[meteorite-list] Woodsman Finds Third Meteorite in Canada Since 1998
From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri Dec 16 11:23:03 2005
Whiteshell a hot spot for hunting space rocks
Manitoba woodsman finds third meteorite since 1998
By Helen Fallding
Winnipeg Free Press
December 16, 2005
A meteorite prospecting rush could hit southeastern Manitoba next summer
after a third find by the same man within a relatively small area proved
the Whiteshell region is a space rock hot spot.
"There may be hundreds or thousands to find there," University of
Calgary planet scientist Alan Hildebrand said at a news conference
yesterday at the Manitoba Museum.
Derek Erstelle had already found two meteorites near Lac du Bonnet in
about 1998 and 2002, prompting speculation that the area might have an
unusually high concentration of the multibillion-year-old rocks that
fall from space.
Only eight meteorites have been identified in the province in the last
Erstelle said yesterday he found his third meteorite when traipsing
through the bush this summer in the Whiteshell area to test the theory
that a load of meteorites was dumped there when glaciers retreated at
the end of the last ice age.
An experienced woodsman who spends up to a month at a time in the
wilderness looking for gemstones and antlers to carve, Erstelle spotted
unusual-looking gravel through his binoculars on the Whiteshell River in
When he checked it out, he discovered several pieces of a large rusting
The five-kilogram find could be worth $5,000 to $50,000.
So far, Erstelle has donated a chunk of the exceptionally heavy rock to
scientists. He wants to make rings for himself and a friend from the
crystalline interior, but has not decided what to do with the rest.
His first find was sold to the Royal Ontario Museum.
Hildebrand said Erstelle would have been more likely to win the lottery
than stumble on three meteorites by accident -- unless there's an
unusual concentration in the Whiteshell.
No other Canadian has ever found more than one meteorite.
Meteorites that fall on glaciers are carried along to the ice sheet's
edge as if on a conveyor belt, Hildebrand explained.
In Antarctica, where that process is still happening, more than 10,000
have been found at the edge of ice sheets.
Scientists have searched for similar deposits in North America, with no
luck until now.
Hildebrand said southeastern Manitoba, northwestern Ontario and northern
Minnesota are where two lobes of the Laurentide ice sheet met about
11,500 years ago.
If Erstelle's meteorites were carried by the glacier, they must have
fallen from space more than 11,000 years ago. Tests are underway to
The meteor-rich area is potentially more than 100 kilometres from north
to south and 50 kilometres wide, said Erstelle, who is not worried about
competition from other searchers.
Meteorites are fragments of asteroids that once orbited between Mars and
Jupiter before crossing paths with the Earth.
Hildebrand said it's important to study them in case scientists discover
that a dangerously large asteroid is on a collision course with Earth
and scientists need to try to alter the path of the incoming projectile.
They also provide information about the space dust that can damage space
ships. Some day, humans may also "mine" meteorites in space for their
Erstelle credits his success to the wilderness skills he learned from
his grandfather in a small M?tis community at the south end of Lake
"St. Laurent is rich culturally and spiritually," he said.
The man who always collected pebbles as a child combs the ground with
metal detectors and magnets and uses GPS equipment to map his finds. His
three meteorites have high iron content, making them easier to detect.
Erstelle's first meteorite was found in Pinawa Dam Provincial Heritage
Park. The next fragments were about 40 kilometres away near Bernic Lake
in the Whiteshell Provincial Forest.
Meteorites typically have a burnt crust on the outside, are unusually
heavy and may have depressions that look like fingerprints. They may be
rusted and attract magnets.
If you think you have found a meteorite, contact the Prairie Meteorite
Search at www.geo.ucalgary.ca/PMSearch.
Space rocks in eastern Manitoba
By ANNE MCILROY
Global and Mail (Canada)
December 16, 2005
Derek Erstelle, Canada's top meteorite hunter, compares himself to a
bird of prey. He gets on high ground, like a raptor, and scans the bush
in southeastern Manitoba for rusty spots.
"I try to mimic animal behaviour when I'm hunting," he says. The amateur
geologist from Winnipeg has found three rust-coloured space rocks amid
the poplars and pines, a Canadian record that was announced yesterday at
a news conference in Winnipeg.
The meteorites are about the size of a man's hand, he says, but heavy,
about 3.5 kilograms.
Two have weathered skins that feel smooth, but with pockmarks that are
probably a reflection of their years on Earth rather than their travels
around the sun. The third has a rougher, rustier surface.
Alan Hildebrand, one of Canada's top meteorite experts, says Mr.
Erstelle's finds are "extraordinary," and offer proof of a theory that
southeastern Manitoba should be the meteorite capital of Canada.
"I think hundreds of thousands of meteorites are entirely possible," he
said in a telephone interview.
In the last ice age, about 11,500 years ago, two giant lobes of ice met
in the region, one that came south from Hudson Bay, and one that came
north from the southern Prairies, Dr. Hildebrand says. Over thousands of
years, meteorites that land on an ice sheet get slowly carried toward
If the ice sheet hits an obstacle, like a mountain or another huge
glacier, the space rocks get trapped.
That's why hundreds of meteorites have been found in Antarctica since
1979, and why many more remnants from the early days of the solar system
may be in Mr. Erstelle's stomping grounds.
Many scientists have wondered if the continental ice sheet that covered
Canada also collected meteorites. But relatively few had been found in
"Most meteorites in Canada are found by farmers, working their fields. I
would never send anybody into the bush to look for them," Dr. Hildebrand
Enter Mr. Erstelle, a 48-year-old rock hound who doesn't work because he
has trouble with his balance, and wanders the woods with the help of a
walking stick. "I go into the bush like most people go into a mall."
He discovered his first meteorite by accident in the late 1990s while he
was building a fire to heat up some food.
He knew it was different, and was using it as doorstop on his patio when
a friend suggested they send it to be tested. He found a second one in
2002. In 2004, scientists confirmed his first find was a meteorite.
Confirmation that the second one was also a space rock came this year.
Then in October, he went looking for another meteorite and found one
near the provincial boundary with Ontario.
His finds count for two of the meteorites discovered or confirmed in
what Dr. Hildebrand says has been a record-setting year for finding
space rocks in Canada. Four were found in total, bringing the number
recovered in Canada to 68. (The other two were found in B.C. and Alberta.)
All three of the Manitoba meteorites are being tested to determine how
long they have been on Earth.
"If these meteorites fell on the ice sheet, they would have had to have
been on Earth for 12,000 years or longer," Dr. Hildebrand says.
The discovery of meteorites in the ice of Antarctica was a major advance
for scientists interested in learning more about the early days of the
solar system from the space rocks that land on Earth. Most meteorites
are small hunks of asteroids from the asteroid belt between Mars and
Only 2,000 had been found around the world before 1979, when the first
meteorites were discovered in Antarctica. During the next two decades,
10,000 fragments were identified there, from 1,500 separate meteorites.
Meteorite discoveries have increased in other parts of the planet,
including in countries with deserts. As many as 50 meteorites a year are
now found around the globe.
In Canada, some have been located after people saw them fall to Earth in
dramatic spectacles that included flashes of colour that illuminated the
night sky, and crackling and thundering noises. Others were unearthed
accidentally, or, in the case of Mr. Erstelle's most recent find, hunted
Received on Fri 16 Dec 2005 11:21:25 AM PST