, they might have found similar samples. Crater Sharp, it is true, is one of the smallest rayed craters on the Moon but the interplanetary bolt that might have formed it would have propelled its ejecta, or most of it, out of the astronauts' field of exploration. (It is doubtful whether the ejecta from this mini-crater could have achieved the velocities required to propel it into orbit.)

Needless to say, none of this can dispel the one remaining problem that of the age of the tektites. Although George Baker has argued that the australites cannot be more than 5,000 years old,(26) other samples have been dated at anything from seven hundred thousand(27) to twenty million years.(28) Such an antiquity would chronologically remove the tektites out of range of Velikovsky's cosmic catastrophes. The ancients, who revered tektites as magical stones, however, insisted that these gems had fallen from the sky. Known as "fire pearls," these stones were also believed to be "tear-drops" from the Moon.(29) This leads me to conclude that the ancients must have seen them drop to the ground with their own eyes following an outburst on the Moon which was readily visible from Earth.

In recent years, milder occurrences of a volcanic nature have been easily detected on the Moon with the aid of the giant telescopes and photographs taken by the Mount Wilson observatory in October of 1956 showing the obscuration of the floor of the crater Alphonsus which is believed to have been caused by residual outgassing.(30) It will be argued, however, that the ancients were not equipped with the sensitive optical instruments that crown our modern-day versions of the Biblical "high places." But that such lunar events are just as easily detected with the naked eye has now been accepted by no less an authority than the astronomer Jack B. Hartung.

Writes Mitchell Freedman:

"An obscure footnote in a collection of medieval records on solar and lunar eclipses has led a state university astronomer to what he believes is the only eyewitness observation of the formation of a lunar crater in recorded history."(31)

The event was recorded by Gervase of Canterbury, an English churchman who lived in 1178. Translated from Latin by Professor Richmond Hathorn, Gervase's Chronicle reads:

"A flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals, and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the Moon which was below writhed, as it were, in anxiety . . . "(32)

The passage, only a small portion of which has yet been published, takes up about twenty per cent of the year's record in Gervase's Chronicle. This, Hartung believes, is indicative of the importance attached to the event which occurred "at a time when only the most important events were written down."(33) This lunar event, according to Gervase, was visible across the illuminated portion of the Moon's limb and was powerful enough to eject a cloud of matter which temporarily obscured a vast portion of the lunar terrain.

Studying photographs of the area indicated by Gervase's observations, Hartung searched for craters with a minimal 10-mile diameter and finally focused his attention on the 13-mile wide Giordano Bruno crater. Hartung now believes he can demonstrate that the five witnesses mentioned in Gervase's Chronicle did actually see with their own naked eyes the events forming this crater.(34) There is, therefore, nothing far-fetched in the ancients' claim that lunar "tear drops" or "fire pearls" were seen to fall to Earth in days gone by, especially since the interplanetary discharges that both Velikovsky and Ralph Juergens describe(35) would have been a thousand-fold more powerful than the event described by the medieval churchman. If this is so, one need hardly point out that this could not have transpired twenty million years ago. There is, of course, another alternative but, personally, I am not convinced that this ancient tradition regarding tektites is merely a fabricated tale which, by pure coincidence, turned out to be true.


The author wishes to thank Dr. C. J. Ransom and Professors Lynn E. Rose and A. Mann Paterson for bringing the studies of Showalter et al, Gervase's Chronicle, and the Giordano Bruno crater information to his attention.


1. See KRONOS, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 35-42.
2. Kenneth F. Weaver, "The Moon," in the February 1969 issue of National Geographic, pp. 222-223.
3. Ibid., p. 213.
4. Dwardu Cardona, "Tektites and China's Dragon," (see note No. 1.) p. 40.
5. Virgil E. Barnes, "Tektites," in the November 1961 issue of Scientific American.
6. William K. Hartman, Moons and Planets: An Introduction to Planetary Science Wadsworth, Belmont, California, 1973 revised printing, pp. 203-205.
7. H. C. Urey, in Science, Vol. 137, 1962, p. 746.
8. Immanuel Velikovsky, "H. H. Hess and My Memoranda," in the Fall 1972 issue of Pensee,pp. 28-29.
9. John A. O'Keefe, "Tektite Glass in Apollo 12 Sample," in Science, Vol. 168, 1970, p. 1209.
10. William K. Hartman, op. cit, p. 203.
11. John A. O'Keefe, op. cit, p. 1209.
12. Ibid,
13. Ibid
14. Ibid
15. D. L. Showalter, H. Wakita, R. H. Smith, R. A. Schmitt, D. E. Gillum and W. D. Ehmann, "Chemical Composition of Sawdust from Lunar Rock 12013 and Comparison of a Java Tektite with the Rock," in Science, Vol. 175, 1972, pp. 170-172.
16. John A. O'Keefe, op. cit., p. 1209.
17. Ibid, p. 12 1 0.
18. Kenneth F. Weaver, op. cit, pp. 213, 223; John A. O'Keefe, in Tektites, edited by same, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1963.
19. Idem, "Tektite Glass in Apollo 12 Sample," (see note No. 9), p. 1209.
20. Ibid
21. William K. Hartman, op. cit., p. 205.
22. E. J. Opik, in the Irish Astronomical Journal, Vol 8, 1968, p. 185.
23. R. D. M. Verbeek, in Kon. Ned. Akad. Wetensch. VersL Gewone Vergad. Afd. Natuurk, Vol 5, 1897, p. 421.
24. Immanuel Velikovsky, op. cit.
25. Petersen's Book of Man in Space, edited by Al Hall, Petersen Publishing Co., Los Angeles, California, 1974, Vol. 5, "Beyond the Threshold," pp. 18, 21.
26. George Baker, "Tektites," in the Memoirs of the National Museum of Victoria, Melbourne. No. 23, July 1, 1959.
27. Kenneth F. Weaver, op. cit., p. 223.
28. Virgil E. Barnes, op. cit.
29. Richard J. H. de Touche-Skadding (with John Carlova), Fire Pearl, Ballantine, New York, 1966, "Introduction."
30. Dinsmore Alter, Pictorial Guide to the Moon, 1967 updated and expanded edition, Thomas Y. Crowell, New York, pp. 146, 147.
31. Mitchell Freedman, "Reaching for the Moon with Medieval Records," in the 25 April 1976 edition of Newsday, p. 17.
32. The Chronicle of Gervase of Canterbury, entry for June 18, 1178, as cited in Ibid.
33. Mitchell Freedman, op. cit.
34. Ibid The Giordano Bruno crater itself is on the far side of the Moon, out of sight from Earth.
35. Immanuel Velikovsky, op. cit; Idem, Worlds in Collision, pp. 85-87, 272-273; Ralph E. Juergens, "Of the Moon and Mars," parts I & 2, in the Fall 1974 and Winter 74-75 issues of Pensee, pp. 21-30 & 27-39 respectively.

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