by: Charles O’Dale
- Type: Geological circular structure – unknown cause
- Location: Labrador, Canada N 58° 02’ W 64° 02
- Age: <870 years a – HOLOCENE
- Dimensions (three structures)
- Prime: Diameter: 198.12 Metres, Depth: 47.244 Metres;
- North (small) : Diameter: >46 Metres, Depth: >24 Metres;
- South (small) : Diameter: >15 Metres, Depth: unknown.
aDating Method: Estimated from sediment analysis – see text – (Meen 1957)
EARTH SCIENCE PICTURE OF THE DAY
PRE 2014 MEREWETHER DATA
In the summer of 2005 I had the opportunity to over-fly the structure on one of my aerial exploration trips to the northern part of Labrador. I noted during my short stay over the structure that there are actually three small craters formed in a line (suggesting a crater “string”?). Merewether has been on the “list of suspected impact craters” for at least 50 years but it remains an enigma.
The Merewether crater – visible under the wing, looking north. We are definitely above the “tree line”!
This image looking north in the area surrounding Merewether was taken from approximately 1000’ above ground and shows just how inconspicuous the small water filled crater is. The structure is the small greenish pond in the center of the picture, just under the wingtip. It was first seen during a routine flight over Labrador in 1943 by Arthur F. Merewether, the Chief Meteorologist for American Airlines. It was later named Merewether Crater and Merewether Lake.
In the summer of 1954, Dr. V.B. Meen, of the Royal Ontario Museum, headed a ground study to the area. The Merewether structure closely resembled the Pingualuit crater in shape and his expedition was initiated to document any impact evidence. During the short time allowed with the season, Dr. Meen documented a substantial amount of geologic data (quoted in this article). To my knowledge there has not been any other ground research performed here.
A generalized geologic sketch of the area by Dr. Meen illustrates that the “grain” of the glacial moraine plateau forms north-south ridges. The moraine consists of coarse boulders bound together with sands and clays. The two smaller bowl shaped structures on each side of the prime structure are indicated by numbers 6 (north) & 14 (south).
Gridded Topography Dataset (DEM) – 2008
For Merewether, the surface DEM was extended to include the full character of the underwater portion of the cavity using bathymetric profiles acquired by Meen in 1954 and co-registered with the inner cavity walls measured by the NASA airborne lidar. The resulting measurements indicate a very conical cavity with subdued rim-flank ejecta. (Garvin 2008)
This topographic map of the prime Merewether structure illustrates its almost perfect circular bowl shape formed in ground moraine. The structure walls slope uniformly at an average of 35° to about 100 feet (30.48 metres) depth and then flatten out to form an oval basin. It is not known whether the structure bottom reaches close to or penetrates bedrock. The bottom of the structure is composed of large blocks except at the centre where some sediment has accumulated. The sediment contains very little organic matter but consists almost entirely of alternating bands of silty clay and sand which may represent annual fluctuations in the type of material carried into the lake from its drainage basin. The age of the structure is estimated based on the following assumptions:
– the banding of the sediments was caused by annual fluctuations in the deposition,
– the rate of deposition has decreased or remained constant since the structure was formed, and
– the rock basin of the lake was originally conical.
Since there were 30 varves in one foot (0.3048 metre) of sediment and the maximum depth of sediment was estimated to be less than 29 feet (8.8392 metres), the maximum age of the structure would be less than 870 years.
The topographic map of the north Merewether structure illustrates its distorted circular shape. It is not known whether the structure bottom reaches close to or penetrates bedrock. The north structure is at least 24 metres deep from the top of its banks to the bottom of the bowl. This is an unnatural depth for so small a pond.
A magnetic survey of the area of the Merewether structure revealed a magnetic low on the western side of the prime structure compared to its immediate surroundings. The differences of magnetic flux on each side of the structure “may” be caused by the remains of the impacting meteorite under a part of the rim.
Irrefutable evidence for a meteorite impact at the Merewether structures is still lacking. Drilling in the craters for evidence of planar deformation features has not been performed and no shattercones, impact melt or meteorite fragments have been found at this site. This may be explained by the existence and movement of glaciers over the structure at the time of impact causing a smoothing of the rims and removal of any fragments of the impactor.
