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in the Circumpolar North

Dateline: June 4, 2000

The smoke trail left by the Yukon meteorite of Januray 2000 - photo by Ewald Lemke of Atlin, BC     On January 25, 2000, pieces of a meteorite that lit up the skies of the Yukon, northern British and Alaska the week previously were found on the ice of Tagish Lake. The discovery has been the catalyst for enormous interest in meteorites. The photo to the right was taken by Ewald Lemke of Atlin, BC, and shows the smoke trail left by the meteorite.

    The northern world has had several notable meteorite events, and there is a great deal of information on the Web about each of them. As well, there have been other events which have drawn little interest so far. The list and links that follow will provide a look at each of them.

  • in 1894, Robert E. Peary found large pieces of a meteorite in Greenland whose existence had been known since 1818, when it was found that Inuit over a wide area were using tools made of meteoric iron. Three pieces of what were named the Cape York Meteorites were recovered in 1894, 1895 and 1896 and sold to the American Museum of Natural History for $40,000. The largest, known as the Tent or "Ahnighito" meteorite, weighs 34 tons, and measures 11 feet long, 7 feet high, and 5½ feet thick; it is the second-largest meteorite yet discovered. All 3 pieces remain on display at the Hayden Planetarium.

  • Norm Kagan reports that "the Nome newspapers of November and December, 1907 drew attention to a peculiar dust that had fallen widely on Novenber 24 and 25 which was first taken to be volcanic, then ascribed to meteorites due to it's high iron content (30%), and later yet confirmed as volcanic." A summary of those and more Nome reports can be see here.

  • on June 30, 1908, about 5 miles above a remote region of taiga forest near the Tunguska River in eastern Siberia, a 200-foot-diameter meteorite exploded with the force of a thousand Hiroshima bombs. Over 1,200 square miles of forest were destroyed, as well as everything living in the forest.

  • also from Norm, "in the Winter of 1911, a loud explosion was heard at Fort Simpson with a concussion afterwards thought to have come from the west, in the mountains."

  • on February 12, 1947, a shower of several thousand meteorites occurred in Siberia's Sikhote-Alin mountain range, between Vladivostok and Khabarovsk. This is both the largest meteorite shower known, and the most well-recorded. Individual rocks from the Sikhote-Alin event, of which about 6,000 have been recovered, are commonly seen for sale at shows and on the Internet. The largest rock recovered, weighing 1,745 kg (3,833 lbs), is housed at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

  • on December 9, 1997, a meteorite flashed across southern Greenland. Although it is widely thought to have reached earth, no trace has been found yet, despite an extensive search by the Tycho Brahe Planetarium.

  • on January 18, 2000, a meteorite lit up the morning sky of the southern Yukon, northern British Columbia and adjacent Alaska. About 500 pieces of rock from this event have been found and 200 recovered, totalling about 22 pounds. The 4.5-billion-year-old rock is estimated to have weighed about 200 tonnes when it entered the Earth's atmosphere. This is a very rare meteorite called a carbonaceous chondrite, which is high in organic material. For those with commercial interests, this makes such meteorites very valuable, particularly when the organics have been preserved by ice. In the case of what has been dubbed the Tagish Lake Meteorite, the value is around $250 (US) per gram, as opposed to meteorites such as the Sikhote-Alin, which can be found for $1 a gram.

Related Links

"New Window into the Universe"
The Yukon meteorite's unique characteristics make it the most valuable one found in decades.

Cape York Meteorite
A photograph of the "Ahnighito" meteorite and a brief report from the American Museum of Natural History, which owns it.

Greenland Meteorite Search
From CNN, a day-by-day report on the 1998 search for a meteorite that may have hit Greenland in December 1997.

Greenland Meteorite Stamp
On January 20, 1978 Greenland issued a stamp to commemorate the Cape York meteorites.

Meteorites For Sale at eBay
There are always quite a few available by auction.

Meteorites in Canada
The University of Calgary site has lots of information on meteorite discoveries.

Meteorite Stamps from the USSR
Postage stamps have been issued to commemorate both the Sikhote-Alin meteorite shower and the Tunguska impact.

Russian Academy of Sciences Meteorite Collection
An illustrated introduction to one of the most important meteorite collections in the world, with samples from 447 falls.

The Impact of a Meteor
Every Yukoner over the age of three will be able to tell you exactly where they were when the sky lit up the southern Yukon on that morning of January 18, at 8:43 in the year 2000.

Yukon Meteor
"Rare meteorite promises glimpse into dawn of creation" - an article by CNN.

Ewald Lemke's meteorite photo is used here with permission.