Meteorite hunters descend on Iowa County farms
By Meg Jones of the Journal Sentinel
April 20, 2010
Rob Wesel (left) and Ruben Garcia consult while searching
for pieces of a meteorite Tuesday. Wesel is a collector from
Portland , Oregon .
Town of Linden — - Billions of years before last Wednesday night, two asteroids collided somewhere in outer space, sending a rock on a path that ultimately led to Kevin Wasley's farm field.
It took much less time to nudge the orbits of meteorite hunters careening to southwestern Wisconsin where their zeal for tiny black rocks from outer space has created quite a sensation and boosted business in nearby communities.
It started with a fireball seen and heard by residents across a wide swath of southern Wisconsin and captured on numerous video cameras. Wasley, a beef farmer, heard a rumble and bang and wondered what the heck the noise was. He found out after tuning in the news the next day.
The next sound associated with the meteorite was a knock on Wasley's farmhouse door Sunday morning from a man and his young son asking permission to search his property.
Since then, it's pretty much been nonstop.
"Me and the neighbors, we're half laughing - like what are all these people doing here? It's like the gold rush," Wasley said Tuesday morning as he stopped to talk to meteorite hunters parked on the rural road next to his property.
He has seen license plates from Colorado , New Mexico , Missouri , Minnesota , Iowa and Illinois .
Ruben Garcia hopped in his van and drove here as soon as heard about the fireball. Garcia, a professional meteorite hunter who calls himself "Mr. Meteorite," lives in Arizona . Garcia was joined by other members of his crew who flew in from Oregon and Washington state, booking flights into La Crosse within 24 hours after the fireball lighted up the social networks of meteorite fanatics.
So far, the group hasn't found many meteorites.
Rob Wesel of Portland , Ore. , picked up the largest piece discovered as of Tuesday afternoon - 219 grams.
"I almost tripped over it. It was in my path," said Wesel , who admits he first felt a "heart palpitation. Then some of this," wiping his eyes to make sure he was seeing a half-pound meteorite.
Rob Wesel holds a whopping 219 gram chondrite
meteorite he found.