Anglers Worried About Mir

McHale says the people on board the cluster of Western fishing vessels in the South Pacific have given up trying to clear completely out of the area since their boats move at a maximum speed of 7 knots. She adds they're still debating how to situate themselves — in clusters or scattered throughout the region — during the hours when Mir is expected to hit.

"The benefit of clustering the boats together is they could see each other," she said. "But we also wouldn't want everyone's life in danger if something comes bursting in from the atmosphere."

Although he understands why they might feel jittery, University of Colorado aerospace professor Robert Culp says he considers the fishermen near Mir's target area "lucky."

"I think it will be spectacular," said Culp. "And the odds of being hit are less than the odds of being hit by lightning. These are small objects hitting a very, very large space."

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