A large rock that a Manitoba man found while grading a road has been
identified as Canada’s newest meteorite by the Prairie Meteorite Search,
a national project led by the Universities of Calgary, Regina, and
Western Ontario.

The Elm Creek meteorite, weighing 8.2 kilograms, is the second-largest
stony meteorite ever found in Canada and is Manitoba’s largest. It is
the fifth meteorite to be recovered in Manitoba (Manitoba is now tied
with Quebec for recoveries), and is the 61st Canadian discovery. It is
also the first time that a meteorite has been found in Canada with a
road grader.

Tom Wood (right) unearthed the big rock while grading a dirt road to
the southeast of Elm Creek, Manitoba during late August 1997. "It
seemed to be too heavy to be a normal stone," Wood recalls. "I thought
then that it might be a meteorite, but I was half kidding when I told
my wife so later that day."

The recovered stone is a broken piece with scrape marks on it,
presumably from road grading. The other half of the meteorite,
estimated to weigh about five kilograms, is thought to be still
embedded in the dirt road. Mr. Wood is not sure exactly where he
recovered the first piece, so the recovery of the remainder is in
doubt.

Dan Lockwood, a U of C student, was the Prairie Meteorite Searcher for
the summer of 2001. The Elm Creek meteorite was his second discovery
among about 600 samples of possible meteorites that he looked at. He
was holding a rock identification clinic in the Co-op store in Carman,
Manitoba, when Mr. Wood brought the rock in.

"The rock was covered in dirt, but its density made it deserving of
a wash and a closer look," Lockwood (left) says. "After washing I had
suspicions that the rock was indeed a meteorite, but I flip-flopped
back and forth for more than three weeks over whether or not it was
genuine."

The meteorite was eventually confirmed when Lockwood returned to the
University of Calgary at the end of his field season. It is a well-
weathered rock and probably fell to Earth thousands of years ago.
Most of its fusion crust is weathered off revealing an interior that
shows cracks from the shattering of its parent asteroid.

Dr. Alan Hildebrand, holder of a Canada Research Chair in Planetary
Sciences at the U of C and one of the project leaders, praises Mr.
Wood for his efforts in bringing the specimen to the attention of
scientists. "I am frankly amazed at Mr. Wood’s perceptiveness in
noting that this dirt-covered rock was unusual. It goes to show
what a lifetime of experience and healthy curiosity can do to one’s
perceptions," Hildebrand says. Research will help classify the stone
and determine if it was part of a larger fall.

The Prairie Meteorite Search field campaign locates meteorites by
encouraging Prairie farmers to have rocks identified that they
suspect may be meteorites. The project consists of local publicity
and visits by the searcher to towns to show meteorite specimens and
to identify possible meteorites. The project relies on people having
seen meteorites and the possibility of immediate identification to
make discoveries.

"More than a dozen unconfirmed new meteorites are thought to be in
the hands of farming families across the prairies," says Lockwood,
who is now back studying at the University of Calgary. "The Prairie
Meteorite Search found two new meteorites during each of the summers
of 2000 and 2001, but a better means of reaching farmers who have
rocks to be identified should be able to increase the recovery rate."

The Prairie Meteorite Search project leaders are Dr. Alan Hildebrand,
University of Calgary; Dr. Peter Brown, The University of Western
Ontario, and Dr. Martin Beech, University of Regina. They are all
members of the Meteorites and Impacts Advisory Committee to the
Canadian Space Agency. This is Canada’s volunteer group charged with
the investigation of fireballs and the recovery of meteorites.
Project funding for the summer project of 2001 came from the Natural
Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Undergraduate Student
Research Award Program, the international Meteoritical Society, and
other grants held by the project leaders.

Potential meteorites may be identified by contacting

  • in Manitoba — George Clark at Dept. of Geological Sciences,
    University of Manitoba (204) 474-8857

  • in Saskatchewan — Martin Beech at Campion College, University of
    Regina (306) 359-1216.

  • in Alberta — Alan Hildebrand at Dept. of Geology and Geophysics,
    University of Calgary, (403) 220-2291.

Additional contact information for the project is located at this Web
address: www.geo.ucalgary.ca/PMSearch/

For Media:

Mr. Tom Wood may be contacted at (204) 745-7132 at (204) 436-2332.

Dan Lockwood can be reached via Alan Hildebrand at (403) 220-2291 or
Dennis Urquhart (403) 220-7722.

High-resolution images of Mr. Wood and/or Dan Lockwood can be obtained
from Dennis Urquhart at (403) 220-7722 or durquhar@ucalgary.ca

[NOTE: Images supporting this release are available at
http://www.fp.ucalgary.ca/unicomm/news/March_02/meteorite.htm]