[meteorite-list] Odessa Crater Site Finally Getting Respect It Deserves

From: Ron Baalke <baalke_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:01:30 2004
Message-ID: <200206041942.MAA20444_at_zagami.jpl.nasa.gov>


Odessa crater site finally getting respect it deserves
By Tumbleweed Smith
Midland Reporter-Telegram
June 3, 2002

ODESSA, TEXAS - State legislator Buddy West is responsible for passing a
bill to create a museum and visitors' center at the meteor crater site.

Finally. That big crater just outside Odessa is getting a little respect.
State legislator Buddy West is responsible for passing a bill to create a
museum and visitors' center at the site, complete with living quarters for a

For years the crater has been advertised in Chamber of Commerce literature,
on highway signs and by an occasional newspaper or magazine article. But few
people ever go there. For one thing, the highway signs don't give good
directions. The crater is in an isolated oil patch down a small road 15
miles southwest of Odessa. And who's interested in meteor craters, anyway?

Tom Rodman is. He's an Odessa attorney who is the major spokesman for the
crater. He has been fascinated with the geological wonder since boyhood
because he's interested in things from outer space.

"Flying through the air it's a meteor. When it comes to rest on the earth,
it's a meteorite," said Tom.

Odessa's crater is the second largest meteor crater in the world. Arizona
has one larger. "Both places contribute more meteorites than any other
locations in the world," he said.

He said the meteor could have hit the earth 50,000 years ago.

"It weighed about 70 tons and was the size of a small car. It impacted the
earth with such force and released so much energy that the resulting heat
and explosion completely vaporized the main mass of the meteorite. It had
more energy than the atom bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Anything within a few
miles would have been destroyed."

It made a crater 500 feet wide and 100 feet deep. The University of Texas
excavated the site in the late 1930s, thinking a huge chunk of the meteorite
might be buried. But only small fragments were found.

Limestone rocks form the rim of the depression, which over the years has
been filled in with sand and silt. Tom helped construct rock-lined caliche
paths around the crater. He spends countless hours at the site and wonders
why others don't have the same boyish enthusiasm for it as he does. Tom said
scientists believe some meteorites came from the moon or Mars.

A small museum was built at the crater site in 1963 but people were breaking
into it and stealing the valuable, irreplaceable meteorites inside. The
museum was closed and the collection of meteorites was moved to the Ector
County library. The new museum has added more meteorites collected from
several sources.

The site was discovered in the 1920s when a rancher found a fist-sized
metallic rock, composed mostly of iron and nickel. One astronomer said it
came from the core of a planet that had to be about 4 billion years old and
several hundred miles in diameter, creating speculation that the planet may
have exploded, sending debris into the universe.

"You wonder what it must have been like when it hit. You also wonder what
destruction would have occurred had it hit in modern times," said Tom.

-- -- --

Tumbleweed Smith is a Big Spring storyteller and folklorist.
Received on Tue 04 Jun 2002 03:42:39 PM PDT

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