Rick McGregor, kommunikatör vid Institutet för rymdfysik (IRF) i Kiruna, har skrivit inlägget om vår första meteoritexpedition 2012. Rick kommer urpsrungligen från Nya Zeeland och har disputerat i litteraturvetenskap – om de isländska sagorna och Per Olof Sundmans verk – vid Otago University. Efter två decennier på IRF är han också mycket kunnig i rymdforskning. Rick är hängiven naturmänniska och fjällvandrare och han har klättrat både på klippa och is runt om i världen. Han delar dessa intressen med sambon Ursila Hufva, lärare på Folkhögskolan i Kiruna. Vi alla andra har uppskattat Ursila med hennes bakgrund från Sápmi. Hon har kunnat ge oss många kloka och praktiska råd ute på fjället. Båda har varit självklara deltagare i alla våra expeditioner.
After all the planning meetings and preparations it felt good to hit the road on our expedition to northern Finland to search for the Tromsø 2006 meteorite. The group of eight consisted mostly of scientists and PhD students from the Swedish Institute of Space Physics in Kiruna and from Umeå University – four men, four women.
The search area we had determined for this expedition was right on the border of Finland and Norway, in an area just to the east of a popular fishing lake, Somasjärvi. It would have taken at least a couple of days each way to go on foot, so we flew in to our base camp by helicopter from Kilpisjärvi. We had food and camping gear for four nights and a little generator to recharge camera batteries and GPS watches. The helicopter had to make two trips, taking four people at a time.
Those of us who flew in first chose a campsite in the lee of a little rocky hill by a smaller lake just south of Somasjärvi. There was quite a strong wind blowing when we arrived, so we made sure we pegged the tents down securely. The wind blew for most of the time we were in the area. On the few occasions it didn’t the mosquitoes reminded us of why a bit of a breeze is often a good thing when camping in Lapland in the summer…
After the 285 km drive from Kiruna to Kilpisjärvi and the 40 km helicopter flight it was evening before we were all at camp, all the tents were set up and we’d had a bite to eat. Nevertheless, with rain forecast for the following day, we decided to make a start to the searching at once. There is of course 24-hour daylight in northern Finland in early July, and we were all very keen to find a meteorite.
In true chain gang fashion we formed up in a long line, a few metres apart, and worked our way up the gentle slope to the east of our camp, wielding our ski poles with magnets attached to the tips. Our resident geology expert, Martin, had checked the geology maps to ensure that there were no magnetic rock types in the area, so if we found magnetic stones they could well be meteorites.
The terrain was ideal for the search, mostly flat or gently sloping, with sparse, low-growing vegetation which shouldn’t hide anything unusual which had fallen from the sky only six years before. The view wasn’t too bad either, looking over the surface of the lake to the west, with the highest point in Finland, on the mountain Haldi, 1329 m, on the horizon to the north-west, a long, snow-covered ridge amongst other, lower summits.
The next day it rained on and off, but we managed another 8 km loop on top of the 5 km loop we had done on the first evening. But again without finding those elusive magnetic space rocks.
At last on day 3 there was some excitement. Just as we were leaving our lunch spot, Katarina picked up a small pebble with the magnet on the tip of her ski pole on a patch of bare ground. A number of other small stones there were also magnetic, even if none of them really looked how we expected meteorites to look. Nonetheless, we gathered and bagged up some samples for further analysis. Later in the afternoon I picked up some more pebbles with my magnet – including one with pink granite on either side of a thin layer of black…
After mostly searching together we split up after lunch to cover more areas, if less comprehensively, for the rest of about a 17 km loop. We did the same again on day 4, doing a number of 10 km loops in different areas, but again without success.
The weather was fine for most of the day, with summer cumulus on the horizon, but with some darker shower cloud in the morning and high cloud thickening in the evening to high overcast, and a chill breeze from the north-west. It rained on and off during our last night, and was quite cold. When we woke in the morning there was some new snow on Haldi, the top of which was hidden by the clouds. And there were some brief flurries of snow even down at camp once we had packed up and were waiting for the helicopter to fly us back to Kilpisjärvi.
We had failed to find any obvious meteorites, but we were an experience richer – and we had thought up a good slogan for an expedition T-shirt: ”Raining Stones – the IRF and UmU Meteorite Expedition to Finnish Lapland, July 2012”.
Översta bilden: På väg tillbaka till lägret vid Somasjärvi i det lite rödaktiga midnattsolsljuset efter en lång dag i sökområdet (bild Katarina Axelsson).
En kort film om expeditionen från 2012 finns att se på youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aek_0YFcVs.