Nfld. & Labrador

Has a meteorite ever been found in Newfoundland? One man says he's collected 16

A retired science teacher believes he is the owner of several meteorites, despite claims that a rock from outer space has never been found in Newfoundland.

Albert Garland's passion for finding space rocks started after his first discovery in the late 1980s

Albert Garland, a retired science teacher and avid rock collector, says he's found 16 rocks in the last 30 years that match the description of meteorites. (Submitted by Albert Garland/CBC)

A retired science teacher in central Newfoundland says he believes he is the owner of several meteorites, despite claims that a rock from outer space has never been found on the island.

When a bright light shot across the sky over St. John's Monday night, it sent a few people scouring the Southside Hills on Tuesday looking for traces of meteorite. A meteorite is a piece of rock that survives its passage through the Earth's atmosphere and makes it to land.

A possible meteorite shoots down near the Southside Hills area. 0:13

A local amateur astronomer said on Tuesday the shooting star likely burned up before reaching land in the Southside Hills, and that if a meteorite had been found, it would be the first one confirmed in the province. 

However, Grand Falls-Windsor's Albert Garland would disagree with that, and is fairly confident  he has collected nearly 20 pieces of meteor rocks since he found his first piece unexpectedly in the late 1980s.

"I found this really strange-looking rock. It was quite hefty and heavy and then I realized if I took a magnet it would stick to it, and all of these different features started to stand out," he told CBC Radio's On The Go.

"I've been looking for other pieces of it since that time, and now I have 16 pieces in total."

Unique characteristics

Garland uses a meteorite hunting field guide to help him identify space rocks when he's out walking in the wilderness. He said his 16 fragments all match the descriptions of meteorites, which often have tiny balls of material of a certain colour — evidence of early formation of the first objects in the universe.

A photo of a microscope image of one of Garland's rocks shows the texture is made up of tiny balls of suspended material, which he says matches the characteristics of many meteorites. (Submitted by Albert Garland)

He's had the pieces examined by a geologist at Memorial University, who confirmed the structures resemble those of meteorites, but Garland said he couldn't confirm for sure.

The retired teacher said it's extremely difficult, even for experts, to determine if a rock is indeed from space. But after years of looking at his rocks under a microscope and matching it to research he's read, he stands by his claims.

"I'm pretty confident. I've been doing a lot of research on it," he said.

"All these [characteristics] can be found in Earth rocks, but it's the form that it takes, the texture. The arrangement, size, and shape of the particles make it stand out as something from off the Earth — makes it extraterrestrial."

With files from On The Go