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The 2002 Novaya Yerga Meteorite Shower Expedition

In 1662 a meteorite shower fell near the village of Novaya Yerga. The shower is described in a well-known letter from the priest Ivan to the monks of the St. Cyril Belozersk Monastery. The letter was found in the correspondence of the Sii Monastery and is presented in abridged form below.

Novaya Yerga Meteorite Shower, click to enlarge

"To milord the Archimandrite Nikita, milord the Wise Matvei, milord Kelar The Wise Pavel of St. Cyril's Monastery, your lordships' poor worshipper of God of the village of Novaya Yerga the humble priest Ivanishko beats his brow upon the floor.

In this year, my lords, the 171st year [1662], in November on the 29th day, a Saturday, as the sun was setting in our village, in Novaya Yerga and in the hamlets many folk saw in the sky a fearful sign: The sun had just gone down and from that place, the still-glowing west, a thing like unto a star, great and long, rapidly emerged and showed itself across the sky like unto lightning. Milords, at that time the air was clear and quiet. And then a small cloud appeared in that place. And in that cloud arose a noise and a smoke, like unto thunder or a great bell, terrible and long-enduring, so that the earth shook and the churches shook and many people from fear fell upon the ground. And then stones fell with great fury large and small, all hot, and the heat tore and devoured, milords, people and cattle; they fell on the fields and the streets, and the church was spared through the Lord's mercy. And I, milords, do not dare to hide such a wonder of the Lord and have informed you…"

Novaya Yerga Region, click to enlarge

All available information about this fall were gathered and published by D.O. Svyatsky in 1929. The coordinates of the fall were determined by Svyatsky from a 10-verst map of the General Staff and matched the location of the village of Novaya Yerga in the Cherepovetsky district of Leningrad province. The village is missing on present-day maps and is not listed among the towns and villages of the Russian Federation. Using information obtained from the Internet, it may be supposed that the village appears to have been renamed Voskresenskoye, although that village is located somewhat to the east of the location reported by Svyatsky.

In 2002, the Meteoritics Laboratory of the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry And Analytical Chemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences (GEOKHI) organized an expedition to search for the location and any traces of the Novaya Yerga meteorite shower. The expedition was conducted under the aegis of the Laboratory and lasted from July 22 to 30, 2002. The following people participated in the expedition: S.V. Afanasev, I. Afanaseva, D.D. Badukov, S.P. Vassiliev, M.A. Ivanova, A.V. Korochantsev, E.V. Korochantseva, K.A. Lorentz, M.A. Nazarov, A.E. Nazarova, D.A. Sadilenko, and Mr. Pavel from the city of Pushkino.

D.D. Badukov, participant of the expedition, click to enlarge

Leaving Moscow early in the morning, the expedition proceeded in four vehicles through Yaroslavl, Rybinsk, Poshekhon'ye, Cherepovets, and late in the evening stopped to camp near the Kovzha river approximately 15 km northwest of Voskresenskoye village. The next day, using GPS, the expedition headed for the coordinates reported by D.O. Svyatsky. The location turned out to be between the small villages of Nekrasovo, Tolstikovo, and Petraevo, approximately 200 meters from a small graveyard. The graveyard was located on a small hill, on which were found the remains of the brick foundations of a church which had been destroyed during Soviet rule, according to local residents.

Main participants of the expedition, click to enlarge

There were fairly many new graves in the graveyard. Old graves were rare. Local residents, mostly dacha owners from Cherepovets, know the old names poorly and provided contradictory information. One woman reported that Nekrasovo was Staraya Yerga, and that Voskresenskoye was Novaya Yerga. In Voskresenskoye nothing could be learned. One old woman said that Voskresenskoye was simply Yerga and that she had never heard of Staraya or Novaya Yerga, although she had lived in the area all her life. In Voskresenskoye there had also been a church, on the site of which now stands a memorial to the victims of World War Two.

Remains of church foundation, where the priest Ivan served, click to enlarge

The expedition then travelled to Belozersk and then to the Ferapontov and St. Cyril-Belozersk monasteries. In the museum of the St. Cyril-Belozersk monastery a map was found giving old and new names of villages. According to this map, Voskresenskoye is Staraya Erga, while Novaya Yerga is the village of Bogoyavlenskoye, near Nekrasovo. Although the village of Bogoyavlenskoye no longer exists, there appears to be no doubt that the coordinates reported by D.O. Svyatsky are correct. It is not surprising that these coordinates give the location of the church very accurately, since surveys performed in the late 19th and early 20th centures used churches as the main points of the geodetic network. So the Priest Ivan served in the church whose foundations are shown in the photograph, and wrote his famous letter about the the meteorite shower of 1662 to the monks of the St. Cyril-Belozersk monastery from this very spot.

the St. Cyril-Belozersk monasteryь, click to enlarge

According to legend, the sky-stones from Novaya Yerga were taken to the St. Cyril-Belozersk monastery and lay a long time on the pulpit of the Cathedral of the Assumption. An inspection of the stones found in the monastery brought no success. Glacial boulders were found to dominate the rock assemblage. The deputy director for research of the monastery's museum informed us that he was aware of the meteorite shower. However, the museum's property and archives contained no mention of the presence of meteorite stones at the monastery. He promised to let us know if any new information were discovered.

 Novaya Yerga, the cemetery, click to enlarge

After visiting the town of Kirillov, the expedition returned to Novaya Yerga, i.e. to near the village of Nekrasovo. A search for meteorites with a metal detector in a field near the cemetery was unsuccessful. The soil contains many metal items - nails, horseshoes, etc. Slag from the Cherepovets metallurgical kombinat trucked in as a road-building material also gave signals in the detector. Additional difficulties were caused by the large amount of glacial boulder material. In the valley of the Chermasol river, which flows 500 meters from the cemetery, we systematically sampled the layers of river sediment. In Moscow we separated the magnetic fraction from the samples, and found no spherules of cosmic origin. The samples contain a fair amount of magnetite, apparently linked to moraine deposits, which also complicate the identification of any possible meteorite material.

After investigating the location of the meteorite shower near Novaya Yerga the expedition returned to Moscow via Sheksna, Vologda and Yaroslavl. The expedition's major results were:

  1. It was determined that the village of Novaya Yerga, in which the meteorite shower of 1662 occurred, was located between the modern villages of Nekrasovo, Tolstikovo and Petraevo. The coordinates reported reported by D.O. Svyatsky correctly indicate the location of this fall.
  2. The search for material traces of the meteorite fall are difficult, largely due to the large amoung of moraine material in this area.
  3. The museum and archives of the St. Cyril-Belozersk monastery contain no evidence on this meteorite fall.

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