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Halt to online sale of rocks discovered by Birkbeck team

Fragments from historic meteorite crash, discovered by Birkbeck geologists, were being sold on eBay.

Researchers digging up fragments from historic meteorite crash as it was discovered by Birkbeck geologists, the fragments were being sold on eBay.

Birkbeck's Dr Simon Drake stepped in to stop meteorite remnants prised from the ground at important research sites being sold on eBay to mineral hunters.

The lecturer, from the College’s Department for Earth and Planetary Sciences, intervened after it emerged that rocks had been taken from locations on the Isle of Skye at which he and Birkbeck colleagues had been undertaking research.

Dr Drake has been liaising with Scottish Natural Heritage to protect the area and now warning signs are being posted to deter visitors from damaging the rocks which are giving insights into the geological history of the island.

He and Birkbeck colleagues Dr Andrew Beard, Professor Hilary Downes and Jergus Baca were among a team which published research last year which revealed evidence of mineral forms that had never previously been found on Earth.

They discovered they were from an until-then-unknown meteorite impact which had occurred almost 60 million years earlier.

But in the wake of publicity from that discovery it has become a focus for the attentions of online traders with chunks of rock being prised from the ground and sold.

One seller withdrew most of his listings although after the research team became aware of the pilfered fragments although some is believed to have been sold. Dr Drake said: “This guy was selling the meteorite slices of rock for £9.99 per sample and he had at least 10 of them. This is going for the price of a fish supper, and it’s 60 million years old. It’s insanity, really.”

He hopes more measures will be put in place to stop further material from the site being taken and sold.

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