Despite a string of ‘unbelievable’ hurdles, a diving operation to lift the biggest-yet discovered fragment of the famous Russian meteorite stuck in a mud lakebed has entered the final phase.
RT is scheduled to show live the recovery of the 50cm by 90cm space rock weighing an estimated 600kg, which plunged into the depths of Lake Chebarkul in February.
It is one of a few salvageable chunks of a massive meteorite, which exploded over Russia’s Chelyabinsk Region, producing a blast wave that injured some 1,600 people on the ground before circling Earth three times.
The recovery operation started on September 10 and was expected to last for about a week, but the process was stalled due to several obstacles.
The amount of sediments that need to be removed to uncover the meteorite fragment has proven to be bigger than the initial optimistic estimates. It took the team 10 days of pumping mud away from the site to come close enough to touch the rock with a probe.
“It’s like the little green men don’t want us Earthlings to get the celestial body,” Maksim Shipulin, one of the divers, commented to Rossiyskaya Gazeta. “We thought we’d be able to get the big meteorite from the depth of 14 meters, but it’s being sucked in deeper, and we are now talking about 16 to 20 meters.”
The divers have to work in zero visibility conditions due to the muddied waters. It’s quite risky because even an experienced diver can lose orientation underwater without visual cues. There are other hazards as well.
“One of the guys was almost trapped under a chunk of dense mud. It’s good for him that he didn’t panic,” Shipulin said.