Meteorite lifted from Russian lake weighs so much it breaks the scale

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Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman. This is The World. Eight months ago, you may remember, a meteor crashed in Russia. It injured hundreds of people. That was in the Ural mountains in the region of Chelyabinsk.

The meteor made headlines around the world after a lot of dashboard video-cams captured the space rock's fiery descent and crash. It literally lit up the Russian sky.

Well, the meteorite's back in the news. Russian scientists are today trying to weigh a gigantic rock, which they say is a remnant of the Chelyabinsk meteorite. BBC correspondent Oleg Boldyrev is in Chelyabinsk.

It's been a busy day, I gather, Oleg, at the edge of the lake where this suspected piece of the meteorite was discovered. What's the scene been like?

Oleg Boldyrev: Well, we were the first on the scene on the site, but then little by little the cameras surrounded the spot on which a large lever and jack-lever was standing. The meteorite actually was hanging very near the shore. That's where it was brought yesterday.

Basically as it went, it pierced at least two feet of ice on the fifteenth of February of this year. So the scientists sort of have the idea it must be beneath, but it took them a very long while to discover where exactly it is.

The bottom of the lake is covered with a very thick layer of sediment, so for a while they were sort blinded by this thick layer of mud. They were using the SONAR. The team of divers were doing this. Finally, they found it, but the early predictions where it might have been were wrong.

Werman: So it's been hauled out now, I guess? How big is it? How close did you get to it?

Boldyrev: Well, I was standing two meters away from it. It was actually broken in three pieces as they were lifting it. This one very large chunk, the size of what could be considered a fridge in Europe. In America, the fridges are probably bigger.

They immediately hoisted it onto scale, trying to weigh it. Finally, the weighing mechanism gave up at 570 kilos -- 1140 pounds in US.

Werman: Right, just broke the scale. So, has there been a lot of curiosity from locals there in Chelyabinsk? Are they out along the shore? What do they say?

Boldyrev: This is very interesting. There's not too much interest. Back in February, when I came here, the local mayor -- the mayor of the town, which is next to the lake, the town of Chebarkul -- was telling me very excitedly how he was going to exploit this, how the tourists would come.

The tourists weren't coming back in the winter, but now I just picked up a local newspaper. I'm reading the whole [xx], trying to explore the marketing potential of it. By the sounds of it, not much of it actually came out.

Werman: I mean, it's kind of curious, because when the meteorite hit back in February, eyewitnesses said they felt intense heat from the fireball. Some even thought this was a nuclear attack.

Boldyrev: We spoke to some people. I spoke to a driver who was bringing us to the shore, and he said, you know, he was affected in a very strange way. He felt something big and horrible loomed over him.

We spoke to people who were hunting for a piece of the meteorite. They were very excited, they said, you know, something else happened, something beyond just the dreary political or economical news in Russia.

But I'm not sure much of the sentiment remains. Russians are being bombarded by so much big news that sometimes they become jaded quite soon.

Werman: Yeah, that's some serious jadedness. I mean, this is the largest known natural object to have entered Earth's atmosphere in the past century.

Boldyrev: Exactly! The scientists I spoke to said, you know, even if the meteorite they found today was twice as small, 250 kilos, 300 kilos, it would still be the largest stone meteorite ever found in Russia.

Werman: BBC correspondent Oleg Boldyrev in Chelyabinsk. Thanks so much...

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