Australia’s Violent Past: 5 meteorite craters you can actually visit
We tell you why you should travel to see these holes in the ground
Throughout its 4.5 billion year history, Earth has experienced countless meteoric impacts but thanks to the volatile nature of the surface, the evidence of these impacts has largely been eroded away. Fortunately, a few remain visible on the surface and a handful of them are located across Australia. Here we identify five impact craters that you can visit on your travels around the country, but be warned, they are in some very remote locations.
This would arguably be the most widely known impact crater in Australia after being made famous (perhaps infamous) by the movie of the same name. Unfortunately, the frightening film has resulted in many travellers avoiding the area for fear of being abducted by a deranged psychopath. It’s a pity, as those who don’t visit this place are missing out on experiencing something quite spectacular. Located about 150km south of Halls Creek on the Tanami Road, the Wolfe Creek crater is 870 metres in diameter and very well defined with an outer rim 60 metres in height. Both the rim and the crater basin are accessible by reasonably easy walking tracks. The nearby campground is excellent given its remote desert location. It’s free to use and toilets are available. Be mindful that access is via dirt roads so conditions can vary and, at times, a 4WD may be required.
Henbury Impact Site
Located about 5km off the Stuart Highway on the Ernest Giles Road, about 145km south west of Alice Springs, the Henbury impact site is unique in that it contains around 13 craters in very close proximity to each other. They were formed around four thousand years ago when a large meteorite broke up into several fragments during its descent to Earth. The relatively recent (in cosmological terms) nature of the impact means it was likely observed by the local Aboriginal population. The result is an almost alien landscape like no other. The craters range in size from seven metres to 180 metres with depths up to 15 metres. The circular shape of many of the craters is clearly visible from the rims. The conservation park has a small campground nearby which costs a modest fee of $3.30 per person per night or $7.70 for a family. Ernest Giles Road is generally a good dirt road, however, there can be some corrugations, so take care
if you’re towing a caravan.
The result of a colossal impact with a comet 600 metres wide that occurred approximately 142 million years ago, Gosses Bluff is a massive meteor crater located 175km west of Alice Springs. The visible remnant is 5km in diameter and the rim rises 180 metres above the ground. It’s huge by any standard and, when viewed from a distance, looms on the landscape like an out-of-place mountain range. Access to the crater is via a 10km dirt track off Larapinta Drive. There are no camping facilities at the reserve and, while it’s open all year round, it pays to check to see if bad weather has closed the reserve by contacting the Ormiston Gorge Ranger Station on 08 8956 7799. Walking on the crater rim is not permitted, however, there are several walking tracks as well as picnic facilities provided in the reserve.
Getting to Boxhole crater can be a bit of a challenge, not because it is difficult to access, rather, it is something of a local secret. It’s not widely advertised nor is it well signposted. Travel north from Alice Springs along the Stuart Highway and turn right onto the Plenty Highway. Drive for another 166km and turn left onto the Binns 4WD Track and drive for a further 39km. That should put you in the general vicinity of the crater. At 170 metres in diameter, it’s not a big crater but it was created in cosmologically recent times so it is reasonably well defined. There are no camping facilities in the immediate area however, there are excellent facilities at Hale River Homestead, including hot showers at Old Ambalindum.
This one is for the truly adventurous travellers among us as it is extremely remote and it can be very difficult to get to. Veevers Crater is located in the middle of the vast Western Australian plains between the Great Sandy Desert and the Gibson Desert. The town of Kintore, 410km away, is the nearest populated centre. Access to Veevers is via the Gary Highway, 260km of dirt roads running off the Gunbarrel Highway. This is strictly 4WD territory. Before you decide to go there, you should know Veevers is the smallest of the craters mentioned here at just 75 metres in diameter and the rim raises just 1.5 metres above the ground. That said, it is regarded as one of the best preserved small craters on Earth with an almost perfect bowl shape topology and a central basin that sinks seven metres below the crest of the rim. Visually, it’s quite spectacular.
Now if you never get a chance to visit any of these fascinating craters, don’t worry as there is one last crater that you will more than likely visit as you travel through this vast country of ours. Located at the approximate midpoint between Uluru and Mount Conner is the centre of what is speculated to be the largest impact crater on Earth. This crater, called the Massive Australian Precambrian/Cambrian Impact Structure, is estimated to be approximately 600km in diameter. The outermost stress field ring could be as big as 2000km in diameter. While it’s yet to be officially confirmed as meteor impact site, it’s worth considering the next time you’re travelling through the central parts of the country that you might be driving through the remnant of a cosmic event of unimaginable proportions.
TIPS FOR REMOTE-AREA TRAVEL
If you are considering travelling to any of these locations, you must:
- Have a well prepared and maintained vehicle that has been modified or purpose-built for remote-area travel. 4WDs with high ground clearance are strongly recommended.
- Carry sufficient water and food with reserves in case of a breakdown.
- Drink water at regular intervals to maintain
- Carry sufficient fuel for the return journey with reserves. Driving on dirt or sand will dramatically increase your vehicle’s fuel consumption.
- Carry sufficient spare parts for your vehicle. Tyre repair kit, filters, fan belts, fuses, radiator hoses, wire ties, gaffer tape, hose clamps, jumper leads, dual batteries, etc.
- Carry a comprehensive first aid kit suitable for remote-area travel.
- Carry suitable vehicle recovery equipment at all times. Snatch strap, chains, shackles, shovel, two jacks and a comprehensive tool kit.
- Always ensure someone is aware of your travel intentions. Family, local police, etc. Make them aware of your itinerary.
- Always carry some form of emergency communications. Satellite phone or EPIRB are strongly recommended. HF radio may also be sufficient. UHF radios are not suitable for
- In the event of a breakdown or other emergency event, NEVER LEAVE YOUR VEHICLE.
- Travel at speeds appropriate to the conditions.
- Avoid driving at night or in wet weather.
- Do not camp in waterways as flash flooding can occur without warning.
- Do not rely on GPS mapping. Carry sufficient, up-to-date paper maps of the area you intend to travel.