Years ago, my family took a road trip through Arizona, hitting all the popular spots. I distinctly remember stopping by a crater, and while researching for this trip, I figured it must have been Meteor Crater.
However, my family visited Sunset Crater, a volcanic crater in the San Francisco volcanic field. We sped straight past Sunset Crater on our drive out of the Grand Canyon, unfortunately, as I would now have preferred to visit that!
Personally, I felt the Meteor Crater admission to be grossly over-priced for the information and quality provided. Since it is a privately owned plot of land, the site is not protected as a national monument, but rather run as a private museum. I use the term museum lightly, as Cory and I both felt that the exhibits and presentations were woefully lacking (though not as bad as the Roswell museum!). It had the overall feel of an elementary school science fair, or children’s museum.
The background of the crater is fascinating. The official name (as there are many “Meteor Craters” throughout the world) is Barringer’s Crater, after Daniel Barringer, the first to suggest that it was created through impact, rather than the result of a volcano.
His mining company, Standard Iron Company, investigated the origins of the crater and concluded it came from impact – specifically, a large iron meteorite. Barringer hoped that he could mine the crater and surrounding area for the iron deposits, believing the size of the initial meteorite to be up to ten million tons! At that time, iron ore was valued at $125/ton.
By 1928, Barringer had invested $500,000 (a massive sum, even today. Imagine what that was back then!), and had yet to find any significant amount of iron. After consulting an astronomer, it was concluded that Barringer had vastly overestimated the size of the meteor (it would likely be closer to 300,000 tons). Furthermore, the actual impact would have vaporized the meteor, leaving not much to be drilled.
Barringer died of a heart attack the following year, having lost most of his fortune.
No, we didn’t helicopter over the meteor. Aerial shot via MeteorCrater.com.
But, there is a positive side to the story! While alive, Barringer’s theory of impact, rather than volcanic activity, was not widely recognized. Extraterrestrial objects weren’t, at the time, thought to have impact on the Earth’s terrain.
In 1960, over thirty years after Barringer’s death, Eugene Merle Shoemaker confirmed his theory. Since then, impact craters are slowly being discovered across the world (many previously thought to be volcanic).
Visitors are prohibited from going to the base of the crater… so we hightailed it down there, of course.
Some interesting things to note:
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