Ucchusma Odessa Tsa Tsa – Souvenirs from Space
Ucchusma Odessa Tsa Tsa
The Odessa Meteor Crater
Shower of Meteorites plunged to earth some 20,000 years ago, shattering limestone bedrock and leaving explosion pit some 500 feet in diameter; other smaller adjacent pits. Over the centuries, desert winds silted crater almost level with surrounding plains, and site was not identified as Meteor crater until the 1920s. Today a marked nature trail winds through crater and a free brochure interprets the unusual feature. Just west of Odessa exit I-20 at F.M. 1936 (south), drive west on frontage road 3.4 mi. to sign indicating crater site to south.
“CRATER FOR THE AGES”
It blazed across the Ice-Age sky above West Texas 25,000 years ago, a scantillating fireball which exploded in mid-air and crashed into the Permian Basin 10 miles southwest of present day Odessa.
The impact shook the land and terrified its denizens, sent thunder rolling into the horizon, gouged out earth and flung strata in all directions. In an instant, it was over, and at least one major crater — 100 feet deep, 550 feet wide — and two lesser ones yawned immense to testify to the collision between cosmic traveller and the third planet from the sun.
The wind blew; ice receded; rain fell. And slowly, the craters succumbed, the ages swallowing them. They still may have been awe-inspiring when the first Indians drifted southward into Texas 11,000 years ago; no one can say for certain. But by the time pioneer Odessan Julius Henderson stumbled onto the rim in only mild curiosity — as “blowouts,” common topographic features in free-drifting sands of the area. Only when pilots of the twentieth century noticed the lunar-like features painted against the prairie did West Texas finally yield its millennia-old secret: of all such Meteorite craters in the nation, only the Barringer in Arizona loomed more immense.
Their lifeblood stirred by realization that a desolate stretch of Ector County held evidence of a voyager from the reaches of the solar system, geologists converged on what became known as Odessa Meteor Crater in 1939 and spent two years trying to decipher its mysteries. The primary crater still measured more than 500 feet in diameter, all right, but the elements had reduced its depth to only twenty feet at its greatest. But a surprise awaited nearby when geologists undertook tests with a magnetometer: a second crater 17 feet deep and 70 feet wide lay filled by erosion. During its excavation, they unearthed approximately six tons of Meteorite particles.
He came to believe, however, that the mass of the object which slammed into the Permian Basin was “somewhere in excess of 500 tons, although it may have been three times that.”
As he walked the belly of the enigmatic crater for 24 months, studying and gathering data, Evans became the foremost authority of perhaps the foremost crater on the planet.
“The art of documenting craters as being the result of Meteorite falls is quite a new science,” he said. “Even as recently as 1960 geologists were arguing that the vast Arizona Meteor crater — a half-mile wide, 500 feet deep — is the result of a gas explosion and that the thousands of Meteorite fragments in the vicinity are coincidence. This is just another example of how hard it is for people to accept something. The Odessa craters, on the other hand, are the best-documented craters in the world.”
He explained that the site contains most of the classic astroblemes – structural features — associated with impact craters, including strongly tilted rocks on the periphery and a central mound of boulders, evidence of which was discovered within the 165-foot shaft.
“When we sank the shaft, we found fossils of Pleistocene horses and elephant teeth, and the bedrock was still fragmented beneath,” he noted. “This gives us some idea of the age, but what we really need to find is fossilized vegetation in the original soil to get a carbon dating.”
Evans, who went on to study Meteorite craters throughout the world, even explored the possibility that the Odessa Crater may be associated with the Barringer Crater in Arizona.
“They’re very similar in age and content (both nickel iron) and it makes me wonder if they could have been part of the same fall,” he mused. “Sometimes Meteors come in clusters. If you look for other series of craters, there’s only central Australia with a group of 13, the largest about the size of our number two crater here, a cluster of four in Argentina, much smaller than ours, seven in Russia and another in Arabia. An additional series of craters, all smaller than the main Odessa crater, were formed during a witnessed fall in 1947 in Siksote-Alin, Russia.”
