Suddenly we were at the center of things, Anderson told me, gleaming at the memory of it, when I met him and Witzke in their offices on a dismal, rainy morning in June. "It was a wonderful time."
I asked them about Gene Shoemaker, a man who seems to have been universally revered. "He was just a great guy," Witzke replied without hesitation. "If it hadn't been for him, the whole thing would never have gotten off the ground. Even with his support, it took two years to get it up and running. Drilling's an expensive business—about thirty-five dollars a foot back then, more now, and we needed to go down three thousand feet."
Sometimes more than that, Anderson added.
Sometimes more than that, Witzke agreed. "And at several locations. So you're talking a lot of money. Certainly more than our budget would allow."
So a collaboration was formed between the Iowa Geological Survey and the U.S. Geological Survey.
At least we thought it was a collaboration, said Anderson, producing a small pained smile.
It was a real learning curve for us, Witzke went on. "There was actually quite a lot of bad science going on throughout the period—people rushing in with results that didn't always stand up to scrutiny." One of those moments came at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in 1985, when Glenn Izett and C. L. Pillmore of the U.S. Geological Survey announced that the Manson crater was of the right age to have been involved with the dinosaurs' extinction. The declaration attracted a good deal of press attention but was unfortunately premature. A more careful examination of the data revealed that Manson was not only too small, but also nine million years too early.