Sask. farmers dealing with hordes of meteorite hunters
With hundreds of amateur meteorite hunters descending on the area around Marsden, Sask., near the Alberta border, some farmers are being kept hopping dealing with the crowds.
It's been particularly hectic around Ian Mitchell's farm, a property southeast of Lloydminster where the first meteorite pieces were discovered by University of Calgary researchers on Nov. 27.
A week earlier, thousands of people across Western Canada witnessed a spectacular fireball that scientists said was caused by a 10-tonne space rock plummeting to Earth on Nov. 20.
Experts say pieces of the meteorite, and observations made as the rock streaked to Earth, could help scientists uncover clues about the creation of the solar system.
But there's also a cash incentive — one American meteorite collector has been offering $12,000 for a large fragment.
Last weekend, Mitchell was hoping to go looking for space rocks with his son and grandson, but instead he was stuck dealing with a flood of visitors.
There were hundreds of souvenir hunters and the curious descending on his farm looking for pieces of the meteorite, he said.
"I found two pieces in the small breaks while I was doing the crowd control thing at a Texas gate," he said.
"When there was a break between vehicles, I found a couple of golf-ball-sized pieces. Which was really nice, because I had something to show anybody else that showed up."
Mitchell said most people were content to search for the rocks on public places — like the road allowance heading down to the pond at Buzzard Coulee where the original pieces were discovered.
However, a few people caused some trouble, he said.
"Insisting that they are going to go hunt for rocks … [regardless of] what anybody says," he said. "Actually, it's quite fortunate that we have a local police force now. That defused the situation and things have been pretty calm ever since."
The meteorite hunters haven't restricted their search to Mitchell's land. His sister-in-law Loretta Mitchell has also had a lot of visitors.
"It's been crazy, but thankfully we're on the edge of it so we don't get the brunt of it that my husband's brothers get," she said.
So far, the biggest find has been a 14-kilogram rock, which was picked up on a farm property.
The finder originally wanted to keep it, but eventually returned it to the landowner.