Man claims he found meteorite near Merritt
A prospector who was panning for gold alongside the Coldwater River last month came across something he believes is not of this world.
An unusual-loooking rock glistened from beneath about four feet of water, resting above other rocks that were covered with algae.
“I think that if this rock were here for a while, it would have also been covered with algae,” Arnold Dyson, a former miner and prospector, said of his July 8 discovery.
He said with “99 per cent certainty” that this rock is a meteorite.
“Just look at the way the surface looks melted,” he said. “You can also see where the impact was made.
“I’ve seen a lot of rocks in my day, but this is unusual.”
Dyson used to mine for gold in Barkerville, B.C., in Yellowknife, and in the Arctic Circle.
Now, he frequently pans the same area around the Coldwater River and hadn’t noticed the rock in the last month or so.
“I would have noticed it if it was there before,” he said.
After grabbing the rock, Dyson cut it with a diamond saw to open up the wavy lines of various minerals inside.
“It stalled the diamond saw three times,” he said. “When we finally opened it up, we could see the way the lines move, like they were melted and then forced up with impact. I think this was just a big blob-like substance when it hit the ground.”
He said if the rock hadn’t hit the water, it would have melted into itself. Instead, the water allowed it to cool enough so that it was able to reform into a solid.
When handled, the rock is heavier than it appears. Dyson estimates it is about three to five times as heavy as an average rock its size.
“We weighed it at about 6.5 pounds,” he said, noting he’s never found a meteorite. “It’s like nothing I’ve seen before.”
After the discovery, Dyson contacted the University of British Columbia to speak to a geologist who purchases meteorites for study, but he won’t be available for several weeks, he was told.
Darryl Pitt, Curator of the Macovich Collection of Meteorites in New York, said only about one per cent of rocks claimed to be meteorites are actually from outer space.
He said it is common for people to come to him, claiming to have a meteorite, but some evidence is needed before the rock can be classified as unworldly.
“There is a fusion crust from having burned through the atmosphere,” he said. “Other aerodynamic ablation features from having burned through the atmosphere; flecks of nickel iron in the matrix of stone meteorites; testing for the presence of nickel in iron meteorites; testing for a Widmanstatten pattern — the telltale crystalline pattern of nickel-iron allows this as diagnostic in the identification of an iron meteorite.”
The Meteorite Testing Institution said that even fewer claimed meteorites prove true. In fact, only one of every 1,000 rocks suspected of being a meteorite passes the test.
Dyson is hopeful his rock will be studied at UBC to determine its true origin.
The rock that he found follows some of the traits of typical meteorites, according to a list of specifications laid out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. For example, the surface is smooth, giving it the appearance that it has melted as it entered the Earth’s atmosphere. The patterns in the rock also indicate it could have been completely melted by the atmosphere. However, many meteorites have metal specks in them and are magnetized due to a high iron concentration, though this one is not.
Most meteorites are valued at about $800 per gram, making Dyson’s find — if it is a meteorite — worth about $2.3 million.
Dyson said he found the rock nearly a kilometre southwest of Merritt in the Coldwater River.