During June 2007 I was travelling about Western Australia, with, among other things, the goal of visiting Wolfe Creek Crater, and seeing the Piccaninny impact structure. I managed to book a flight over them, but, the appearance of 1-2 inches of "out of season" rain turned the Tanami Track into a muddy track - which lead to its closure. Alas, it hadn't dried out enough for me to visit the crater. Thus, the flight was the only viewing, this trip.
Wolfe Creek Crater (Wolf Creek)
Earth Impact Database data
This nicely shaped crater has some of the most inconsistent commentary in the tourist literature
It is very often written of as the "second largest meteor crater in the world" - which is, of course, nowhere near the truth. What probably happened is some enthusiastic editor compressed the phrase "second largest crater in the world with meteorites found associated with it:". Which is, if we discount the recent discovery of a "fossil" chondrite fragment from a South African drill core sample, makes a lot more sense.
About 880 meters across - and about 300,000 years old - Wolfe Creek Crater is south of the town of Halls Creek. Overflights are available in Halls Creek from Northwest Regional Airlines. (the description of the flight on the link is the opposite of the one I took)
Want to Drive?
You can drive there by going west on the highway from Halls Creek until you get to the Tanami Track turnoff. This dirt road starts here and ends up just outside Alice Springs in the Northern Territory if you really want to go that far and rough it! Petrol is limited, so take enough (fill up before you leave Halls Creek). Depending on time of year and road conditions, it can be done in a 2WD car, though 4WD is advised.
Want to rent a 4WD? - there is only one place in Halls Creek that might do it - $200/day + fuel + about $.25/km (about 300 km round trip) otherwise you have to get one in Kununurra (about 300km away from Halls Creek) at a little cheaper per day, but now you add in the distance - OK, the first 100km are free - but that doesn't help much. Still, you can camp at the crater, so it could be fun as a 2 day rental. Check the Road Conditions
In Halls Creek-->
Phone: 08 9168 6150
Fax: 08 9168 6202
Postal: 137 Duncan Rd, Halls Creek WA 6770
(this isn't an endorsement - it's just the only place around, and it took lots of asking around to even find this information. Since the road was still a little muddy, they didn't want to rent to me, but offered the possibility of driving me out and back.)
We took off from Halls Creek - went up to Purnululu NP/ Bungle Bungles / Piccaninny first - then went south to the Wolfe Creek.
Yup, I got the front right seat
(yes, I've got to go back and re-color balance the first few images)
The first view - from the north side. The moving dunes have gotten up to the rim and spilled in on the left side - the original slope is on the right
Adune structure forms a V shape with the crater in the middle
We flew around the crater in a right turn first - then went to a left turn, so both sides of the plane could see well.
Wolfe Creek can be seen as the dark green line. The dunes going left and right of the crater, and spilling into it can easily be seen.
From the South East - The dune overflow into the crater can be seen.
Looking from the south / SSW - the road, and the exposed ejecta blanket are on the lower left.
There is not a lot of topography in Western Australia!!! The access road and camping area is the loop to the right. From this angle it looks more like a proper impact crater.
This is most of Halls Creek - The caravan Park / campground where we stayed is in the central right. The Hotel is cut off to the right, the Best Western is the last building on the main road out of town to the upper right. Internet is available in the library - pretty close to the center of the picture. Halls Creek is not a "dry" town, so there was a lot of alcohol consumed and shouting by members of the indigenous community - this seemed to take place in the field area to the bottom right... Made for difficult sleeping.2009 update - Halls Creek is now a "dry town" - so the alcohol consumption and disturbances should be significantly decreased
Earth Impact Database data
This impact remanant is located in Purnululu National Park - a World Heritage Site. At about 7km across, it is a pretty nice sized impact structure. The site itself is in a part of the park that cannot be accessed without both National Park permission and the permission of the Traditional Owners of the Land. It is possible to walk along the creek that makes up a chasm that runs along the southern border of the structure. It's a good hike, you might want to overnight, take a lot of water! The park is basically cut off in the Wet - and as far as I know - it's closed too.
The site itself is up on top of the Bungle Bungle formation which represents an area of sedimentary material deposited ~375 million years ago. The impact is dated to about 150 million years before present.
This means the only way to view the site is via plane. The tour I took started in Halls Creek, went to Purnululu / Bungle Bungles / Piccaninny and then south to Wolfe Creek before returning to Halls Creek. The pilot was quite good, but he had never heard of the Piccaninny Structure, so I had to do a little educating
Subtle isn't it!!! Highly eroded! See the key below.
Looking roughly East:
A view from the North. The lighter area in the middle is the central part of the structure.
Looking (southwards) at the eastern rim. A light colored line can be seen along the rim edge.
About the rim of the structure.
Here's the Google Earth view of Piccaninny
Text and Images Copyright ted