Nfld. & Labrador

Meteorite hunters, aspiring superheroes come up empty in Southside Hills

A few friends were chatting on Facebook — science fiction and geology enthusiasts — about the bright, falling object, likely a meteor, seen near St. John's Monday night.

Trio of science-fiction and geology enthusiasts undeterred

A security camera on the waterfront in St. John's captured this shot of a light falling from the sky near the Southside Hills, across the harbour, Monday night. (Submitted)

Justin Foley wasn't just hoping to find a meteorite in St. John's; he had a superhero origin story on his mind.

The St. John's man and a few friends — science fiction and geology enthusiasts like him — were chatting on Facebook about the bright, falling object, likely a meteor, seen near St. John's Monday night.

I'm a huge geek, so if I ended up getting superpowers from this thing, I wouldn't be disappointed.- Justin Foley

"Completely on a whim, we decided to go find it, if we could," he told the St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday.

Turning to the prospective meteorite hunter's best friend — Google — for advice, they cobbled together a list of the necessary supplies:

  • Finely calibrated portable metal locator (i.e. "metal detector … I own one, but we couldn't find it," said Foley.)
  • Interference-detecting amplitude-modulation device (i.e. "cheap AM radio … It will pick up interference.")
  • Magnetic-field-dependent directional guide ("a compass … if there's any kind of electromagnetic interference coming from the meteorite, it would affect the compass.")

So armed, the friends headed for the Southside Hills to see what they could find, and sure enough, their compass did register some interference.

"We actually found a couple of areas in the Southside Hills where what should have been pointing north was actually pointing west-northwest," he said.

"There was definitely some kind of magnetic interference there, but whether it was coming from any kind of meteorite or if it's just coming from any iron content in the Southside Hills itself, don't actually know."

Justin Foley and his friends were hoping to find a meteorite — and maybe superpowers — when they went hunting in the Southside Hills this week. (Paula Gale/CBC)

They also weren't sure what they'd do with anything they found, having brought just some heavy-duty gloves and hoping for the best.

And if they were exposed to anything? So much the better; Foley's aware of the long comic-book tradition of interstellar objects conferring superpowers to the people who find them.

"I'm a huge geek, so if I ended up getting superpowers from this thing, I wouldn't be disappointed," he said.

The aspriing-to-be-fantastic four parked at the small-boat basin by Fort Amherst, and began their search, meandering around, and finding … not much of anything.

Apart from the unidentified interference, they found an area with "birds acting kinda strange," and the team's resolve buckled.

Birds. Why did it have to be birds?

"They were flying up and down and kinda agitated, making a lot of noise," Foley said. His friends wanted to check it out. "Me, I'm ornithophobic. I'm terrified to death of birds."

Interstellar objects potentially delivering alien life forms is one thing; birds are quite another.

"If anything did crash down, it could have been a ship with this little tiny gremlin with huge teeth," said Foley, who then demonstrated horrifying teeth-gnashing noises that such a cosmic monster could make that would still be less scary than, say, a gull. "The birds are still scarier."

We're toying with the idea of possibly making a show that just chases all these weird things.- Justin Foley

The friends went home empty-handed, and learned later whatever fell also appeared to have split into pieces and possibly burned up in the water or landed in Freshwater Bay.

But Foley's not against continuing the search.

"It was a lot of fun," he said. "It's the kind of thing that I've always been super-interested in, and these guys are super-interested in it too. We're toying with the idea of possibly making a show that just chases all these weird things, whether it's meteorites or ghosts or local fairy folklore. It's just fun. You love a mystery, right?"