Kaali, Kaalijarv
Iron, IAB-MG
Found 1937

The small group of craters called Kaalijiirv is located 20km  northeast of Kingisepp on the island of Saaremaa .     

  • The craters were described as early as 1827 by Von Luce     
  • A hundred years later in 1928 Reinvald & Luha, mining engineers, proved their meteoritic origin. Further work was described by Reinvald (1938; 1939; 1946) who also proposed the construction of pavilions over some of the craters to protect them.     
  • In 1937 two more craters were found     
  • In 1952 Zavaritskij & Kvasha examined two of the small fragments excavated by Reinvald and presented structural sketches.     
  • By 1958 five craters were known     
  • In 1960-61, Krinov reexamined the crater field and gave a full account with numerous photographs and cross sections through the craters.     
  • In 1976 the first archeological exploration of the lake by V. Lougas led to the discovery of Iron-Age jewelry along with presumed sacrificial domesticated animal bones.     
  • In 1996 a meteorite recovery expedition yielded ~2066 grams with a new main mass of 1552.1 grams.     
  • At present there is a strongly enforced protected area (50 hectares), with a visitor center at the main crater.

The crater field consists of a circular main crater, 110m in diameter , and eight small craters, or rather impact holes, ranging from 12 to 50 m in diameter. The distance between the main crater in north-northwest and crater No. 3 in south-southwest is about 1 km and the largest distance between the impact holes in a direction perpendicular to this is 0.6 km. The main crater has at present a bottom which is 9-10 m lower than the surroundings and a rim which is raised 6-7 m above the surroundings.

Meteoritic fragments have only been found in the impact holes. They range in size from 38 g and downwards and total less than 0.5 kg. They are mostly in a badly weathered condition, but some still permit recognition as similar to the sharply twisted slugs known from the Henbury, Canyon Diablo and other crater fields.

Scholars maintain that the event figured prominently in regional mythology. It was, and still is, considered a sacred lake. There is archaeological evidence that it may well have been a place of ritual sacrifice. At some point during the early Iron Age, the lake was surrounded by a stone wall 470 meters long, with a median width of about 2.5 meters and an average height of 2.0 meters.

Finnish mythology has stories that may originate with the formation of Kaali. One of them is in runes 47, 48 and 49 of the Kalevala epic: Louhi, the evil wizard, steals the Sun and fire from people, causing total darkness. Ukko, the god of the sky, orders a new Sun to be made from a spark. The virgin of the air starts to make a new Sun, but the spark drops from the sky and hits the ground. This spark goes to an "Aluen" or "Kalevan" lake and causes its water to rise. Finnish heroes see the ball of fire falling somewhere "behind the Neva river" (the direction of Estonia from Karelia). The heroes head in that direction to seek fire, and they finally gather flames from a forest fire.

According to a theory first proposed by Lennart Meri, it is possible that Saaremaa was the legendary Thule island, first mentioned by ancient Greek geographer Pytheas, whereas the name "Thule" could have been connected to the Finnic word tule ("(of) fire") and the folklore of Estonia, which depicts the birth of the crater lake in Kaali. Kaali was considered the place where "The sun went to rest."

Grady, Monica M.
Catalogue of Meteorites, 2000

Saaremaa, Estonia
Find 1937, July
Iron (IAB) Coarse Octahedrite, bandwidth 2.0 mm Synonym(s): Kaali, Sall
Approx. recovered weight: 2.7 kg

Thirty rusted fragments from 0.1 g to 24 g, total weight 100 g were found in the Kaalijarv craters after a long search, I.A. Reinwald (1938).Described with an analysis, 8.32% Ni, 6.45% Ni, L.J. Spencer (1937). Description, Z.A. Yudin (1968). Description, impact deformation, V.F. Buchwald (1975). Several other fragments were found in a search in 1996: 5.2g in crater 3; 45.6g in crater 4; 1522.1g in crater 5; 5.lg in crater 6; 467.9g in crater 7; plus a further 2kg of crumbs from all craters; letter of 11 October1999, from T. Pani, Geological Museum, Univ. Tartu, , in Min. Dept., NHM, London


100g, Geol Inst., Tartu
9g AMNH, New York
UNM, Washington polished mount
3.6g GSC, Ottawa
2.2g ASU, Tempe
43.7g Acad. Sci., Moscow
5.08g MfN, Berlin
Specimens: [1938, 134], 7.7g; [1038,135], 4.9g; [1938, 136], 2.0 NHM, London

In November of 2017, a small group of detectorists were granted permission by Tartu University in Estonia for a two week hunt of the protected area with the intent of supplying specimens for the Visitor Center. They were allowed to keep a percentage of their finds. In that period, some 1200 man hours, about ten finds were made. I was contacted by someone representing the group and negotiated to buy the largest four available. One has gone to a museum, one to a private collection and one for my own. 

Above from Grady we can calculate 2244 total grams accounted for with an estimated TKW of 2.7 kg at the time of her publication. The search 22 years ago added another ~2.1 kg. The largest mass I acquired weighs, after cleaning, 2785 grams which represents a new main mass. The other masses are 1055, 478 and 260 grams.

With the 50 hectare protected site aggressively policed and their goal of supplying the visitor center met along with the fact that the last approved dig was 22 years ago, it is unlikely any more of the this will turn up soon. No finds have been made outside the protected area but I have heard that surrounding landowners have been asked for hunting permission and were adamant that they would call local authorities if anyone stepped on to look. So there you have it, a once in a lifetime chance to own a remarkably sized mass of a multiple crater forming ancient impact. 

2785 Gram Main Mass

It is accompanied by a letter of appreciation to the finder on Tartu University letterhead.

For ordering information please click HERE