[meteorite-list] Divers Attempting To Raise Half-Ton Sunken Fragment of Chelyabinsk Meteorite

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Fri, 4 Oct 2013 18:35:51 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <201310050135.r951ZpVc026410_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Divers raising half-ton sunken fragment of Russian meteorite
October 3, 2013

Despite a string of "unbelievable" hurdles, a diving operation to lift
the biggest-yet discovered fragment of the famous Russian meteorite stuck
in a mud lakebed has entered the final phase.

RT is scheduled to show live the recovery of the 50cm by 90cm space rock
weighing an estimated 600kg, which plunged into the depths of Lake Chebarkul
in February.

It is one of a few salvageable chunks of a massive meteorite, which exploded
over Russia's Chelyabinsk Region, producing a blast wave that injured
some 1,600 people on the ground before circling Earth three times.

The recovery operation started on September 10 and was expected to last
for about a week, but the process was stalled due to several obstacles.

The amount of sediments that need to be removed to uncover the meteorite
fragment has proven to be bigger than the initial optimistic estimates.
It took the team 10 days of pumping mud away from the site to come close
enough to touch the rock with a probe.

"It's like the little green men don't want us Earthlings to get the celestial
body," Maksim Shipulin, one of the divers, commented to Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
"We thought we'd be able to get the big meteorite from the depth of 14
meters, but it's being sucked in deeper, and we are now talking about
16 to 20 meters."

The divers have to work in zero visibility conditions due to the muddied
waters. It's quite risky because even an experienced diver can lose
orientation underwater without visual cues. There are other hazards as

"One of the guys was almost trapped under a chunk of dense mud. It's good
for him that he didn't panic," Shipulin said.

They team had to take special precautions not to allow the sediments to
contaminate that part of the lake, which serves as a source of drinking
water for a nearby lakeside town. The town's mayor paid a visit to the
site with an inspection last week, with the team seizing the chance take
him underwater and show how they work. His comment after the dip reportedly
was "You guys should be paid more."

The operation experienced a number of drawbacks due to a string of equipment
failures, which the more mystically-minded part of the expedition call
"unbelievable". Apart from the diving part the team has to deal with unfavorable
weather and regular interruptions by curious gawkers, who crowd the site
of the operation in their boats.

While the biggest prize so far eluded the divers, they have found eight
smaller fragments of the meteorite, the biggest one weighing just under
5kg, which is currently the largest fragment of the Chelyabinsk meteorite
found. Their other catch includes plenty of garbage and a large number
of magnets - the remainder of the winter enthusiastic hunt for smaller
meteorite fragments by various entrepreneurs.

The raising of the meteorite is co-funded by local authorities and Aleut,
the company conducting the operation. It says it has invested some $95,000
of its money in the project, hoping that the generated publicity would
be enough compensation. Being part of a historic event is also a reward
in itself, divers say.
Received on Fri 04 Oct 2013 09:35:51 PM PDT

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