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Scientists Return to Ancient Impact Crater
Released: 3/15/2001

Contact Information:
U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Office of Communication
119 National Center
Reston, VA 20192
Diane Noserale 1-click interview
Phone: 703-648-4333



March will mark the beginning of a new field season for scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and its cooperators who will begin drilling a second core hole into an impact structure created 35 million years ago when an asteroid or comet slammed into the ocean near the present-day mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The scientists are studying the effect of this ancient event on the modern day regional ground-water system and the quality of drinking water in southeastern Virginia.

"The asteroid or comet probably measured about 1 to 2 miles in diameter and was traveling at tens of miles per second," said Greg Gohn, USGS Chief of the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater Project. "It gouged a crater 53 miles wide and fractured bedrock to a depth of well over a mile. Today, those disrupted rock units greatly affect the pattern of ground-water flow throughout southeastern Virginia. Because we believe that this ancient impact might have rendered the ground water in large areas of the crater unfavorable for development as a water source, the information we are gathering is relevant to managing ground-water resources in southeastern Virginia," said Gohn.

Gohn expects to begin drilling at two sites in the Middle Neck of Virginia. Drilling of a core hole 1,500 feet deep at a site in Mathews County, Virginia near the village of North will likely begin on March 20. This location is a short distance inside the outer rim of the crater as it is presently mapped on the Middle Neck. Work at a second drill site in Mathews County near Shadow, Virginia is planned to begin in June. This site is located well within the ring-shaped trough of the impact crater; scientists expect to penetrate the bottom of the crater at a depth between 2,000 to 2,500 feet. Last summer, the scientists drilled more than 2,000 feet into the crater’s rim at the NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

Science support and funding have been provided in part by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.


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