|List||Register of the National Estate (Non-statutory archive)|
|Legal Status||Registered (21/03/1978)|
|Place File No||5/09/211/0002|
|Statement of Significance|
Wolfe Creek Crater is a spectacular and well-preserved landform that displays clearly all the classic features of a large meteorite impact crater. It has been the subject of intensive scientific study. Confirmed impact craters provide the only tangible record against which theoretical predictions of the timing and effects of potentially catastrophic impact on Earth can be compared. Spectacular and well-preserved examples, like Wolfe Creek Crater, reveal details of the process of explosive meteorite impact.
Analysis of meteorite remnants from Wolfe Creek has yielded two rare and previously undescribed nickel-containing minerals.
Wolfe Creek Crater is a geological site of worldwide importance. It is one of only eighteen structures of proven meteorite impact origin throughout the world that are associated with remnant meteorites and is the largest of five such craters in Australia.
Indigenous cultural values of national estate significance may exist in this place. As yet, the AHC has not identified, documented nor assessed these values.
|Official Values Not Available|
Wolfe Creek Crater lies on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert approximately 90 km south of Halls Creek in Western Australia.
The crater bears the name of an adjacent watercourse, originally called 'Wolf ' but more correctly 'Wolfe' Creek because it was named after Robert Wolfe, a prospector and storekeeper of Halls Creek at the time of the gold rush.
When a meteorite weighing more than 50,000 tonnes travelling faster than a high velocity bullet (more than12 km /sec) collides with the Earth, it punches a hole, pulverising the rocks deep below the surface. Instantaneously, the projectile is stopped and the immense energy is converted to heat. The projectile itself, and some nearby rock, is melted and vaporised, and shock waves blast away the overburden jetting debris upwards and outwards in every direction. A near circular, bowl-shaped depression, upturned strata, and a rim raised above the surrounding country, all beautifully exhibited by Wolfe Creek Crater, are tell-tale features of impact craters.
The crater was identified during an aerial survey in 1947 and has the classic shape of an explosive meteorite impact crater. It is almost circular with a diameter varying from 870-950 metres and averaging 880 m. The outer slopes of the crater rise up at an angle of about 15 degrees to form a ridge, which may be up to 35m above the surrounding sand plain. The inner walls plunge more steeply, at angles as much as 40 degrees and form cliffs to the flat crater floor some 55m below the rim. The crater floor is flat, except for a slight rise in the centre, and lies as much as 25m below the level of the surrounding sand plain. Originally it would have been up to 150m deep, but the bowl of the crater is now largely filled with sand and gypsum. The central area is pierced by a number of sink holes that probably reflect the position of stress fractures formed by the explosion in the bottom of the crater. Unusually large trees grow here, no doubt drawing on reserves of water which are trapped after the summer rains.
The presence of meteorites confirms the explosive impact origin of the crater. Dating of these remnants of the projectile gives an age of 300 000 years. Most remnants of the projectile, the bulk of which was destroyed during the impact event, are heavily weathered to iron oxides and now occur as rusty balls of iron-shale situated on the rim of the crater. These balls occur in clusters, weigh up to 250 kilograms each and may be welded to the surface of the laterite capping. They contain fragments and veins of iron-nickel metal and grains of the iron phosphide mineral schreibersite which occurs in many iron meteorites. Weathering has produced some new and unusual nickel-bearing minerals such as reevesite and cassidyite. Unweathered iron meteorite fragments have been found about 3.9 km south-west of the crater, the largest weighing 72.6 grams. The meteorite is classified as a medium octahedrite belonging to the chemical group IIIAB of iron meteorites. For reasons of nomenclature the name of the meteorites, which by convention always take the name of the locality where they are found, remain under the original spelling of 'Wolf Creek'.
The massive pile of angular blocks of red-brown quartzite on the southerly flank of the crater rim is very striking. The laterite which once capped the Precambrian quartzite (700-800 million years old) can be seen layered between layers of folded quartzite in some places and indicates overturning of rock beds during formation of the crater. Over geological time scales, impact craters may become easily buried by younger rocks or eroded below their base. In Australia, a higher proportion of impact structures occur in places like Western Australia where deep weathering causes the surface material to harden and preservation is further facilitated by minimal erosion and an arid climate.
Wildlife characteristic of the arid environment, such as red kangaroos, Major Mitchell cockatoos and brown ringtail dragons, inhabit the place.
|History Not Available|
|Condition and Integrity|
|The impact structure is well preserved and a striking landscape feature within a national park. There is evidence of erosion over the last 300,000 years and the crater has been partly filled and mantled with sand.|
|About 1460ha, Koongee Park-Alice Springs Road, 100km south of Halls Creek, in the Kimberley Region, near the State border and adjacent to Wolf Creek, 20km north of its confluence with Sturt Creek, being a quadrilateral defined by AMG co-ordinates 37035E 7881100N; 374200E 7081080N; 37400E 7872500N; 370350E 7877200N.|
Bevan, A. (1996). A Blast from the Past. Landscope, 12(1):50-53. |
Bevan, A.W.R. (1996). Australian crater-forming meteorites. AGSO Journal of Australian Geology & Geophysics, 16(4):421-429.
Bevan, A and McNamara, K (1993). Australia's Meteorite Craters. WA Museum Publication 27pp.
Buchwald, V. F. (1975). Handbook of Iron Meteorites, University of California Press, Los Angeles. Meteoritics, 1:197-199.
CALM (1999). Wolfe Creek Crater National Park. Park of the Month, June 1999 on the website for the WA Department of Conservation and Land Management (www.calm.wa.gov.au).
Grieve, R. A. F. (1991). Terrestrial impact: the record in the rocks. Meteoritics, 26:175-194.
Guppy, J. D. and Matheson, R. S. (1950). Wolf Creek Crater, Western Australia, Journal of Geology, 58: 30-36.
Faust G. T., Fahey, J. F., Mason B. H. and Dwornik, E. J. (1973). The Disintegration Of The Wolf Creek Meteorite and the Formation of Pecoraite, the Nickel Analogue of Clinochrysotile. Geological Survey, Professional Paper 384-C: 1-35.
McNamara, K (1982). Wolf Creek Crater. Western Australian Museum, Perth.
Reeves, F. and Chalmers, R. O. (1949). The Wolf Creek Crater. Australian Journal of Science 11:154-156.
Shoemaker, E. M., Shoemaker, C. S., Nishiizumi, K., Kohl, C. P., Arnold, J. R., Klein, J., Fink, D., Middleton, R., Kubik, P. W. & Sharma, P. (1990). Ages of Australian meteorite craters - a preliminary report, Meteoritics, 25:409.
Taylor, S.R. (1965). The Wolf Creek iron meteorite. Nature, 208:944-945.
White, J S, Henderson, E P, and Mason, B (1967). Secondary Minerals Produced by Weathering of Wolf Creek Meteorite. American Mineralogist 52: 1190-1197.
Report Produced Fri Dec 13 14:22:11 2013