Stones from the Holowaty Farm
At 1:06 in the morning on March 4, 1960 The Late Show on television had just finished and many were preparing for bed when a brilliant bolide tore open the night sky.
The space rock travelled at 42 kilometers per second, its flash witnessed by hundreds of people as far away as the Rocky Mountain region of British Columbia. The giant rock detonated, creating a sound shock wave audible over 5,000 square kilometers. The sonic boom rattled windows, shook the foundations of homes, and startled families from their sleep. Shards of the stone rained down just north of Bruderheim, some forming pits as deep as 30 centimetres, many rebounding off the frozen ground and landing on the snow. The timing afforded numerous eye witness accounts helping scientists plot a trajectory and landing site for the meteorites to come.
The bolide was probably first observed by Alexis Simon, an Indian of the Paul's Band Indian Reserve at Duffield, Alberta.
On the night of Friday, March 4th, 1960, I happened to be outside of my home at midnight when I saw a large meteorite in the north-westerly direction from Duffield. It lighted up the sky as it passed swiftly in a north-easterly direction, giving off what appeared to be flashes of fire.
He describes also a rushing sound, resembling a high wind, which lasted for 5 to 6 seconds after the fireball passed.
Stew Hennig was startled awake as the huge fireball barreled over his family's farm near Josephburg, a tiny hamlet just east of Edmonton.
I remember it is as clear as yesterday. It was low enough that it shook the house and lit my bedroom up as it passed. My father and I ran around looking out the windows trying to figure out what was going on. We were sure somebody had fired a rocket at us.
87-year-old Bruderheim resident Laura Kupsch said, thinking back to the morning she was awoken by her two-year-old daughter:
I saw a very bright light that lit up the yard and the intersection across the street and, well, the whole area. It didn't last very long. It was kind of like a swoosh and it was gone.
Later that morning, hearing word through local news, farmers of the area formed a co-op in the search for fragments and decided to make their finds available to the University of Alberta where special funds were provided for their acquisition.
Farmer Nick Broda recovered the first stone from his barnyard on Friday, March 4. It was brought to the Sherritt Gordon Nickel Refinery at Fort Saskatchewan by an employee, and identified as a meteorite.
Scientists soon arrived at the area and began to systematically map the fall and recover fragments. Through their hunting efforts and use of the media to spread the word, they had mapped and collected a total of 155 pounds of meteorite in just three days.
Farmers Andreas Bawel and Walter and Nick Holowaty collected about 10 kilograms of fragments from their farms on March 4, 5, and 6. Walter Holowaty made the first collections off the ice on the North Saskatchewan River, digging down through the snow to the ice surface wherever he observed an impact hole.
On March 7 it snowed heavily and no further recoveries could be made until spring. In the end some 303 kgs were found.
The Bruderheim recoveries formed the foundation of the University Alberta's impressive, ongoing meteorite collection.
In 2013 Bruderheim had a town vote to come up with a new town symbol and the meteorite was chosen with 58% of the vote. This year the town will celebrate the 55 th anniversary of the fall with the first ever celebration of the Bruderheim fall.
90.4 gram individual $3625
This specimen comes from the Walter Holowaty collection. While most of the finds went to the University of Alberta, a few select stones stayed with the family these last 55 years. They have been divided among children, some sold to the likes of Nininger and Haag, and just a few years ago the last keepsakes Walter had were sold to Australian mineral dealer Peter Heydelaar.
In speaking with Heydelaar, at the time of the sale Walter recounted what a wonderful time the Bruderheim meteorite fall was. One can imagine the sleepy, or at least predictable, life in a farming community fighting off the throes of winter suddenly upended by the largest meteorite fall in Canadian history. All eyes were on their town, their farms and themselves. He recalled the entire family out searching, laying out their finds and selling them for extra cash, a windfall from outer space.
In the spring Harvey Nininger came and spent time at the Holowaty farm. More finds were made and friendships were formed. And all the while a few fresh stones from those first few days stayed with him. Those they favored most from the three days or hunting fresh finds before the snow returned.
Harvey stayed in touch, and the entire experience is one that is fondly remembered.
Nininger's notes on Bruderheim reveal that he looked at about a 100 or so stones to determine the per cent that were oriented. He also spent some time going over fields with a magnetic rake, finding several stones that way in the grass.
He initially had trouble with it especially in the tall grass. Working the shorter grass was much easier and rewarding. Addie apparently walked behind it, looking and listening to see if it had discovered a meteorite.
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