Why is Bruderheim Home of the Bruderheim Meteorite?

On March 4th, 1960 at 1:06 a.m., a bright fireball tore through Earth's atmosphere above Central Alberta. The space rock travelled at 42 kilometres per second, its flash witnessed by hundreds of people as far away as the Rocky Mountain region of British Columbia. The giant rock detonated, creating a sound shock wave audible over 5,000 square kilometres. The sonic boom rattled windows, shook the foundations of homes, and startled families from their sleep. Shards of the stone rained down just north of Bruderheim, some forming pits as deep as 30 centimetres, many rebounding off the frozen ground and landing on the snow.

Based on eye-witness reports, it is believed that the meteorite was first observed by Alexis Simon, a resident of the Paul’s Band Indian Reserve at Duffield, Alberta. He noted the north-easterly direction of the rock, its swift speed, and that it looked like it was giving off ‘flashes of fire’. He also described a rushing sound that resembled a high wind and lasted about 5 seconds after the fireball passed.

Once news broke that a meteorite had fallen, people came from all around to search by air and land for the dark stones on the snow. The first meteorite fragment was found by a local farmer, Nick Broda, in his barnyard.

Other local farmers found the fragments in their barnyards and fields, the largest weighing 66 pounds. One farmer was astounded to find meteorite fragments only a few feet from his front porch.

Other locals, including  Stan Walker and Ty Balacko, were instrumental in mapping the fall area and for recovering fragments. In the days that followed, the two men recovered a total of 155 pounds of meteorite.

Andreas Bawel and Walter and Nick Holowaty of Bruderheim collected about 22 pounds of fragments on their farms. Walter Holowaty made the first collections off the ice on the North Saskatchewan River, digging down through the snow to the ice surface wherever he observed an impact hole.

Hundreds of grit- and pebble-sized fragments were collected off of river ice. Undoubtedly many thousands of small fragments were not seen against the black dirt of fields and plowed under as farmers prepared to seed their crops.

Nearly 700 meteorite fragments were found with a total weight of over 660 pounds—making it the largest recovered fall in Canadian history. Most pieces found were eventually acquired by the University of Alberta, some of which were later traded and distributed to museums and research facilities around the world.

A partial listing of places that have specimens of the Bruderheim Meteorite, as a result of exchanges with the University of Alberta Meteorite Collection, include:

  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington, D.C.
  • American Museum of Natural History, New York
  • Peabody Museum, Yale University
  • Redpath Museum, McGill University
  • National Meteorite Collection, Ottawa
  • The Vatican Meteorite Collection
  • Department of Earth Sciences, Cambridge University
  • Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec