Ahnighito (Meteorite)

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Biographical or Historical Note

Specimen, AMNH 867. The Ahnighito meteorite (also known as the Tent) is one part of several pieces of the Cape York Meteorite that fell into Earth thousands of years ago. The 34-ton mass of iron is on display at the American Museum of History in the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites (1). The meteorite is 10 feet 10 inches (length), 7 feet 2 inches (height), 5 feet 6 inches (width). It is composed of iron (91.476%), nickel (7.785%), cobalt (0.533%), copper (0.014%), phosphorus (0.202%) and carbon (0.028%). A trace of chromium was found in the fine oxidized particles from the surface (2, p. 5-6).


The Ahnighito meteorite is one part of several pieces of the Cape York Meteorite that fell into Earth thousands of years ago. The 200-ton iron meteorite landed in Greenland after breaking into separate pieces: the "The Woman", "The Dog", "The Tent", and "The Savik". Of the heavier masses "The Savik" was found on a peninsula, "The Tent," on a nearbly island, "The Woman" and "The Dog" were found on a second island all on the north coast of Melville Bay, about thirty-five miles east of Cape York (3, p. 523). The Inuit, native to the land, used the iron from the meteorites to craft tools. On May 27, 1894, Inuit Tallakoteah guided Robert E. Peary and expedition member Hugh J. Lee to the Cape York meteorites around "Saviksue" also known as "Iron Mountain" or "Great Irons" outpost at Melville Bay (2, p. 3-4) (4, p. 35).

Peary returned to Melville Bay in 1895 to obtain the meteorites. He successfully loaded the "Woman" and "Dog" on board the ship "Kite", but the crew did not have the means to move Ahnighito on this expedition. Another attempt was made in 1896 without success. Then in 1897, Peary returned to Saviksoah Island, "this time with a one-hundred ton and two thirty-ton jacks and ample supplies of railroad iron and great timbers, dertermined to win at all hazards" (2, p. 4). The meteorite was brought to the Brookyln Navy Yard on the ship "Hope" in the autumn of 1897 (2, p. 5). In 1904, Ahnighito was transported to the Museum using a crane for the first leg of the journey to the foot of Fiftieth Street, North River (Hudson River). It was then loaded onto a massive truck and pulled through the streets by twenty-eight horses "forming the length of an avenue block" (2, p. 5). On October 1, the meteorite arrived at the Museum.

The Ahnighito meteorite was on display at the American Museum of Natural History in the Grand Gallery, formerly called the Main Gallery, and the historic Hayden Planetarium (3, p. 518-519). It currently sits on supports going straight into the bedrock beneath the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites.


    (1) Ahnighito. American Museum of Natural History. Website accessed March 26, 2019.
    (2) Hovey, Edmund Otis. "The Cape York Meteorites." The American Museum Journal, vol. 5, no. 1, January 1905.
    (3) Reeds, Chester A., Ph.D. "Catalogue of the Meteorites in the American Museum of Natural History as of October 1, 1936." Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 73, Art. 6, pages 517-672, July 26, 1937.
    (4) Hovey, Edmund Otis. "The Cape York Meteorites." Monthly record of the Five Points House of Industry, v. 49, no. 3, July 1905.
    (5) Peary, Robert E. Northward over the "great ice" : a narrative of life and work along the shores and upon the interior ice-cap of northern Greenland in the years 1886 and 1891-1897 ... F. A. Stokes Co., New York, c1898, published 1914.



    Melville Bugt External link
    The meteorite was found on an island in Greenland.
    New YorkExternal link
    dates: 1897-present

    The meteorite was transported by ship from Melville Bay to New York.

    Related Corporate, Personal, and Family Names

    Grand Gallery
    Hayden Planetarium
    associated dates: 1935-1981

    Ahnighito was also exhibited in the Outer Space Black Light Gallery before moving to the Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites.
    Henson, Matthew Alexander, 1866-1955 External link
    Member of the expedition party; Peary's assistant (5, v. 1, p. 46).
    Hugh J. Lee
    Peary, Robert E. (Robert Edwin), 1856-1920
    A hunter of the 'Smith Sound Eskimos', he led Peary and Lee to the site of the Cape York Meteorites in 1894 (4, p. 523).
    Arthur Ross Hall of Meteorites
    associated dates: 1981-present
    Peary Arctic Expedition (1896)
    Second unsuccessful attempt to bring the Ahnighito meteorite to the U.S.
    Peary Auxiliary ExpeditionExternal link
    This relief expedition took most of the expedition party back on the ship "Falcon". Peary, Lee and Matthew Henson remained in Greenland to revisit the "Iron Mountain".
    Peary Expedition to Greenland (1895)
    Upon the request of Peary's wife, Josephine Peary, the American Museum of Natural History, with the backing of Morris K. Jesup, helped fund a relief expedition to Saviksoah Island to retrieve the men along with the Cape York meteorites. "The Woman" and "The Dog" were successfully loaded on board the ship "Kite".
    Peary Expedition to Greenland (1897)
    Ahnighito was successfully excavated and shipped to New York on the ship "Hope".
    Peary Greenland Expedition (1893-1895)External link
    During this expedition, Peary and Lee were led to the "Iron Mountain" with the help of their guide, Tallakoteah.

    Related Resources

    Last Night
    Painting by Albert Operti of the meteorite, 1896. AMNH Library Special Collections Floor 1, Stack 1-3.
    Log book, containing the proceedings on board the S.S. Hope of Greenock, from St. Johns to Greenland, kept by William Smith.
    Logbook, 1896. AMNH Library RF-85-G.

    Written by: Iris Lee
    Last modified: 2019 March 26


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