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Wolfe Creek crater

Main characteristics

Coordinates: 19.1718 S 127.7955 E
No:372        (list of all attractions)
Categories:Impact craters and meteorites
Values:Geology
Rank:2
Address:Australia and Oceania, Australia, Western Australia, remote area in Kimberley region some 150 km south from Halls Creek
Alternate names:Kandimalal (local Djaru name), Wolf Creek crater
Diameter:875 - 880 m
Depth:55 - 60 m
Age:less than 300 000 years
Wolfe Creek Crater, Australia
Wolfe Creek Crater / Kookaburra, Wikimedia Commons, public domain

Wolfe Creek crater is one of the most impressive impact craters on Earth, sometimes compared to the most impressive one - Meteor crater (Barringer crater) in Arizona, United States.

This comparison is a matter of taste - the Pingualuit crater in Canada or Lonar crater in India are magnificent natural landmarks as well, several more craters (e.g. in Algeria and Mauritania) are very impressive as well. Nonetheless Wolfe Creek crater is highly unusual, magnificent natural landmark.

Wolfe Creek Crater, Australia
Wolfe Creek Crater / Harclade, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Aboriginal legends

This crater - Kandimalal - was well known to local Djaru people and is centrepiece of several local legends. Local people even considered that it has been created by fallen star, the legend seems to tell a story about real meteorite impact!

According to this legend once upon a time a crescent moon and evening star passed each other too close. Evening star became too hot due to this and fell to the ground.

As the star hit the ground, there was great explosion, flash and giant cloud of dust.

Another legend tells that the rainbow snake named Kalpurtu came out from the underground through the crater (another rainbow snake meanwhile created the nearby Sturt Creek). According to legend sometimes a bright light shines from the crater, also the giant snake can be seen sometimes.

Aboriginal art of this region often depicts the crater and rainbow snake.

Wolfe Creek Crater, Australia
Wolfe Creek Crater, gypsum sediments seen / Harclade, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Discovery by scientists

Crater was noticed from air by geologists Frank Reeves, N.B.Sauve and pilot Dudley Hart in June 21, 1947. Two months later they reached the crater on ground.

Frank Reeves named the crater after the adjacent Wolfe Creek, which in turn was named after Robert Wolfe - local prospector and storekeeper during the gold rush.

Size of crater

Average diameter (from rim to rim) of this crater is 875 m. Rims of crater rise 25 - 35 m above the surroundings. Present depth of crater is up to 60 m below the rims and up to 25 m below the surroundings.

Rims of crater are up to 40 degrees steep.

In the central part of crater is located a white area with sediments of gypsum - traces of ephemeral lakes which appear after the rare summer rains.

Conditions for life inside the crater are more beneficial due to porous ground, presence of water and shade. Here grow even some larger trees and many other plants, animals here are met more often than elsewhere.

Wolfe Creek Crater, Australia
Wolfe Creek Crater, distorted blocks of quartzite in the rim / Harclade, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Impact

Crater was created by more than 50 000 tonnes heavy meteorite less than 300 000 years ago.

This meteorite fell with the fantastic speed - approximately 15 km per second. Meteorite exploded when it hit the laterites and 700 - 800 million years old Precambrian quartzite.

The powerful explosion melted the rock and scattered impressive blocks of red-brown quartzite and pieces of meteorite around the crater.

Initial depth of crater was some 120 - 150 m. Later it was partly filled with sand and gypsum.

Medium octahedrite

This impact was caused by a meteorite consisting of iron and nickel - medium octahedrite (IIIAD meteorite).

Crater and its vicinities (even 3.9 km far from the crater) contain many pieces of meteoritic mass. Some pieces have been well preserved, others have turned into "shale-balls" - up to 250 kg heavy clusters of balls from iron oxide.

Two previously unknown, very rare minerals have been discovered in this site - reevesite (named after Frank Reeves) and cassidyite (named after William A. Cassidy who mapped the crater).

Wolfe Creek crater is the second largest crater in the world (after Meteor crater in Arizona) where peaces of meteorite have been found. Generally in larger explosions the meteorite evaporates.

Map

See Wolfe Creek crater on the map of Australia!