Destinations, Travel Tips

Gosse Bluff – the resting place of a comet

What happened 130 million years ago seems to be taken from a high-budget disaster movie: explosions, destruction, dust and a huge noise. The scary part about it is the fact that the impact between a comet and our planet was very real and disastrous and not just some computer-generated special effects. Luckily, all that is left now of it is a huge crater reminding us how fragile everything really is.

So let us go back to a time when human beings were far from roaming the planet: to the Cretaceous period. This is when Australian dinosaurs’ relatively peaceful existence was interrupted by a globe of fire which hit the Earth with a force hundreds of times bigger than the one of the bomb that erased Hiroshima in 1945. But the apocalypse was far from over; a giant mushroom made of dust and incandescent material rose and covered the sun for the entire Southern Hemisphere for a few months. The impact itself hadn’t been the worst part. However, slowly, everything got back to what it had been before the unexpected guest appeared. What didn’t change was the crater left by the comet – Gosse Bluff.

The size of the site is quite impressive, especially as it was created by a sphere made of ice, carbon dioxide and dust with a diameter of 600 meters. However, the force of it should not be disregarded. As scientists have calculated, the impact destroyed about 400 square kilometers of land, the hole made into the ground reaching 800 meters in depth. The initial crater reached 20 kilometers in surface, what we can see now having about a quarter of it. Anyway, that doesn’t make it less impressive, especially seen from above; it looks like a fingerprint left by a huge finger on the surface of Australia.

The crater got its name after the explorer Edmund Gosse, who discovered in 1873, without being too impressed. He only wrote a few lines about it, maybe because from the ground the place is not as impressive as from above. The aboriginals, however, were familiar with the place long before the discovery. The site is full of hiding places, hunting traps and shelters, some of them decorated with the red palm prints of the long-gone inhabitants. Because of all these factors, now the crater is acknowledged as a sacred place.

But Gosse Bluff proved not to be interesting only from a spiritual point of view. Scientists were also puzzled at first by its origin; some blamed it on the gases from the bowels of the Earth, gases that may have caused an eruption. Others blamed it all on a meteorite, but even if this theory proved to be more plausible, the density of the sphere that hit our planet had to be much smaller. And this is how the solution was found: a comet ended its voyage here, in Australia in a very spectacular way.

What’s interesting about this area is the fact that other impacts occurred as well. Quite close to the site visitors can see the Henbury Craters, made by 12 fragments of a meteorite that hit the Earth about 4700 years ago and cracked as it entered in the terrestrial atmosphere. Its Aboriginal name means “the hellish fire stone of walking sun”. This means that this time, there were witnesses of the impacts, witnesses that survived and told a magnificent story further.

So, if you’re interested in getting close to one of the biggest craters on Earth and get that special feeling of ‘being small’, check it out – you may find it as Tnorala (the Aboriginal name). There are roads that lead you right next to the site, and if you’re here you can also get a look at the Ayers Rock(Uluru), another famous Australian monument.

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