Efter den eländiga insektexpeditionen 2014 blev det allt mer störande att själva meteoriten hade blivit kvar inom vårt sökområde. Vi hade lärt oss två läxor, mellan snö och mygg och med helikopter mitt i sökområdet. Den första februari 2017 bokade vi två transporter med helikopter till veckan efter midsommar. Om denna expedition berättar våra tre nykomlingar och Martin, som har varit med på alla expeditioner.
New blood was added up to the more experienced team of meteorite adventurers. We, Jakub, Krister and Alexandre were the three new members for this year’s edition. We are all experienced hikers but have never had the opportunity to hunt down meteorites. We therefore jumped on this unique occasion to join the group and we all headed up north to Kilpisjärvi. From Kilpisjärvi we had our first helicopter experience as we flew towards our base camp, located by a nice lake, in the middle of a vast plain.
Tents pitched and dinner eaten, we started preparing the poles that we would be using in our quest for the next few days. Meteorites are often supposed to be metallic and therefore we equipped our poles with a few magnets. Excited we headed off, wandering near our base camp, with our magnets and our eyes. It only took little time to realize that the search (and find) was going to be difficult. The terrain is full of small bushes and seeing small burnt rocks was going to be really challenging. Nevertheless, we went on and found a few small rocks, located amongst others, that were magnetic.
Unfortunately, Martin informed us that most of the rocks that were found that evening were likely to simply be iron ore. Such a disappointenement, it couldn’t have been that easy of course! And so went our first evening and the following day, without finding more than a couple pieces of iron ore, glass bottles and reindeer antlers.
The weather was kind to us and we both, Jakub and Alexandre, full of energy, decided to stay awake to observe our first midnight sun. The sun was moving very slowly as we kept watching both the time and the compass. It was so exciting to observe the sun at its lowest and then slowly going back up. And so went our first midnight sun experience.
On the following day, we headed up south from our base camp, always equipped with our magnets and hoping to find meteorites weighing up to 2 kg. After crossing a small river by jumping from stone to stone, Alexandre found a relatively large stone more than halfway in the ground. The whole stone was magnetic and the outside seemed to have somewhat been burnt. We digged it out and started the inspection. The rock was big, too big … And was likely not the meteorite we were looking for.
But still, it was a weighing more than 5 kg and really magnetic. Sadly, after further inspections, we observed traces of sedimentation on it suggesting it was not a meteorite but simply an old large piece of iron.
The area is vast and the people are small, the likelihood to find something is small but each discovery is exciting.
Out in the vast wilderness north of the polar circle we picture meteorites to be heavenly objects falling down on Earth – to be collected by tirelessly searching Earthlings. Despite all the efforts, chances to find a meteorite are slim, too easily are the precious stones from the sky lost in bushes, lakes, swamps or simply in mud.
There are other things however, less heavenly but more human made that fall down to Earth and that may be found by chance and hard labor.
On the 3rd day of our expedition Krister managed to locate such an elusive object thanks to a very thorough search pattern he walked some hundreds of meters east of our base camp: A lost stratospheric balloon payload, a scientific experiment containing electron tubes, high voltage modules and data acquisition electronics, everything packaged in insulation foam and thermal tape, well prepared for its mission in the stratosphere. Yet, at the end of its mission it was lost and crashed in the wilderness.
It may have been at the location on ground for many years. A closer inspection reveals that the type of electronics used indicates the scientific experiment was built in the nineties. A quick check against a database with stratospheric balloon launches did not give a hit though for the landing site at or near where the payload was found.
We have contacted ESRANGE to find out more about the purpose, launch date and scientific objective of the experiment, but the origin of the balloon is still a mystery.
Översta bilden: Krister blev inspirerad efter att ha hittat ett ballongexperiment, som av allt vi hittat dittills hade nog varit närmast rymden (bild Martin Wieser).