Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Was it a bird? Was it a plane? No, it was a meteorite!

The town of Bruderheim recently commemorated the fall and recovery of the Bruderheim meteorite in 1960. What an impact this arrival from outer space must have had on the community – especially in light of the ‘race for space’ that the United States and the USSR were engaged in so tightly. Sky watchers must have been in awe. Did you know that the Peace River Museum collection includes a piece of that space rock? It was donated by the Percy Hills family from Judah Hill district.
Speaking of the Hills family, did you also know that three years later, the Peace River meteorite came to Earth and that, then graduate student in geology at the University of Alberta, Len Hills, was part of the recovery team? The Museum Library includes a report of the collection of specimens and eye-witness reports. The report (1964) begins:
                “Peace River, as a detonating bolide, entered the Earth’s atmosphere at 4:35 a.m. MST March 31, 1963, creating a flash visible for over 100 miles, followed by detonations resembling sonic booms over a 4,000-square-mile area.”  It goes on to say that March was "a time of year and day most unfavourable for recovery. However, this was Sunday morning and the Peace River country had not quite settled down from a frontier Saturday night. Peter Karpiak was up, administering to a sick horse; Alfred Bobier was looking for new-born lambs and calves .... A number of Peace River citizens were returning from parties. To many slumbering observers it was only an awakening flash and a bang, which resulted in a prowl of the premises to see if the oil heater had exploded.”

Further along in the report, the team writes of the recovery process, which determined that the ellipse of the fall was in the Brownvale area and it naturally yielded the highest concentration of specimens. One such sample,  labeled Peace River #1  and weighing in at 18 pounds, was discovered by university student John Westgate. “To the folklore of the land of Twelve-Foot Davis should be added the name of Eighteen-stone Westgate, because his discovery, like Davis’s rich fractional claim, proved to be an incredible stroke of fortune.”
If you would like to read more from the report, drop by the Museum Library between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
(Source: The Peace River Meteorite: Fall and Recovery./ R.E.Folinsbee and L.A.Bayrock, Department of Geology, University of Alberta: 1964)


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