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Crawford Bay resident finds meteorite fragments

Lorrie Rhead found two fragments from a meteor that crashed down in the Crawford Bay area on Labour Day 2017. Bottom, Clayton Lauritzen shows his find. — Submitted photo

The chain of events on the evening of September 4, 2017 has more than a few people scouring the mountain side looking for fragments from the meteor that crashed down.

And now a business owner turned meteor-hunter from Crawford Bay believes to have found fragments from the meteor that landed in a remote area of the Kootenays during Labour Day weekend 2017.

“I just knew it was one the second I saw it,” Crawford Bay resident Lorrie Rhead told The Nelson Daily.

“I just started screaming when I saw it with my eyes and ran up to it,” Rhead added.

This meteor hunting all started Monday, September 4, 2017, when at approximately 10:14 p.m. a fireball streaked across the night sky, lighting up region near Boswell on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake.

The fireball, thought to have entered atmosphere near Boswell before terminating near Meadow Creek, approximately 100 kilometers to the north, was seen primarily from British Columbia but was also seen from Alberta and Saskatchewan as well as from Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Lauritzen and Rhead were outside at their home in Crawford Bay when the meteor passed overhead.

“It was unbelievable,” said Clayton Lauritzen, witnessing the event with Rhead.

“It was like our hair stood on end there was so much static electricity in the air. It was like the brightest day I’ve ever experienced.”

The event sent Rhead and Lauritzen into the mountains searching for fragments.

Prior to the Thanksgiving Holiday in October, Lauritzen thought he had found a fragment.

“I was just walking along and it sort of found me,” Lauritzen said.

Lauritzen took the fragment to a variety of experts in the geology field, including the Chamber of Mines of Eastern BC in Nelson, where Curator Brad Gretchev, although impressed with the find, could not make a concrete statement confirming the fragment was part of the meteor that entered the earth’s atmosphere on Labour Day Monday.

“The sample which (Clayton) brought in does have some of the traits of a possible meteorite,” Gretchev explained. 

“A strong magnet is attracted to it, it is heavy for its size and using our 240X zoom microscope it appears to have surface features similar to that of a meteorite,” Gretchev added.

“We however cannot confirm or deny with certainty the sample’s authenticity and would strongly recommend that Lauritzen contact the researchers from the University of Calgary and have the sample properly tested.”

Ironically, Lauritzen had spoken to Geoscience professor at the University of Calgary Alan Hildebrand previously before his find.

While searching in the mountains, Lauritzen came into contact with Hildebrand, who provided tips on what to look for and showed samples of another meteor find. Hildebrand also sent out a press release on where and what to look for.

In and around November 10th Rhead found her first fragment. Seven days later, Rhead came across a second fragment.

“We’ve been looking ever since it happened,” said Rhead, adding Hildebrand's press release helped in narrowing down the search area.

While looking, Rhead and Lauritzen met up again with Hildebrand and a U of C student, who confirmed the find.

“It’s true,” Hildebrand said from Calgary. “To our delight we saw Lorrie, who said she had found a couple of fragments from the meteor who showed them to us.”

Hildebrand has been in Crawford Bay a few times since the meteor landed in September.

He said a colleague, Dr. Elizabeth Silber of Brown University, was able to narrow the search area to a 20-kilometre stretch running east of Crawford Bay, B.C., to the Kootenay Lake shore north of the village of Riondel by using measured shadows on surfaces that are irregular and sloping.

During one of the searches, a piece of the meteorite was found by Fabio Ciceri, a masters student from the University of Milan studying at the University of Calgary, on private land on October 29th.

And now Rhead has her own piece of history.

"It's so incredible to find not only one, but two with her bare eyes," Lauritzen exclaimed.