Investigating evidence of meteorites in glaciated areas.
Meteorites have been referred to as ‘the poor man’s space probe’ for they are our only contact with materials beyond the Earth-Moon system that conveniently come to our planet without any actual effort from ourselves. Rather more inconveniently they can be very difficult to locate due to the randomness of where they land. Very few meteorites are recovered easily as witnessed falls, the vast majority are discovered as finds, having landed at some time in the past i.e. days, weeks, years, millennia etc.
As one can imagine, searching for finds is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Fortunately the dynamics of moving ice can help to shepherd meteorites into relatively predictable search areas. This process has been successfully proven in Antarctica since the 1970’s – making the icy continent an extremely fruitful harvest area – sometimes funnelling meteorites from hugely varying impact dates into a relatively small search area, thanks to the effect of the moving ice and ablation over vast time periods. As a testimony to this, around 70% of the global total of known meteorites have been located in Antarctica.
Although the Arctic climate is regarded as wetter, it is intended to use some of the same search techniques that have been used in Antarctica. To this end we have identified a potential search area at approximately 79.3000ºN 13.4250ºE. An extension to this will be exploring the possibilities of meteorite deposition following glacial retreat – Karlsbreen being an area of particular interest.
Search methods will be a combination of visual (often generating the best results) and the use of magnetometers as all 3 types of meteorite – stony, iron and stony-iron – contain some ferrous material. It will then be possible to conduct field tests on suspect finds with confirmation and classification carried out in the UK
GPS co-ordinates will be taken of any finds, although this will only be for record purposes and future searches. None of the finds will be regarded as being in-situ of their original landing site.