Chipping off rock samples by wielding a hammer in two-metre deep water infested with E. Coli isn't the most glamorous side of science.

But that's some of what researchers at Acadia University have done in order to piece together more information about a remarkable meteorite crater that lies underneath a reservoir near Bridgetown, N.S.

Now they've published a new study in the journal Atlantic Geology that suggests the crater, known as Bloody Creek, isn't alone. There appear to be "multiple" impact sites nearby, the scientists have found, making the area one of the rarest crater finds in the world.

A meteorite plunging to earth thousands, if not millions of years ago, likely splintered into pieces before smashing into the ground, according to Ian Spooner, a professor of earth and environmental science at Acadia University. The largest crater, more than 400 metres across, was probably created by a chunk larger than a house.

"It would have scared the socks off of anybody or anything that was in the area," Spooner told CBC Radio's Mainstreet. "It would have had a huge shock wave. You probably wouldn't have even seen it; you'd be dead."

Bloody Creek

Retired Acadia University geologist George Stevens spotted an elliptical formation when viewing old aerial photographs of a site near Bridgetown, N.S. The area is now a reservoir and covered with water. (Acadia University)

What's particularly unusual about the Bloody Creek crater, and others to the north of it, is they are ellipses. Spooner says this means the meteorite hurtled down at a 15 degree angle with the earth, but somehow made it through the atmosphere without burning up.  

"We've been doing some pretty fancy mathematics on the shape of [the crater]," he says. "It's like nothing else on earth. It's perfect. It's a perfect ellipse.

"This is outrageously rare, this feature."

The first crater was discovered by George Stevens, a retired Acadia University geologist. He stumbled upon it while reviewing aerial photographs taken in 1977, before the Bloody Creek area was dammed and turned into a reservoir. What he saw was a perfect ellipse seemingly etched into the ground.

He never published his findings in a peer reviewed journal. Instead, he left a box of research to Spooner who, with a team of scientists, took on the project of figuring out the Bloody Creek mystery.

One aspect that's caused considerable controversy is the age. Spooner says their research shows the meteorite likely struck between three million and 10,000 years ago.

If it was more recent, Nova Scotia would have been populated at the time. Some of those people would have witnessed the meteorite and probably died, Spooner says.