The Goose Lake meteorite, a 2,573 lb (1,167 kg) iron, was found by three deer hunters on lava beds in the Modoc National Forest in northeast California in October, 1938. Although several California persons wanted possession of the meteorite for various California institutions, under the powers of the 1906 Antiquities Act meteorites found on US federal lands were typically transferred to the US National Museum at the Smithsonian Institution and accessioned into the National Collection of Meteorites. With authorization from the US Department of Agriculture, the Smithsonian began a correspondence with one of the meteorite's finders to arrange for its retrieval. But the situation became complicated and controversial when meteorite collector/dealer Harvey H. Nininger (1887-1986), who harboured hopes that the meteorite might be on a parcel of private land in the National Forest, falsely presented himself to the finder as a Smithsonian agent, and was taken to the site of the meteorite. A survey showed the meteorite was on federal land, however, and the Smithsonian reluctantly allowed Nininger to oversee its recovery. During the time that the meteorite was on loan from the Smithsonian and on exhibit at the San Francisco World's Fair, considerable pressure from various California individuals and institutions was put on the Smithsonian to keep the meteorite in California, but it was accessioned into the Smithsonian's National Collection of Meteorites and shipped to Washington, DC. The controversial history of the Goose Lake meteorite affirmed the applicability of the Antiquities Act with regard to the disposition of meteorites found on US federal lands, and set the stage for the later court rulings involving the Old Woman meteorite, a large (2,753 kg) iron found on government land in California in 1976. Problematic ownership issues like those involving the Goose Lake meteorite exist in other countries besides the United States, and in other branches of natural history, especially paleontology. The Goose Lake meteorite is famous for its numerous and enigmatic large holes and cavities, and is a popular attraction at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC.

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