A month after a meteor exploded over eastern Washington County, no one has found a piece big enough to get a $25,000 bounty offered by a Maine museum.
“We’ve had several meteor-wrongs but no meteorites,” said Maggie Kroenke, director of retail and visits services for the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel.
The museum has offered $25,000 to anyone who finds a piece of the meteor that weighs at least a kilogram, or a little more than two pounds. But since a loud boom was heard around noon on April 8 in the sky over the communities that skirt the St. Croix River, which splits Maine from New Brunswick, Canada, no one has been able to cash in.
The museum has received more than 50 inquiries about the reward, said Jessica Siraco, the museum’s director.
“Some people have brought specimens in, but nothing has been proven to be a meteorite. People have been sending us pictures from all over the world,” Siraco said.
The museum can test samples of rocks to determine if they are meteorites, which are shaped and heated by their passage through Earth’s atmosphere, Siraco said. Meteorites tend to weigh more than rocks of similar size because they usually contain a lot of iron, she said.
The area below where weather radar detected the falling meteor — the first ever detected by radar in Maine, according to NASA — is sparsely populated and heavily wooded. There is a chance some pieces of the meteor may have fallen on the east side of the river in New Brunswick as well, but the most likely resting spot is in the small Maine town of Waite and the abutting townships of Dyer and Fowler for pieces that fell to the ground.
Joe Ruff, who co-owns Waite General Store, said meteorite hunters continue to show up in the town, which has fewer than 70 residents. He said one family from Pennsylvania walked nine miles into the woods to search and came back with a rock that could be from the meteor.
“It was very heavy,” Ruff said of the rock, which the prospectors brought into the store. “It looked like it burned up in the atmosphere.”
But he guessed that it weighed maybe half a pound — far less than the size the museum hopes to get.
So far, hunters have had to hike into the woods on foot from Route 1 or Bingo Road and have had to deal with walking through mud. Private woods roads and area ATV trails are closed to vehicles each spring because of how wet and soft the ground gets from melting snow.
But now that the ground is getting dryer, Waite could get another round of searchers who hope to get farther into the forest.
“They finally opened the roads up today,” Ruff said.
Dan Hudnut is the president of New Hampshire-based Wagner Forest Management, which owns much of the forest in Waite and surrounding towns and the woods roads that cut through them. The company is aware of the interest from meteorite hunters in the area woods and is allowing people to explore among the trees.
“We expect people to be respectful,” Hudnut said. “There’s no camping allowed back there.”
There have not been any complications so far, he said, and the company wishes the meteorite hunters well.
“I think the odds of finding anything are pretty low,” Hudnut said. “It is an interesting wrinkle. This isn’t something they teach you about in forestry school.”