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Kaali järv
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This is the largest in the group of 8 craters and it measures 110 meters in diameter and contains a small lake (known as Kaali järv (Lake Kaali). The incoming meteor cluster had an estimated impact velocity of between 10 and 20 km/s - with a total mass of between 20 and 80 metric tonnes. At the altitude of 5-10 km, the meteorite broke into pieces and fell to the Earth in fragments - the greatest of which produced a crater with a diameter of 110 m, 22 m deep. Kaali lake exists in the bottom of this crater.
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The ancient meteorite cult of Estonia

Somewhere between 7,500-4,000 years ago, a meteorite fragmented over Estonia's Saaremaa island. The meteorite hit with a force comparable to Hiroshima and left nine impact craters, including the 110-meter Kaali crater. Locals worshiped this hole as holy.
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Kaali Meteorite Crater lake
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The islands most famous sights include Kaali Meteorite Crater lake, the largest of a number of meteorite craters presumably formed by an iron-nickel meteorite that split in the atmosphere and fell to earth in pieces in around 700 B.C. The crater lake, once known as the Holy Lake, was worshipped by the islands ancient inhabitants.
Close to the 110-meter hole filled with greenish water, there is a private museum-cum-hotel celebrating it.

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RE: Kaalijarv crater
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22.67038E_58.37259N
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kaali
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Latitude 58.372648°, Longitude: 22.669724°


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kaali meteorite crater
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Credit A. Alessandrine

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Kaalijarv crater
It`s kind of an unwritten rule in Estonia - if you want to see something weird, go to the islands. Chalk it up to geographic isolation or the celebrated beer brewing traditions of some islanders, but it`s on these outlying patches of land that the nation keeps all the assorted bits that don`t fit anywhere else - emu farms, mysterious clusters of stones, allegedly haunted manor houses and villages that appear stuck in time.
One of the most famous of these curiosities is the Kaali meteor crater site on Estonia`s largest island, Saaremaa, 18km from its capital Kuressaare.



Now resembling a small, round lake, the main crater was formed sometime between 7,500 and 4,000 years ago when a 20-80 ton iron meteorite slammed into the Earth, carving out a hole 110m across. Pieces also broke off the meteor as it entered the atmosphere, spraying the land like a shotgun blast and creating eight smaller craters nearby.

By itself this cluster of meteorite craters is already interesting enough to attract thousands of curious visitors each summer, but let`s remember that this is an Estonian island phenomenon, so the X-Files factor gets cranked up a few notches. To the site`s resume we can also add pagan worship, ritual animal sacrifice, appearances in the Finnish national epic, the possible origin of Jaanipaev traditions and connections to a former Estonian president.

With a track record like this, it`s no wonder the site`s popularity as a tourist destination shows no sign of waning. On June 17, a brand new, 9 million kroon (575,000 euro) visitor centre was inaugurated in Kaali to help provide for the hoards of visitors who flock here during the high season.

Tuuli Partel, Project Leader of the non-profit organization that runs the centre, isn`t surprised that she and other employees in Kaali find themselves working 12 to 16-hour shifts.

"Scientists say that this is the most attractive crater in Eurasia. Here you can see the main crater and little craters all together, and see how the meteorite came down" -Tuuli Partel.

Apart from its museum of meteorites and limestone, the 700 square-meter wood and dolomite facility features a souvenir shop, a food shop, a 60-person conference hall, a 10-room guesthouse and that most vital of Estonian creature comforts: wireless internet access.

Despite all this public attention, the new high-tech facility and nearly a century of intense scientific scrutiny, there are many secrets that Kaali still isn`t giving up, and it`s those unknowns that make this place truly mysterious.



Scientists are fairly sure they know how this story began: a meteor initially weighing some 400 - 10,000 tons sped in from the northeast moving 15 - 45 kilometres per second and entered the Earth`s atmosphere at a 45-degree angle. After turning into a fireball and losing most of its mass, the meteor broke apart about 5 - 10 kilometres from the surface, then hit Saaremaa with a force that has been compared to that of a small atomic blast.

What they still can`t tell us is when this all happened. The evidence, at least for now, points in two different directions.

"We usually give two dates - `4,000 years` and `older`. The age of the sediments of the lake in the main crater tell us that the (impact) was almost 4,000 years ago. But now we`ve studied the peat of the (nearby) swamp and in one layer we found very small impact spheres from the explosion. This layer was 7,500 years old, which says that the impact was 7,500 years ago" - Reet Tiirmaa, geologist with Tallinn Technological University who specializes in meteors..

Research continues, but the age contradiction shows no sign of being resolved. Scientists from France, Poland and Hungary have brought in more advanced testing equipment, but they`re having the same problems, according to Tiirmaa.

