Go Back Report # 566


A ‘Meteorite’ Hunt Makes a Splash Around Barnegat Bay

Special to The New York Times

       LANOKA HARBOR,. N.J. – About 9:45 o'clock on the evening of April 18 while Frank Forka was walking the family dogs along the beach, the dogs---a brown Labrador and a black and brown mixed beagle and retriever--began barking furiously in the direction of Barnegat Bay.

       Frank, who is 15 years old, turned to find out why the dogs were barking and saw a "silvery" object “as big as a truck" slanting in from the east.

"It was about 60 to 70 feet above the water, and there was a low rumbling noise," he said later. Then it hit the water, and I could hear a hissing sound as it went beneath the waves."

       The sighting set off what has become the big meteorite hunt of 1979 locally and has given residents of the Jersey Shore, now deep in spring cleaning, something to talk about other than an impending invasion of 17-year "locusts" and the possibility that the summer tourist season may be aborted by a gasoline shortage.

       The area where the silvery object fell into Barnegat Bay between the shore and Long Beach Island is 40 miles north of Atlantic City and near Bricktown, an area where so many "flying saucer” sightings have been reported that three months ago, Patrolman Donald Horbelt was moved to comment: "I'm going crazy with U.F.O. calls. If l hear one more U.F.O. story, I'm going, to scream."

       At first, there was an inclination to shrug off Frank Forka's story as another unidentified flying object hoax. But when calls came to the police from other people claiming to have seen a burning object fall from the sky into the bay, the Coast Guard sent a crew to investigate.

       A search found nothing. But six days after the “sighting,” two clamers from Lanoka Harbor, came across a big rock partly buried in the bottom of Barnegat Bay, there nine feet deep at about the spot where Frank Forka had seen something go "hissing" into the water. A diver from the state marine police, Sgt. Carl Loeser, examined the rock and reported that it was about 8 feet long, 2 feet wide and "pitted."

      No algae were growing on it, an indication that the rock had not been in the water long, Sergeant Loeser said.

       While Plans were being laid to recover the rock, which could weigh several tons, members of the Coast Guard marked it with buoys twice. Both times, the buoys either were stolen or broke loose from their moorings and were swept away by tide and winds. The Coast Guard plans to try again to find and mark the object when the waves calm, probably On Monday.

       Experts have doubts that the rock is a meteorite. Dr. Roy S. Clarke, curator of meteorites for the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, has been following the search at long distance, but with considerable interest.

       Dr. Clarke wants a piece of it, and perhaps the whole thing, but has been issuing periodic disclaimers noting that a meteorite that size would have provided a "spectacular" display in the night sky, not the soft silvery glow Frank Forka reported.

       "There would be sonic booms and a bright fireball over a large area," said Dr. Clarke.

       Without attempting to explain Frank Forka's sighting, some authorities have suggested that since there are no native boulders of, that size in the area, the big rock in Barnegat Bay might have fallen from a barge hauling construction material, along the Intracoastal Waterway.

[Note: Continuing text regarding locusts and the tourist season deleted – CF]                                

This is the Original reference: The New York Times dated May 05, 1979, p. 26, col. 1-4        

UFOCAT PRN – NONE           

UFOCAT URN – NONE   The New York Times dated May 05, 1979, p. 26, col. 1-4        
UFOCAT URN – NONE   “Res Bureaux Bulletin” No. 47, May 1979, printed in Canada

UFOCAT URN – NONE   INFO Journal Vol. 8, No. 1, Whole #35, May-June 1979          

North America – United States, New Jersey

Barnegat Bay               Latitude 39-48-17 N, Longitude 74-08-41 W (D-M-S)

Long Beach Island       Latitude 39-39-35 N, Longitude 74-10-15 W

Bricktown                     Latitude 40-33-33 N, Longitude 74-08-14 W

Lanoka Harbor             Latitude 39-52-00 N, Longitude 74-10-05 W

Reference: http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnispublic.


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