An area of Skye that sparked great enthusiasm could now be under threat.
The discovery of meteorite evidence on Skye launched worldwide excitement. Meteorite deposits were recently found at the base of Skye’s 60 million year old lava sequence and contain mineral material from outer space that has not been found on this planet before.
Now, says Dr Simon Drake of Birkbeck University, that discovery has been the victim of geo-vandalism. He told The Skye Times that the site at the chambered cairn has been targeted by meteorite hunters. "Samples are now being sold on eBay and we fear the site will continue to sustain damage for commercial gain," he stated.
Dr Drake continued: "Our findings represent the first evidence of meteorite impact within the British Palaeogene Igneous Province of which Skye forms part. Evidence suggests this impact event acted as a driver for Skye's volcanic episode some 60-61 million years ago."
The unauthorised removal of any of the deposit could be in contravention of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and against the law.
Dr. Colin MacFadyen, Geologist at Scottish Natural Heritage said: “The recent discovery by geologists of meteorite deposits on Skye is yet another example of Scotland’s tremendous geological heritage and its distressing to find out that mineral hunters have been targeting the site.
“Reports that samples removed from Skye have been on sale via the internet is extremely concerning and disappointing as we understand that the meteorite deposit is vulnerable to damage and theft.
“We are working with the researchers and land owners to safeguard the deposits and ensure they are available for future research. We also appeal to people not to remove any of the deposit which has major scientific importance and help us keep an eye out for those who do.
“This is yet another highly significant aspect of Scottish geology - evidence of a catastrophic event from which we could learn a lot in terms of understating the threat to humanity from extra-terrestrial space rock.
“We hope that in time there will be a public display of the material which will inspire further interest in this extra-terrestrial aspect of Scotland’s nature.”
Dr Drake went on to say that the high-profile nature of the work and current interest in meteorites has attracted commercial interest. He also reflected that: "Last year, we gave a public lecture at Portree regarding our finds. All admission proceeds were given to the Skye Mountain Rescue Team and we raised £770. Damage to this site will therefore stop us trying to help the local community in future- which we would very much like to do."