Hard work and good luck helped him find some of the famous Grimsby space rock -- and now it's up for sale

Mark McNeil
The Hamilton Spectator
(Dec 28, 2009)

A professional meteorite hunter from Portland , Ore. , is about to put a piece of the famed Grimsby space rock up for sale on the Internet.

But Rob Wesel says he's not likely to get back the money he spent on the cross-continent adventure he took to find the loonie -sized 14.5 gram stone.

He figures he'll be lucky to get $2,500 toward a trip that cost twice that for him and a buddy. He's more hoping to trade his gem for a type of meteorite he's missing in his collection of several hundred.

The meteorite crashed in pieces in Grimsby on Sept. 25 after its fiery entry through the atmosphere lit up the skies above Hamilton and was captured on video by University of Western Ontario (UWO) night sky cameras.

The fireball set off a search of fields and roads around Grimsby by UWO scientists and other astronomy buffs. The effort captured wide attention after it was discovered a piece of it smashed a windshield.

Phil McCausland of Western's Centre for Planetary Science and Exploration, who led the search, says a total of 13 pieces have been found amounting to a total 215 grams, or about the weight of four golf balls.

The largest piece is 69 grams, the smallest 1 gram.

They were all found within a three- kilometre by four- kilometre area in west Grimsby below the escarpment.

Wesel said last night, "It's very lucky," they found anything, but they adjusted their search line after a friend advised them to consider jet stream winds that night and they altered their line by half a kilometre . There was no secret technique -- they walked with their head down looking.

It was far harder work than last winter in Saskatchewan when a large meteor fell on snow-covered prairie. There they found 74 pieces -- about one every 20 minutes.

Meteorites frequently fall to the earth, but seldom with as much excitement as the one in Grimsby . It's rare to have video footage of one in the air. The Grimsby meteorite also gave a glimpse at the world of space rock chasers who will passionately fly off to places where meteorites have been reported.

"I liken it to the folks who go tornado chasing, only we get to keep the tornado at the end of the day," said Wesel .

As well as Wesel and his friend Mike Bandli , there were two other American meteorite hunters in Grimsby . One was from Arizona , the other West Virginia .

They found one rock which is currently being examined by UWO scientists.

"We won't go out if there is just a fireball report," said Wesel . "It takes one being physically found for us to go."

Wesel said he spent $2,000 on a last-minute flight from Portland to come here, as did his stone-chasing buddy from Seattle . They stayed in Grimsby for five days.

Using the SUV strike as "ground zero," they spent 12 hours each day covering a daily distance of more than 32 kilometres . It was on the fourth day that they finally came upon the meteorite beside Fifty Road . The rock is verifiable as being recent because it was only slightly oxidized. In space, where there is no oxygen, rusting of mineral components does not happen.

Wesel says, in terms of value, his rock has some things going for it, and a few working against it.

The media attention and the relatively small amount of meteorite material found all help to boost the price. But the meteorite is an extremely common variety, which would bid the price down.

The other problem is that it is illegal to export meteorites out of Canada without overcoming a great deal of red tape. So the field of potential buyers is limited to Canadian collectors.

Wesel , who works as a registered nurse, said he first got interested in meteorites when he found one for sale in a science museum gift shop. His family eventually gave it to him for Christmas. From there, "I tried to figure out more about meteorites. As time went on I collected more and I started to go where they fall to collect them on the ground."

And he gets varying reactions.

"Some folks go, 'You paid how much? It's just a rock.' Whereas others think they are as fascinating as I do."




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