Samples of vegetation were collected at various points and distances about the structure. This dried material was submitted to the Chemistry Division of Science Service, Canada Department of Agriculture, for analysis. The analyses were determined colorimetrically for iron and polarographically for nickel, by Dr. Claude Sirois. The results were inconclusive but pointed to a trend toward higher nickel-iron content in plant material collected in the vicinity of the structure than in that collected further away from it (Gillett 1960).
2018 MEREWETHER UPDATE – list of 5 possible geological causes (besides an impact):
1. Pingo explosion
2, Methane explosion
More craters expected to form due to such eruptions as permafrost melts – and they ARE caused by global warming releasing methane gas.
This accumulates in a pingo – a mound of earth-covered ice – which then erupts causing the formation of the strange holes that have appeared on Russia’s Arctic fringe. (Liesowska, 2015)
*Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, West-Siberian Branch, Tyumen, Russia.
The related term thermokarst lake, also called a thaw lake or cave-in lake, refers to a body of freshwater, usually shallow, that is formed in a depression by meltwater from thawing permafrost.
Depressions are often produced by the collapse of ground levels associated with permafrost thaw. Continued thawing of the permafrost substrate can lead to the drainage and eventual disappearance of thermokarst lakes, leaving them, in such cases, a geomorphologically temporary phenomenon. In recent years, thermokarst lakes have become increasingly common in Siberia and other tundra environments.
4. Sink hole
Thoughts on the Merewether possible impact crater group – from Robert Beauford
198 m diameter by 47 m deep with two secondary structures; 46 m diameter and 24 meters deep; 15 meters diameter. Morphology argues against an impact origin. No rim that doesn’t require a substantial imagination, no uptilting or overturning of rim rock, and the crater is too deep for its diameter to account for a weathering level associated with complete rim removal. If it has no rim, it should also be shallow, regardless of the mechanism of rim removal. At 200 meters in diameter, the rim should be 10 to 20 meters high even if severely weathered, and should contain meter-scale boulders. It should also grade into a surrounding contiguous regolith blanket extending to about a crater diameter from the absent rim. If the ejecta blanket were explained by scalping by glacial advance, again, the structure would be in-filled appreciably in the process. Note, also, the light green color of the water, suggesting suspended silt or high calcium carbonate content, contrasting with other surrounding lakes on Google earth. This weakly suggest a connection to subsurface hydrologic processes. A magnetic low beneath the crater rim was suggested as a large fragment of the impactor. This is completely inconsistent with all known small craters. If present, an impactor would be in the form of shrapnel surrounding or down-range from the crater. No crater approaching this size has ever had an intact impactor – by nearly an order of magnitude. In short, it is probably a sink hole.
5. Glacial Kettle
[see – METEORITE]
Brent Dalrymple, Radiometric Dating Does Work! Reports of the National Center for Science EducationJ.
B. Garvin, and J. J. Frawley; GEOMETRIC PROPERTIES OF THE MEREWETHER STRUCTURE, NEWFOUNDLAND, CANADA NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center 2008
Grieve R.A.F., Robertson P.B., IMPACT STRUCTURES IN CANADA, the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, February 1975
Liesowska, A., Danger of methane explosions on Yamal Peninsula, scientists warnSiberian Times 2015Meen V.B., MEREWETHER CRATER – A POSSIBLE METEORITE CRATER,the Proceedings of the Geological Association Canada 1957 pp 49-67. (unless otherwise noted, the Merewether data quoted above is from this paper).
The geologic study of the Merewether structure has eliminated the following possible causes for the shape aspects of the structure:
- Volcano or intrusive plug;
- Collapse due to abstractions beneath;
- Glacial Kettle; and
The following features of the prime structure taken individually would not be conclusive, but together suggest that the Merewether structure may be impact related (meteorite crater remnant):
- Extreme symmetry;
- Exceptional depth;
- Semblance of rim which is highest at the end of the longest diagonal;
- A slight magnetic anomaly at the west rim;
- A possible slight increase in the iron-nickel content of nearby vegetation (Gillett 1960);
- The excellent agreement with Baldwin’s law for explosion craters (Baldwin 1949)*;
*Baldwin (1949) has shown that terrestrial explosion craters all obey two laws which relate rim height, diameter and depth of the craters. There is no appreciable rim at Merewether, hence it is possible to use only one of Baldwin’s equations as follows: