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Aerial view of the Wollangambe crater central cone structure. Credit: Garry Maxfield.

Wollangambe Crater
Jul 13, 2009

Did an asteroid impact form this crater in Australia's Blue Mountains?

The continent of Australia has been the subject of many Picture of the Day articles. The terrain found in several regions exhibits features that are not readily explainable using conventional theoretical analysis. Wilpena Pound, Uluru, the Olgas, and the coastal morphology itself seem to disprove a gradual process of deposition and erosion over millions of years. Instead of growing at a slow and steady pace, many of Australia's landmarks appear to have rapidly evolved at some point in the recent past.

Among those anomalies are several large craters scattered through the landscape. Gosses Bluff crater and Wolfe Creek crater are probably two of the most well-known. However, as noted in a previous article about Gooches crater just west of Sydney, many formations are not listed in impact site databases. Information found in local maps or among the people living in the area will occasionally suggest that something other than vulcanism or water flow created them.

A case in point is Wollangambe crater. Although some published articles refer to it as an "ancient asteroid impact," it is not shown in any major list of Earth impact sites. The Planetary and Space Science Centre (PASSC) database does not show it, nor does it appear in The Astronauts Guide to Terrestrial Impact Craters or the listing found at the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

The area surrounding Wollangambe is impressive to even a casual observer. The crater itself is about two kilometers in diameter, with an uplifted central mound dominated by a shallow depression. Nearby is a similar structure known as Mountain Lagoon—again a hummocky uplift with a central depression in its peak. In the case of Mountain Lagoon, there is a lake within the depression, whereas Wollangambe's central lowland is marshy.

Straight valleys extend outward in all directions throughout the surrounding area. Most are bone dry with no sign that they were ever carved by water erosion. The linearity of the valleys is in itself not unusual. What is unusual is that there are places where steep valleys meet at definite angles: primarily three of the valleys will intersect at 120°. In one location, five straight valleys radiate from a central confluence. What can cut valleys 900 meters deep through the hardest sandstone in this fashion? Certainly water cannot be the active agent since there is no way that it can move straight through the stone outward from a common center.

Another example of bizarre terrain is Mount Banks. What makes it so unusual is that almost half of the mountain has been sliced away by a vertical escarpment with no debris at its base. There are no talus slopes underneath the vegetation that correspond to the megatons of rock that are missing. Rather, there are 45° "shoulders" of solid rock at the base of the cliff that climbs vertically for almost 1000 meters. Similar formations can be found in the desert southwest of the North American continent and in association with the famous "tepuis" of Amazonia.

A new way of seeing Australia should be considered. In the last few years, the Picture of the Day has included scores of articles addressing that need. The gradualism that dominates geological theories today can only account for these observations by ignoring key points. As has been pointed out many times, where is the material that was "eroded" from Australia's landscape? In some locations there are flat plains extending for thousands of square kilometers completely stripped of all overburden, exposing nothing but barren bedrock. Here and there in those flat wastelands are sandstone monoliths standing in torrid isolation.

Vertical cliffs running for hundreds of kilometers look as if they were formed yesterday in some cases. They are composed of layers that include sandstone and ironstone built up into mountains that have been cut in half. In many instances the traveler might be reminded of Martian geography because of the aridity and the layered sandstone. Regardless of where one looks in Australia, there are ever greater puzzles to unlock.

Written by Stephen Smith from information provided by Garry Maxfield. 

Editor's note: Garry Maxfield lives and works in North Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. He is an avid bush trekker, having grown up in the Blue Mountains. From an early age he had an interest in astronomy and geology, but found the answers provided by conventional science to be unsatisfying. While investigating the newly discovered "sprites" and "elves" electrical phenomena, he discovered the Thunderbolts website. This article is a result of his field work.



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