21 December 2010
New York state’s hidden secret: A subterranean impact crater
Posted by mohi
I’ve heard of stealth bombers and stealthy ninjas and even a super-sneaky magnitude 8 earthquake, but until today I hadn’t heard about stealth craters: large features, more than three kilometers across and more than 300 meters deep– definitely big enough to be obvious, one would think.
But not if it’s buried. One such crater lurks 1.2 kilometers underground in New York’s Finger Lakes Region. Located near Syracuse and close to the Bear Swamp State Forest, the crater is completely invisible from the surface. The ground is flat, and the tree-covered vista is not unlike those that characterize upstate New York’s wine-growing region.
Dan Leiphart from Chesapeake Energy Corporation presented a poster describing the hidden crater during Fall Meeting, at Friday afternoon’s poster session P53C, Mineralogical Studies of Impact Craters: Exhumed Crust, Hydrothermal Processes, and Post-Impact Weather II.
He said finding the crater was totally unexpected, the result of a small-scale, 3-D seismic survey in the area looking for a different geological formation. The seismic survey used dynamite to blast sound waves into the Earth’s crust. The waves bounce around the dark, subterranean environment and return data that Leiphart, a geophysicist, analyzes.
“We saw a circular feature. It was not what we were looking for,” he said. “Kind of an accidental stumbling.”
About three times larger than Meteor Crater in Winslow, Arizona, the buried crater covers 10 square kilometers, is 3.5 kilometers in diameter, and 305 meters deep. The crater sports a 160-meter tall bump in its center, indicating that resulting shock waves were strong enough to bubble back up from the crater’s belly. But, “as far as impact structures go, it’s pretty small,” Leiphart said.
Past studies indicate that the area was likely a shallow marine environment when impact occurred around 444 million years ago, or at the end of the Ordovician period. Once the crater formed, it quickly filled as water and accompanying sediment rushed to fill the void. The weight of this material began to slowly push the crater into the Earth’s crust. “You put sediment on it, it sinks a little bit. You put more sediment on, it sinks a little more,” Leiphart said.
The last piece of proof scientists needed came from drilling down to the crater and recovering samples. One of the samples contained shocked quartz, which is diagnostic of meteors striking rock and deforming quartz crystal structures. Noting that no other geological phenomenon produces shocked quartz, “That was pretty much the smoking gun we were looking for,” Leiphart said.
How many more stealth craters are waiting to be discovered?
— Nadia Drake is a science communication graduate student at UC Santa Cruz
There is one is western North Dakota that is an oil field! I think the name is Elk Creek. Discovered when an oil well was drilled and kept drilling too many feet of a particular formation. Turned up edge of crater.
I had a nice chat with Leiphard myself at his poster. I told him it was a generous thing for an energy exploration company to do, revealing some of their proprietary data and allowing a staffer to present this decidedly unprofitable result to a bunch of curiosity-driven people. He agreed. But energy companies need good PR, especially in Marcellus Shale country, and I’m sure that entered their thinking too.
Comparing with Google Maps, it seems to be just East of Ithaca and nowhere near Bear Swamp State Forest, unless there are two of them. It would be useful to point it out on Google Maps, so that it can be found by drivers in the area…
Hello. I live in Toronto and am a tad bit disappointed that I found this posting. I am an amateur geologist and was doing some research about the geology of the Southern Ontario Region. I was drawn to this post because I was trying to research an “subsurface” anomaly I found in my research project. I have independent evidence for the existence of this crater, and also suggest that its impact on the geology of the region extends far beyond what is posted here. I would love to share my information with anyone that may be interested. Thank you! Regards, Chris
hello chris, i live in fairport, ny, and my house is approximately 12 miles south of lake ontario–a suburb of rochester, ny.
i would enjoy hearing your theory. thank you!
Hi Janet. I would love to speak to you about it. Things have progressed somewhat since I posted this and would love to share the info with you. Are you a geologist? Please contact me through my e-mail, and we could chat on the phone. [email protected] Regards, Chris
I just noticed this post you made came in March.
It was today, June 27th, that I got the email notification. Big time delay!
I have tried to contact you regarding this.
I was in Rochester in August giving a presentation about this!
I can be reached at [email protected]
Would love to speak with you!
I live very close to Bear Swamp on Grout brook town of Scott. Mountain bike and x-country ski the swamp and would like to know the location of the crator. If anyone has the coordinates please respond. Thank you.