Discovering America's Giant Meteorite Crater
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In days of yore, 35 million days yore, a tremendous astral slap to earth’s thin crust devastated the eastern seaboard of North America. Research geologist Poag reports the event like a 1950s news flash when he can, and like a conscientious scientist when he must. Out of the ether, in the late Eocene, hurtled a fabulous meteorite, 2—3 miles in diameter, traveling at 60,000 miles per hour, sizzling through the atmosphere, and slamming into the Chesapeake Bay. It kicked out supersonic shock waves, a hypercane (a super-hurricane with winds up to 500 mph) laden with white-hot rock debris, and tsunamis that could have measured in the thousands of feet. “The blast wave alone would have instantly incinerated all higher life forms within six hundred miles.” It left a crater 50 miles wide, a mile deep, now buried under younger rock and the thin waters of the Chesapeake. All this Poag relates with clipped vibrancy, and it makes for riveting reading, as other such events could happen at any time. You can run, but you can’t hide. Nor can Poag escape the more mundane aspects of his work—for instance, explaining how he figured all this out. He tells that story by detailing the way he went about establishing a complete picture from fragmentary evidence. In this case, he combines examination of seismic samples provided by Texaco and core samples drilled by the government with an overview of evolutionary theory and rock principals (there are enough impact breccias and crystalline basements to keep readers on their geological toes). Poag also goes to great lengths to give practical justification for such research, pointing out how local subsidence is influenced by the crater structure and how its briny reservoir may contaminate groundwater supplies. A light-handed tale of scientific exploration, fascinating as living theater, where the daily grind has a chance to reveal more cosmic thrummings. (16 maps, 60 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-691-00919-8
Page count: 162pp
Publisher: Princeton Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1999