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Chubb Crater - Part 3 of 12

Camp under Four Flags

Because of this virtually continuous daylight, all but one of our tents
were dark green to make sleeping possible. Only the cook tent was white,
for visibility inside. It also aided in spotting our site from the air.
Throughout the stay our little encampment operated under four flags -
the Union Jack for Canada, Old Glory of the United States, and the
banners of the expedition's two sponsors, the National Geographic
Society and the Royal Ontario Museum.
Our first morning witnessed the debut of Dick Stewart as the
expedition's chef de cuisine. He volunteered to assume all mess-tent
responsibilities, but served this ultimatum: "The first man who
complains about the food replaces me as cook immediately!"
Dick held his job until we struck camp to go home. The lack of any
complaints may be interpreted as a tribute to his culinary genius. I
often marveled that the meals were so appetizing, considering that much
of the food was in dehydrated form.
If Dick and Fred Chubb, his mess tent aide, lavished any special care on
that first breakfast, their pains went for naught. Everyone just bolted
it down; all in our party had a single thought - to see Chubb Crater
close up. It was the same with the four crewmen of the Canso, who had
remained overnight.
Only two miles separated our camp and the crater, yet it took as much
time to cover the distance as five miles or more of normal cross-country
hiking. The boulder-littered plain made progress tormentingly slow. We
scraped, scrambled, and slithered through the jumbled rocks that always
seemed an invitation to a very bad sprain at least, if not a broken
At intervals we scaled granite ridges apparently concentric to the
crater. These rear up from 20 to 30 feet above the rest of the plain.
Finally we clambered up the 25 slope to the rim's summit, which rounds
off gently to a broad, almost flat surface. When Fred Chubb and I had
climbed to this same point the year before, our first view had left us
speechless. It was the same this time with the others, rooted solemn and
silent where they stood by the harsh majesty of the scene. The strange,
almost unearthly silence heightened the effect.
To my mind, the most stirring view of Chubb is from the rubble down at
the very edge of the cold lake. An aerial view is striking, but it
leaves one without a full appreciation of this natural wonder. Seen from
the crater rim, which averages 400 feet above the water, the lake seems
dwarfed - far smaller than its true diameter of more than a mile and a
half. It is only down along the wave-wet rocks, I think, that the senses
can begin to comprehend the splendor of the crystal-clear lake and the
bare magnificence of the crater panorama.
While most appreciative of such unmatched scenery, I found my thoughts
concentrating on other matters. I again marked the amazing points of
similarity which Chubb shared with Arizona's Meteor Crater, long
officially recognized as the largest proven scar of a meteor's collision
with the earth. (See "Mysterious Tomb of a Giant Meteorite," by W.D.
Boutwell, National Geographic Magazine, June, 1928).
Both are much alike in circular shape, in general appearance, and in
their settings amid fractured rocks. Meteor Crater cradles no beautiful
lake like Chubb. On the other hand, during my 1950 inspection the Chubb
area had yielded no meteorite fragments or droplets such as bestrewed
the vicinity of the Arizona scar, and I would have been happier if some
such meteoritic evidence were already in hand. Of course, I hoped we
would secure it.

Chubb Far Larger than Arizona Crater

The striking difference between the two craters is in size. Arizona's
crater has a diameter of about 4,000 feet. I estimated that our survey
would show Chubb's rim-to-rim breadth almost three times that. In depth
the Arizona scar is approximately 600 feet. Even without measuring, my
eye told me Chubb was deeper, even if its lake proved deceptively
shallow, which I doubted.
Thus Chubb bid fair to become the world's newest and largest natural
wonder of meteoritic origin. The catch was that we had to prove that
Chubb was a meteor's handiwork.
My thoughts were interrupted by Captain Allard, the Canso's pilot.
"Time to get back to the plane and start heading for home," he
explained. Then he added something about landing the amphibian in the
crater lake.
I took this parting remark in jest. The crater's precipitous walls and
the unknown air currents within them seemed to me a risky combination
that any pilot would shun.
Imagine my amazement an hour or so later when the big flying boat buzzed
the entire circumference of the crater, then dipped abruptly to the
purple-blue lake waters. It was a superb exhibition of a pilot's skill.
For a moment we almost lost the Canso's outline against the mouse-gray
crater walls. Even when it got down and skimmed along the water,
throwing up great plumes of spray, the ship seemed no bigger than a
Our "mosquito" rapidly resumed normal size. Captain Allard gunned the
amphibian off the lake, climbing fast. He cleared the west rim with
engines roaring, dipped his wings in salute, then was gone. Now we were
completely on our own!

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