Dreamtime Meteor Impact Found with Google Earth


Duane Hamacher a PhD student from Australia’s Macquarie University found an ancient meteor impact crater in a remote location of the Northern Territory by searching Google Earth and following clues from an ancient dreamtime legend told by the indigenous Arrernte people.

Mr Hamacher reported to the Sydney Morning Herald and other Australian newspapers that the Arrernte people’s legend about a star that fell into a waterhole called Puka in the valley where Kulaia, the serpent, lived – has led to the discovery of the ancient crater, which the research team he is part of propose to name Puka.

Guided by details of the story, Mr Hamacher searched an area about 130 km southwest of Alice Springs, in the Finke National Park on Google Earth.  He found what appeared to be a bowl-shaped depression. His suspicions were confirmed when he visited the site with a team of geophysicists and astrophysicists, who found evidence that a popular tourist location in the national park called Palm Valley contains the remains of an ancient impact crater.

“We found shocked quartz, which is only produced by a substantial impact and its presence in the rock samples and the morphology of the structure are the major indicators that Palm Valley is a crater,” Mr Hamacher said.

The ancient landscape around Alice Springs has preserved several impact craters, notably Gosses Bluff Meteorite Impact Crater, which can be seen from the ISS and is thought to be the result of a bolide impact 145 million years ago. Much more recent is the Henbury Meteorites field, a collection of over 13 small craters formed by a meteor breaking up before impact just over 4,000 years ago. Several tonnes of iron-nickel meteorite have been recovered from this site. And if you are wondering – Wolfe Creek crater, central to the plot of a misspelled Australian horror movie, is in Western Australia.

Gosses Bluff crater seen from the ISS

A date for the impact that caused the newly found Palm Valley crater has not been reported, but is certainly millions of years in the past. Although the local people could not have observed the impact directly, Mr Hamacher proposes that their intimate knowledge of the land may have led them to surmise such a cause and to integrate this knowledge within their local dreamtime legends.

Mr Hamacher expects more impact craters may be found in this way. “We found stories with descriptions of cosmic impacts and meteorite falls related to places in Arnhem Land – we assume there are more meteorite craters out there and science doesn’t even know about their existence yet,” he said. Mr Humacher is reported to be expecting to publish more details of this find in a future edition of Meteoritics and Planetary Science.

18 Replies to “Dreamtime Meteor Impact Found with Google Earth”

  1. Oh, yeah. Some great “science” tacked on the end here. Article says the search was instigated by the Arrernte people’s legend “about a star that fell.” But in the closing comments the author states “the local people could not have observed the impact directly,” and says it “is certainly millions of years in the past.” How scientific is it to use the handed down testimony of eyewitnesses in order to discover the event, but then to discredit that testimony because it doesn’t harmonize neatly with a preferred alternative view of history? This is even worse than illogical: It suggests the belief that these people knew of the historical event before their time by supernatural means. Shouldn’t a real scientist go where the evidence leads?

  2. How often do you really think the media get a science story as it was intended by the researchers?

    The story was used to find the crater. The idea that the crater was known by the Arrernte is speculation. What was left out were the *numerous* times I said in interviews that the connection could simply be coincidence and that there is no evidence that the story and the crater are directly related, other than location.

    The speculation is only derived from the Arrernte Dreaming stories about Gosse’s Bluff – 142 millions years old – that attribute it to a cosmic impact.

    -Duane Hamacher

  3. Thanks Duane – I hope my “may have led them to…” does keep it open that the whole thing may have been just a coincidence. Congratulations on your find and I look forward to the journal article.

  4. For those interested, save this code to a kml file, and use it to start Google earth to see the crater for yourself…




  5. Like all the other articles I’ve seen on this, there is no actual link to the Google Earth location.

    It was interesting to navigate this wonderful landscape to find the site. In old fashioned coordinates, it is at 24 d 3m 5.68s S and 132 d 42 m 33.32 s E.

  6. or put 24°3’10.054″S 132°42’36.97″E in the fly to bit and save yourself some expletives trying to convert to google earth format

  7. There is something terribly unscientific and illogical about this story. The PhD student is trying to tell us that the Aboriginal people were scientific in their thinking about this crater and other craters. He does not realize that their stories about their physical landscape (both land and sky) are part of their cultural narrative. A little learning is a dangerous thing. I hope he does not start finding things scientific in the Chariots of Fire or the holy bible or the koran. Is Macquarie University where this student doing his PhD a reputable university?

  8. @Jonylands: Sounds like sour grapes. I don’t believe Mr. Hamacher is definitively stating that the Aboriginal people are scientists; if you actually read what he’s saying, he’s making assumptions based upon fairly reliable collaborative scientific observations. Perhaps he didn’t forsee the amount of criitical analysis offered by “experts” such as you.

  9. It’s interesting that *occasionally* we see a connection between an ancient story and observable reality. While it could be coincidence, perhaps *some* stories whose origins are lost to time reflect actual events (is the Biblical flood an account of the filling of the Mediterranean, for example?). The researcher’s work in checking out old stories may find more than just undiscovered craters…

  10. @Jonylands – for the love of Zeus, please read my post above.

    “The PhD student is trying to tell us that the Aboriginal people were scientific in their thinking about this crater and other craters.”

    With some craters, it ***seems so***. Look up Gosse’s Bluff and Wolfe Creek. They also had extensive knowledge of the sky and it’s motions, so yes, it is possible.

    “He does not realize that their stories about their physical landscape (both land and sky) are part of their cultural narrative.”

    Yes, of course I do. I found numerous examples of descriptions of natural events that are corroborated by science (volcanic craters in Queensland, many others). While the natural event is usually incorporated into the story to emphasize a moral charter, that does not mean they are simply made-up fables. Natural events are often incorporated into oral traditions.

    “A little learning is a dangerous thing.”


    “I hope he does not start finding things scientific in the Chariots of Fire or the holy bible or the koran.”

    As a scientist, atheist and founder of the Skeptics Society, I wouldn’t worry too much. Bu the Great Flood may be linked to the sudden flooding of the Black Sea… do some research.

    “Is Macquarie University where this student doing his PhD a reputable university?”

    Yes, one of the top 10 in Australia. We also received the highest ranking for science output.


    You should read the *PEER REVIEWED* book “Myth and Geology”.

  11. Jonylands,

    Please get a grip.

    Just because you might not believe in stories passed down from generation to generation doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen…that’s what people did before they had writing implements.

    And negating that The Bible does not have anything relevant is just showing ignorance period.

  12. I am very sceptical about the the supposed stories regarding Gosses Bluff. It happened in the Jurassic after all. If genuine I suspect that the indigenees learned about the impact theory from geologists and incorporated this cool story in their own mythology.

  13. Well, Macquarie University is not Cambridge or Oxford or Yale. I looked up the Times Index here in London and found that none of the universities in Australia are in the top 10 in the world.

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