Gunflint trail fire yields geological treasure
KARE 11 News (Minnesota)
May 23, 2007

Anyone who loves looking up at the trees can't help but be saddened by
the fire that laid bare forests along the Gunflint Trail. But for U of M
geologists Mark Jirsa and Paul Weiblen, the excitement starts with
looking down.

Earlier this month, with the fire still burning in the background, Jirsa
made one of the most significant discoveries of his career. "I probably
would not have seen them if it hadn't been in a burned area," he says of
the rocks he picked up near the Gunflint Trail.

Those rocks are now believed to be ash and debris from an enormous
meteorite, that crashed 700 miles away in Sudbury, Ontario, 1.8 billion
years ago. Never according to the U of M geologists has this type debris
been found so far away from the Sudbury impact site.

"Mark will be forever known as the one who found this debris on the
Gunflint Trail," says Weiblen.

Jirsa says the discovery raises all kinds of questions. "Does that mean
the (meteorite) was bigger than we thought? Does that mean it came at a
glancing blow, and drove things off to the west."

Given the layers of moss and lichen now burned clean from tens of
thousands of acres of forest land, more discoveries might be awaiting
geologists. "As unfortunate as that is for the biological community, it
is very nice for the geological community," says Jirsa.

The window is small for geologists. The forest will re-grow. Jirsa says,
"I can see there's a lot of work to be done, and I can hardly wait to
get at it."

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