Hotrocks or Humbugs?

On last week’s show, Blather dealt with two reports of alleged Irish meteorite hits – both of which seemed to be accompanied by a considerable amount of spurious baggage.

The Fermanagh incident
With regard to the Co. Fermanagh incident of December 13th, I spoke to David Moore of Astronomy Ireland last weekend, who referred me to a full page article in the March 1998 issue of *Astronomy & Space* (available through the AI website), which I had somehow overlooked. The magazine has a photograph of the crater, showing a *very* boggy waterlogged field, with a muddy water-filled hole in the foreground. The hole is surrounded by clumps of wed sod, *suggesting* that they had been blown outwards from the hole. classic
According to the article (which concurs with the Irish Times on the size of the hole, therefore hinting that this too is the correct measurement as measured by Armagh Planetarium), a ‘drinking trough’ *and* a milk churn was blasted apart, with 1kg fragments (2.2lb) of the trough found up to 40m (131ft) away. The explosion was estimated — presumably by the British Army — to have been causing by the equivalent of 2kg (4.4lb) of Semtex.
The Army scoured the area, but on finding no evidence of explosives, called in Armagh Planetarium. They spent four days — more than a month after the incident — surveying a site which had by then been well trampled by soldiers and cattle, and the crater was full of ice. They talked to local people and learned of blue flashes which lasted several seconds on the night of the explosion, illuminating rooms in some cases.
Walls and symmetry
The article goes on to state that ‘The steep walls and symmetry of the crater as well as the pattern of ejecta surrounding it, would seem to indicate that the meteorite was a relatively large body which entered the atmosphere at a high angle, exploding at, or even just below ground level.’
However, contrary to the normal run of meteorite sites, there were no obvious meteorite fragments within the crater, apart from the small 1-1.5mm (0.039″-0.059″) chunk of ‘possibly meteoric material adhering to a part of the steel drum’ – presumably the milk churn. However it is possible that pieces were *liberated* from site by ‘souvenir hunters’ before the planetarium researchers arrived. A more thorough search is planned, to check below the surface of the field.
Astronomy and space
The *Astronomy & Space* article concludes that the ‘jury is still out’ with regard to the cause of the explosion, as it is certainly not proven to have been caused by an extraterrestrial object. In fact, it has been hinted to this writer that it’s beginning to look as it it certainly *was not*. But then, stranger things have happened than mere rocks falling to Fermanagh fields, as this correspondent (who prefers to have his name withheld) has speculated for our amusement:

‘It was not a bomb or meteorite as so many have said, it was in fact an attempted attack on an unknown being, of non-human origin. The attack was conducted using a NATO/British satellite based weapons system, which apparently uses Lasers of some sort or another, the StarWars system may indeed be still alive, or this is another type of Orbital based Laser defence/offence system. Anyway, the story goes that the farmers of Fermanagh have been terrorised recently by a spate of attacks on herds of sheep by a non-human being that has been described as being very similar to the Chupacabras reported in Mexico in recent years.
The British military at the time were conducting surveillance on the surrounding area, which had nothing to do with these sightings. They were using the very highly advanced capabilities of the Satellite to scan the area and gather information, (reportedly the Satellite has imaging capabilities that can zoom and view in realtime to within inches of any target) when they came across some rather erratic movement in the surrounding forest and observed with absolute amazement a human like animal emerge from the undergrowth and sprint across the field to a milk churn, whereupon it began to drink from it. Word was allayed to the people in charge about the sighting and the order was given to “Target and Destroy” the unknown being. They were ordered to fire one shot and one shot only, this they did but as the weapons system was being started into motion the “being” sprinted back into the undergrowth and could not be tracked because the Satellite cannot be stopped from an active targeting once it has been setup to do so.
The Satellite fired, hit the Milk Churn, blew a hell of a hole in the ground and that was that. They tried in vain to scour the surrounding area for any further sightings of the “human like animal” but to no avail. It seems this Chupacabras like being is still at large. The security forces were on the scene within minutes and “cleaned” the area of any evidence which may have been left behind from the Satellite`s targeting, they also placed a fragment of a meteorite from Alaska in the immediate area but amazingly it has as yet still to be found by any of the so called investigative journalists who have visited the area. They haven’t looked hard enough maybe, or someone has found it and sold it probably.
Anyhow, that`s the truth of the whole matter.’

The beast of Ballymena
Oddly enough, there *was* a rather apocryphal report from Co. Antrim some time back regarding ‘The Beast of Ballymena’, supposedly some form of Irish, ahem, chupacabras. Fortean Times also featured photos of alleged cattle mutilations from Co. Armagh (apparently from the same ‘source’) – Blather will include a reference next week.
As for last week’s mention of a five tonne rock (11013lb) netted by the Dunmore East trawler *Silvie Liddy* on May 19th, Blather has not yet determined how the Irish Times speculation that it may have been a meteorite was arrived at.
Ian Elliot of Dunsink Observatory told Blather that ‘If the object was a meteorite [of that size?], it would probably have made a crater and would be buried underneath the seafloor. I suspect it is a glacial erratic [i.e. the rock was carried by a glacier and deposited when the glacier melted].’
Though certainly not a statistician, this writer was inclined to regard the chances of a trawler ‘just happening’ to pick up a 5 tonne meteorite from the sea floor as rather slim. But, as I stated above, stranger things *have* been known to happen…
Dave (daev) Walsh
May 29th 1998

Damien DeBarra was born in the late 20th century and grew up in Dublin, Ireland. He now lives in London, England where he shares a house with four laptops, three bikes and a large collection of chairs.