The Skye boat song is about the escape of “Bonnie Prince Charlie” to the Isle of Skye after his defeat at the battle of Culloden in 1746. This new version tells the tale of another fugitive cargo, osbornite, a mineral carried there by a meteorite from space some 60 million years earlier. Evidence for its arrival on Skye was discovered below a layer of lava in 2017 by geologists from Birkbeck, University of London. They first thought it was a volcanic deposit called ignimbrite, until an electron microscope image revealed it, close to another meteoritic mineral, barringerite.
Speed, bonnie rock, like a bolt from the blue,
Onward, ye meteor, fly!
Ferrying osbornite (barringerite, too)
Over the sea to Skye.
Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar,
Thunderclaps rend the air;
Violent your crash on land close to shore,
Bearing your minerals rare.
Many years later, geologists spy
Ejecta, ’neath sediments thick:
“No ignimbrite, that,” excited they cry,
“It’s osbornite: check it out quick!
“Vanadium’s there, niobium too,
Unmelted, for all to see.
Yet Earth has no osbornite, giving a clue
That a meteorite it must be!
“Maybe it triggered the hot lava flow,
That covers its landing site?
More work must be done before we can know
Whether that theory is right . . .”