There once was a time when people wondered aloud, why is the Moon battered with impact craters while the Earth remains relatively unscathed?
Thanks to state-of-the-art mineral analysis and aerial photography from space, we know now that the Earth, in fact, is covered with impact sites, but we just can’t see them because of foliage, civilization, erosion, weather, and other factors. Things shift and move pretty fast on Earth, as opposed to the sterile stillness of the Moon.
When the good people of Middlesboro originally built their city in a valley, they probably thought it was marvelous coincidence that a near-perfect circle of mountains wrapped around them. What they didn’t know at the time was that they were in the basin of an immense crater, blasted into the planet by a foreign object less than 310 million years ago.
I was in Middlesboro recently while on my promotional book tour to promote my new novel of Steampunk-scented historical intrigue, The Devil and Daniel Boone. I never fail to be struck by an eerie feeling when I’m here, with heightened awareness of the size of the Universe. How many among you can say you’ve stood on a spot where the chance meeting between our world and a piece of intergalactic debris occurred after said debris traveled an incalculable number of miles in order to finally arrive at its final destiny?
A similar anomaly exists at Jeptha Knob in Clay Village (Shelby County), about 45 minutes West of Lexington. Jeptha Knob was originally thought to be an unexplained cryptovolcanic structure, but scientists gradually came to suspect it’s the site where a massive object struck the Earth during the Ordovician Period (425 million years ago). Impact craters – or “astroblemes” as geologists call them – sometimes display a visible “rebound structure” in the form of a protrusion in the center; Jeptha Knob is one of those. (Jeptha, by the way, is a Hebrew word meaning “set free.”)
And Kentucky’s probable third major astrobleme can be found in Versailles. Known as “Big Sink”, it’s a giant ring, one mile in diameter, consisting of many sinkholes and cracks, and is believed to have occurred from an impact that took place no more than 445 million years ago. This site was well known to the Native Americans and held in high regard as a sacred place. It’s rather subtle when viewed at ground level, but you can clearly perceive the concentric ring pockmarked with sinkholes. Researchers are still searching for the meteorite fragments that must surely be scattered about the area. This would go far to convince any doubters, who point with puzzlement to the lack of “shocked” minerals.
Smaller, non-impact forming, meteorites also hit the Earth, such as a 24-pound one that landed on a hill southwest of Frankfort in 1866.
Combining Kentucky’s three major impact sites into one “astrobleme tour” would be a great tourism idea for some enterprising entrepreneur. I know I’d take the tour!
Jeffrey Scott Holland is a native Kentuckian, painter, writer, actor, musician, paralegal – and interested in all things. He joins a growing stable of talented, interesting regular columnists for KyForward.com, bringing his gift of a well-turned phrase, quirkiness and humor to entertain and enlighten — and sometimes provoke — our readers. He can always be reached at any time, by anyone on the planet, at firstname.lastname@example.org.