The onetime associate director of University of Texas Memorial Museum in Austin also noted that the Sierra Madera, 18 miles south of Fort Stockton, holds astrobleme features, “one of 30 or 40 authenticated ones in the world.”
Evans and his excavation crew departed Odessa Meteor Crater in 1941, but in their wake came scavengers and vandals, digging and breaking and looting this registered national historic landmark. The craters had stood the test of 25,000 years of erosion, yet suddenly their very existence became threatened at the hand of uncaring man.
FORMATlON OF THE CRATER
The Odessa Crater, and four smaller craters were formed in prehistoric time when a great shower of nickel-iron Meteorites collided with the earth. It is estimated the event occurred some 24000 to 25000 years ago.
The shower was composed of many thousand of individual Meteorites of various sizes which fell over an area of about 2 square miles. The smaller Meteorites, which were by far the most numerous, either came to rest on the earths surface or at the bottom of shallow impact pits within the soil. There were several very large Meteoritic masses in the shower, however, and these struck the earth with such enormous energy that they penetrated deeply into bedrock producing craters in the earth at the places of impact.
When freshly formed, the craters were funnel-shaped depressions, the largest about 550 feet in diameter and 1OO feet in depth. More than 100,000 cubic yards of crushed rock was ejected from this crater by the energy released from the impacting Meteoritic mass. Smaller craters in the vicinity of the main crater range from 15 feet to 70 feet in diameter and from 7 feet to 18 feet in depth.
In the ages following their formation the craters gradually accumulated sediments deposited hy wind and water. The main crater was eventually filled within 6 feet of the level of the surrounding plain. It now appears a shallow, nearly circular depression surrounded by a low rock-buttressed rim. The several smaller associated craters were so completly buried that their existance was not suspected until they were exposed in excavations made by the University of Texas, in the early 1940’s.
Meteor craters are among the rarest and most interesting of land features. Astrophysicists have observed the source of Meteoritic bodies which strike our earth originate within our Solar System, probably from the asteroidal belt located between the planets Mars and Jupiter.
EXPLORATlON AND EXPLANATlON
A 165 foot shaft was sunk in the center of the main crater primarily to locate the main mass of the Meteor which was believed still buried. However, the shaft revealed that there was no huge mass buried. it is now known that the main mass, of an estimated 70 tons, which formed the main crater, was traveling at such a high rate of speed that it exploded and vaporized upon contact with the earth. Therefore, the main crater is an “explosion crater.
The four smaller craters was formed by smaller masses of Meteoric material. These were slowed down by the earth’s atmosphere to below explosion velocity. The craters were formed by the impact of the Meteor and much of the Meteoric material was buried at the bottom of the smaller craters. These smaller craters are, therefore, “impact craters”. The smaller craters have been completely covered by wind blown dirt and was located by metal detection equipment. In addition to the Meteoric material recovered from he smaller craters, many tons of Meteorite fragments was scattered over the surrounding plain. The fragments, upon impact, buried themselves at depths from a few inches to a few feet, depending on their size.
The largest piece of the Odessa Meteorite ever found weighs approximately 300 pounds. The Odessa Meteorite is an iron metallic Meteorite. Only about 10% of all the Meteorites striking the earth are metallic. The remaining 90% are classified as stoney Meteorites and resemble rocks found on earth. Because they so closely resemble rocks, stoney Meteorites are much harder to find and are more valuable than metallic Meteorites.
SPEClMENS OF THE ODESSA MeteorITE
These contain about 9O% iron. 7
Pictured is 12″ ruler for scale.
Originally the 165 foot shaft was completely walled up with heavy timbers and divided into 10 different floor levels, with ladders connecting each floor. However, in the early 1950’s someone set fire to the timbers in the shaft, completely destroying them. The shaft in now covered with concrete slabs.
The Odessa Crater is the second largest crater recognized in the United states. The largest is he Arizona Crater. The Odessa Crater is approximately 500 feet across and was originally 100 feet deep. Wind and rain have filled it up over the centuries until it is now only about 15 feet deep The Arizona Crater is 4,000 feet across and 500 feet deep.
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