Monday, May 23, 2016

Airliner Chronicles: When Disaster Arrived from the Heavens

I thought briefly of making this one of those "What is it?" kind of posts, but it seemed kind of obvious. We were flying home from our weekend in St. Louis, and without a GPS, I was trying to get myself situated correctly into the geography that was drifting by slowly far beneath us. I was not too particularly successful at orienting myself while over the "flyover" states of Oklahoma, Kansas or Texas, but the fracking rigs were obvious, as were the irrigation rings, where farmers are pumping up fossil water from the Great Plains Aquifer and letting it evaporate in the intense sunshine.
Once we reached lands with actual topography, I began to suspect where we were...was that Las Vegas, New Mexico? What about that town? Santa Fe? It turned out I guessed pretty well, and also recognized the holy peak of Mount Taylor in New Mexico, and the Ambrosia Lake Mining District. But it wasn't until I saw the intense magenta of the Painted Desert and the unique road loop near the northern visitor center at Petrified Forest National Park that I knew precisely where I was. And then I realized that Meteor Crater was just ahead. I was sure that the plane would go right over it and it wouldn't be visible, but luckily I was wrong. I had a box seat view (although metal cylinder seat view would be a better description). I was, in a word, thrilled. I'd never seen it before from above.

Meteor Crater is justly famous as one of the best preserved meteorite impact sites in the world. Roughly 50,000 years ago, when camels, horses and mammoths were grazing the grasslands, the sky lit up with fire and a chunk of space rock about fifty feet long impacted the surface at a speed of 30,000 mph. The ensuing cataclysm produced a crater about 1,200 m (3,900 ft) in diameter, and 170 m deep (570 ft).
Meteor Crater is privately owned, but the company has done a good job of protecting this unique site. They are especially good at accommodating school groups on tours. You can check out their website at

The "Airliner Chronicles" was one of my first web series, and whenever I fly somewhere, I add to it. I got a few other shots, so if I am not too distracted with Hawaii preparations, I will post some.