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Meteors

10/9/2003:

On a cold winter night in 1910, a 600-pound meteorite lying on a sidewalk in Carrington disappeared and was never seen again.

Thousands of meteors enter Earth’s atmosphere every single day, but only a few survive to actually hit the dirt. Eleven years ago today, for example, thousands of people heard a sonic boom, then watched as a meteor burst into flames and streaked across eastern skies.

As the meteor hurtled toward New York, more than a dozen people captured it on film. Before falling into Peekskill, fifty miles north of New York City, the thirty-pound fireball flew over an open football stadium and slammed into the trunk of a 1980 Chevy Malibu, just barely missing the gas tank.

In contrast, a meteor that landed near Carrington on January 10th, 1910, was twenty times larger than the New York meteor.

In their publication, Meteorites in North Dakota, authors Edward Murphy and Nels Forsman reported that the Carrington Weekly carried an article that week titled “Five Foot Meteor Strikes Near Guptil, Buries itself Six Feet Deep in Ground and Sizzles for a Day.”

The rock was described as over five feet in diameter, weighing about 600 pounds, and had the appearance of iron ore. The brilliant light from the fireball was said to have engulfed the countryside for miles and, despite falling at 2 a.m., was witnessed by at least two local families. The meteorite was said to have stayed white hot for a full day after it fell.

Carrington citizens wanted to put the meteorite on display on the courthouse lawn, but instead, it was moved into Beck’s Clothing store uptown. The Courtnay Gazette reported that the rock attracted hundreds of visitors, which may account for it soon being moved to the sidewalk in front of the store.

Then in December, almost one year after it landed, the Guptil meteorite was suddenly gone. The Fargo Sunday News carried the story under the title, “Carrington Meteor Vanishes from Sight. Rock that Attracted Attention of Scientists has Disappeared.”

Many believed the meteorite had been stolen, since it had gained national attention. Others thought that maybe the workers who were repairing a sewer line in front of the store used the meteorite in their backfill. Either way, the meteorite has never been found.

Existing scientific literature unfortunately contains no mention of a Carrington or Guptil meteorite. And to be fair, two weeks after the meteorite landed, the Carrington Weekly reported there was a rumor going around that the rock never even fell.

According to authors Murphy and Forsman, it’s possible that the story was a hoax. The report that the rock was white hot for twenty-four hours isn’t quite believable, since most meteorites are thought to be fairly cool by the time they reach the earth’s surface. On the other hand, if the story is true, a valuable iron meteorite may someday be unearthed from beneath Carrington’s streets.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

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