Has anyone found the “Parry Sound meteorite” yet? According to media accounts, a fireball from space struck the Earth (or the ice of Georgian Bay) late last Wednesday night, and scientists who tracked its fall and would like to have a piece of it, figured they had the impact site narrowed down to an area of 12 square kilometres.
But that’s a needle in a haystack compared to the “Dunchurch meteor” of 80 years ago, and whatever plunged into Whitestone Lake then has yet to be located.
On a midsummer day in about 1926, Mrs. Adam Brown, rounding the lakeshore carrying a basket of eggs to trade at the store, had a screaming fireball pass close over her head before landing in the water with a sizzling splash. It was a fiery warning to Dunchurch sinners from Above, Mrs. Brown declared — or failing that, then one of those airplane things she’d been hearing about.
According to George Dobbs, who went out in a boat to investigate the splashdown and much later told my tape recorder about it, the United Church minister ruled out the crash of an airplane, for no oil or floating debris marked the lake’s surface. Mrs. Brown’s first choice surely offered a tempting topic for next Sunday’s sermon, but the minister passed it up and instead drew on his worldly knowledge to declare the spectacular phenomenon a meteor.
Undoubtedly it was the fall of a meteorite. Arnold Sands was playing near a disused building overlooking the lake when he saw it fall. He and a chum were using slingshots to spin flat wood chips to see who could generate the loudest roar, when a noise such as never before was heard in Dunchurch rent the air.
The boys turned to watch an object, maybe a foot in diameter and trailing a white-hot tail, Arnold said, plunge into the lake, making the water boil.
Hardly more than a month ago, Ottawa resident Neil Carleton mailed me a lengthy tape transcript of an on-site interview he did, 20 years ago, with another eyewitness to the plunge of the Dunchurch meteor. The informant was Neil’s father, Gilbert. About ten or eleven years old when it happened, Gilbert had a clear, side-on view of it from the yard of the Carleton home, directly across the village street from the former Dunchurch cheese factory.
“It was orange coloured, and white, orangey-white, and flame,” said Gilbert, describing the object’s tail. “Flame coming out of the ball…it looked like…a falling star, with a long tail on it….It was at a very shallow angle, came over the [Grange] Hill, hit the water and some distance away the water boiled and bubbled….Therefore we would assume it hit the bottom of the lake, dug itself into the bottom of the lake, or skipped across on the rocks on the bottom of the lake….and stopped further down. And that was where the heat was all dissipated and caused the water to boil and bubble….[The disturbance] wasn’t less than four feet [across] and wasn’t more than eight feet. A sizable circle….You could see it swirling up….But it didn’t last long…it might have been 20 minutes, because we had to run down to that corner past the church, run in the street a hundred yards [to Thomson’s point], and it was still boiling, turbulence on top of the water. ”
It took more than 20 minutes for the equally agitated Mrs. Adam Brown to settle down.
So close did the terrifying object pass over her head, people said, that she scurried the rest of the way into the village stooped low to the ground. Sixty years later, Gilbert Carleton recalled the state in which the experience left the poor woman. “She and Mother sat there on our front step, and she was warm, hot, and all excited.”
Gilbert and his chums considered swimming out from Thomson’s Point to see what was down there, but “we were afraid, in case there was something coming up out of the water at us, or all kinds of suspicions that kids would have.”
Since that day, others have tried to see what was down there, including me. A brother and I rowed around dangling a magnetometer over the side, hoping it was a rare magnetic, nickel-iron meteorite, but the device registered not a kick. Around 20 years ago, a team that included geologist Ruth Debicki of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines at Sudbury, did a cursory survey of the site employing a suba diver, but again the mucky, murky lake bottom offered up no clues.
Eighty years after the event, the mystery surrounding Dunchurch village’s near miss from a blazing space visitor remains unsolved.
But too many people witnessed it from close at hand to dismiss the phenomenon as simply another UFO.
Originally published at http://www.parrysound.com/press/1205335432/
Parry Sound North Star by John Macfie Original Headline: The “Dunchurch Meteor” missed