Stolen Wolfe Creek meteorite heads home

Aaron Bunch
·2-min read

A rare basketball-sized Wolfe Creek meteorite missing for more than five years has found its way home.

The 300,000-year-old space rock was allegedly stolen from a North Queensland gift shop in June 2015 during a break-in.

It's now been handed back to Atherton's Crystal Caves store after police spotted it during a search of a Cairns property on Saturday.

"I am very curious about the journey the meteorite has had in the past five years, where it went and where it's been," manager Ghis Gallo said.

The 11kg meteor was donated to the store by a family friend who found it in 1973 while visiting Western Australia's Wolfe Creek Meteorite Crater National Park.

"He stumbled across it because his hat blew off into the crater ... he crawled down and that's when he found it," Ms Gallo said.

The rust-coloured metallic rock didn't stay in the shop's gallery for long, however. It was stolen just two weeks after being put on display.

"Australian specimens are hard to come by ... especially in that size and quality," Ms Gallo said.

She said it's likely the thieves thought they could break the rock up into smaller pieces and sell them off.

They've hacked into it," she said.

"(But) I think they worked out that's not how meteorites work, it's not worth anything in smaller bits.

"It's worth something as a whole specimen.

"It's covered in dirt, so I wonder if someone tried to bury it ... maybe they thought it would grow," she joked.

Ms Gallo said the meteorite was valued at $20,000 but couldn't be sold because it came from a national park.

A 46-year-old man has been charged with receiving tainted property and the meteorite is back on display in the store's gallery.

The man is scheduled to appear in Cairns Magistrates Court on November 25.

The Wolfe Creek Crater is reportedly the second-largest meteorite impact site in the world.

It's located about 700km inland from Broome in the East Kimberley region.

Scientists believe the meteorite that formed it was likely to have weighed about 50,000 tonnes.

The crater site is thought to be about 300,000 years old.