Searching for Meterorites in Tumbler Ridge

Adrian Karolko has a passion for meteorites, and his summer job is to share this passion by means of presentations in communities across BC. Not only that, but to follow up on leads to try to discover more BC meteorites.

The engaging University of Calgary geology student struggles to contain his enthusiasm as he unfurls his collection of impressive meteorites from their case. One is from Peace River, another is a part of the famous Arizona meteor, the third comes from Russia.

Adrian works for the Prairie Meteorite Search, formed six years ago to try to add to the number of known Canadian meteorites (the current total is 68). So far they have turned up an impressive nine new finds. Meteorites are out there, he says, but people have not been looking hard enough. The majority have been turned in by farmers who know how to recognize an unusual rock on their fields.

Adrian and others will identify target areas, based on old glacier movements. There will be a concentration of meteorites where glaciers collided and later melted. Then it is as simple as taking a metal detector, a magnet, having a keen eye and a bit of luck. Unfortunately much of Canada is vegetated, making the search harder (the barren wastes of Antarctica are fertile ground for meteorite hunters, by contrast).

A word on terminology: when it is out in space, it is called a meteoroid, when it enters the earth?s atmosphere and burns up (a ?shooting star?) it is a meteor, if it is big enough to reach the Earth?s surface you will see a fireball and it is called a meteorite. These visitors from space take us back to the early formation of the solar system, and are formed of iron and nickel, mixed to varying degrees with rock.

Some people are lucky enough to see a fireball, and Adrian encourages them to report such sightings. Others have an arguably luckier experience. Consider the farmer?s wife from north of Fort St John who was out picking strawberries.

Something whizzed over her head, penetrated the shed roof, damaged the tractor, and bounced into a nearby field, where she found it. That sounds like it could be the third meteorite ever found in BC, and by the time Adrian returns to Tumbler Ridge he hopes to have inspected it and reported on it.

After his brief initial visit to Tumbler Ridge Adrian was off in a hurry to Chetwynd, following up on a lead of a fireball that had landed and set fire to a patch of forest a few years ago.

Adrian Karolko will be a guest of the Tumbler Ridge Public Library and Tumbler Ridge Museum Foundation on Tuesday 20 June and will give a presentation in the Library from 6-8 p.m. Further information on the Prairie Meteorite Search is available at www.geo.ucalgary/PMSearch/PMSearch_identify.html This site also has information on how to report possible sightings of fireballs or meteorites.