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Meteor Crater (Near Winslow, AZ)

I suppose that you could say that I spent a bunch of time driving around looking at various holes in the ground this summer but that would be ignoring the facts that A) Those holes were mostly really big and B) I also did some stupid touristy stuff. Standing on a corner in Winslow, AZ would be a good example of that. BTW, you can't see it in this picture but there is a red flat bed Ford truck parked off to my left. There is also a souvenir shop  conveniently located on the opposite corner (dad was standing in front of it for this picture).

Enough of that non-sense, on to the first Really Big Holes...

I was driving when we headed up to Meteor Crater so no pictures of the approach but the landscape isn't all that impressive (at least not compared to the rest of that area of the country). It just looks like lightly rolling hills with one a little taller than the rest. The thing is, all of that was likely a result of the impact since the ground is relatively flat further away from the crater. Also, Meteor Crater is not government owned so it's a bit more expensive than what people are used to for national parks. However, the facilities are nice (also handicapped accessible and yes, you can get down below the rim some with a wheel chair) and it isn't cheesy or touristy. There seems to be a lot of interest in the science of the place and in maintaining its integrity. If giant chunks of rock from outer space turn you on, it's well worth the price of admission.

The first cool thing you see when you get there is something called "Boilerplate 29". This is an Apollo era capsule that NASA used to test ocean recoveries. It was donated to the family that owns the crater in appreciation for the help with practicing for the lunar missions (Meteor Crater is where NASA taught astronauts to do basic geology). Anyway, I'm 6' 1" tall. Can you image being cramped up in that thing for 2 weeks with 2 other people?

Here's the largest chunk of the meteorite so far discovered. The woman standing next to it is average size but that chuck weighs in at over 1,000 lbs (it's mostly nickel and iron). You're allowed (and even encouraged) to touch it which is pretty neat. I probably have space cooties or something now but I don't care.

This is a half-decent overview shot of the crater. The crater is about 550' deep now but it is believed that it was over 700' originally. The other side of the crater is about 4000' away (just over 3/4 of a mile) and the rim is 2.4 miles around (I told you it was a big hole). Even more impressive is this was formed in a few seconds by a meteorite believed to be about 150' in diameter. The other impressive thing involves a little bit of a geology lesson. The key thing about the geology of the Colorado Plateau (at least as it relates to the crater) is that it's made of of layers of limestone (grayish green) and sandstone (reddish brown). The top layer is limestone but you can see in this picture that there is sandstone on top. That didn't happen by the top layer being blown away. It happened because a layer of sandstone was lifted up by the force of the impact and flipped over. It's not really clear in this picture but the layers are also tilted up. The stark white splotch at the bottom is left over mining equipment (you can read about that on their web site).

Here's a better shot showing how the layers are at an angle.

Last Updated 10/16/11 10:38:59 AM