Nor is this the first headache that Kaali has caused for investigators. In 1927, the site`s pioneer researcher, Ivan Reinwald, found evidence that the craters were meteoric in origin, but it took him an entire decade to find the first fragments of the actual meteor to prove it.

While geologists are working on the question of when the meteor hit, archaeologists are trying to interpret the oddities they`ve dug up at the site. Excavations begun in the 1970s have uncovered many interesting things: remains of a 470 meter wall that surrounded the crater during the early iron age (600 BC to AD 100), evidence of a fortified settlement inhabited from the 5th to 7th century BC, a small hoard of silver jewellery from the 3rd to 5th centuries AD, and piles of domestic animal bones, some dating to as late as the 17th century.

The wall, the silver and the bones have led to speculation that centuries after the catastrophic explosion took place, the crater took on the role of a pagan worship site. The practice of sacrificing animals to ensure a good harvest was known to have continued on Saaremaa well into Christian times, despite condemnation from the church.

The local geographical labels add fuel to this pagan worship argument. Lake Kaali, the small lake formed by the crater, is said to have been originally called `Holy Lake` in Estonian, and the nearby forest is still called Puhamets, which means `Sacred Forest.` It`s, therefore, no stretch of logic to assume that Kaali was a place of spiritual significance, whether or not it was connected with ancient tales of a fireball in the sky.




It was precisely this kind of connection to ancient tales that interested Lennart Meri. Long before he became president of Estonia (1992 - 2000), the ethnographer found what he considered to be echoes of the Kaali meteorite event in the Baltic region`s oral folk tradition, in particular, the Finnish national epic, Kalevala.

`Rune 47` contains numerous accounts of the child of the sun falling from the sky that could easily double as poetic accounts of a large meteor impact. "Downward quick the red-ball rushes, / Shoots across the arch of heaven, / Hisses through the startled cloudlets, / Flashes through the troubled welkin, / Through nine starry vaults of ether" goes one such passage.

In his book `Hobevalge` (Silver White, 1976), Meri not only puts forth the theory that the Kaali impact appears in the Kalevala but also suggests that the Baltic Jaanipaev (Midsummer) bonfire traditions are a re-enactment of the event.

Other, more far-fetched theories have cropped up connecting just about every European national epic to the event. Speculation even goes so far as to suggest that the Golden Fleece of the Argonauts was actually in Lake Kaali, pointing out that 3,000 years ago the land on Saaremaa was 10 meters lower, hence it would have been possible to navigate a ship here from the Black Sea.

It`s unlikely that any of these theories will ever be proven one way or the other. Still, it`s amusing to think that as we sit around our bonfires each June grilling shashlyk and drinking beer that we might actually be worshiping an ancient hunk of space rock.

That particular pleasure will have to wait another year. In the meantime, visitors can drop by the Kaali Visitor Centre every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.. Admission to the museum costs 25 kroons (1.60 euros). Visiting the crater itself, and speculating on its impact on ancient Baltic culture, is absolutely free.

source


Location N 58deg 24' E 22deg 40'



Crater no. 1 is approximately 300 meters northwest from the main crater and is the largest aside from the main crater. Today it is a brush-filled depression four meters in depth and 39 meters in diameter.

Craters no. 2/8 are twin craters. They are located about 600 meters south from the main crater, on a flat hillock. Nr. 2 crater's north diameter is 25 meters and Southside diameter 76 meters, its depth is 3.5 meters (the depression is clean of brush and can be easily observed). This is the crater from which I. Reinwald found the first pieces of meteor in 1937.

Crater no. 3 is 250 meters east from the previous one. This is the best preserved of the dry depressions. Its diameter is 33 meters and its depth is 3.5 meters.

Crater no. 4 is on the north side of the Kaali to Koljala road, 300 meters east of the main crater. Its diameter is 20 meters and the depth is 1.25 meters. This craters is almost no longer discernible.

Crater nr. 5 is 170 meters south from the previous one. Its original diameter was 13 meters and its depth .9 meters. This crater has yielded the largest number of meteorite pieces, including the largest one found, which weighed almost 40 grams.

Crater no. 6 is 450 meters northwest from the main crater. This is a barely discernible depression, by the side of the road. Its diameter is 26 meters and its depth is .6 meters.

Crater no. 7 is located opposite the Kaali store. That this is a meteorite crater was only discovered in l965. Its measurements are 15 meters diameter and one meter in depth.

Crater no. 9 is 100 meters northwest from crater nr. 6. Its diameter is 12 meters and its depth is almost one meter.

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-- Edited by Blobrana at 01:19, 2005-07-07

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