Sunday, November 15, 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015: A Short Trip to a World Heritage Site – Vredefort Dome

Breakfast was at 7:30 so we would be ready to head off by 8:00 am to meet a guide who would tell us all about the specular happening that created the Vredefort Dome.

The theory is that 2 billion years ago a meteorite struck the earth near Vredefort.  The meteorite is estimated to have been 10-15 km in diameter (6-9 miles) traveling at 70,000 km/hr (44,000 mi/hr) when it hit the earth surface. This collision caused a crater that is 300 km (180 mi) in diameter.  We spent the first hour watching a PowerPoint presentation at the guide’s house on the collision, followed by morning tea. The rest of the day was spent driving from location to location to see the evidence that is used to prove the meteorite collision. We saw granite that had been shattered by the impact and melted back together by the extreme heat.  This granite was being quarried but because it is so hard and brittle the quarrying has stopped.  We went to locations where the rocks were pushed up forming low mountain ranges, composite rocks where smaller rocks are held together in larger rocks by the melting, similar to what happened with the granite.

Granite that has been Shattered and Melted Together

Our Guide with more Granite - Too Hard and Brittle to Process

Quartzite Mountain formed by the Meteorite

More Quartzite near the Vaal River

Cal & Rachel with our Hosts

Panorama of the Vaal River Valley
In addition to seeing the meteorite evidence we also saw a gold mine that had been in existence for 30 years in the 1890’s, but never yielded enough gold to pay for itself.  In general, there was never enough gold found in this region at that time to make all of the gold exploration pay for itself.  It is estimated that only 123 kg (270 lb) of gold was reclaimed during the total gold exploration that lasted no more than 50 years in the Vredefort Dome area.  The dream of wealth kept people going!

Cave where early Inhabitants lived

Rock Formation near the Cave

Mine Commissioner's Office

Our Restaurant for Lunch

We saw a cave that was used by some of the early inhabitants.  This cave is being excavated by university students to see what can be learned as to when and who lived here.  We were taken to an area that was inhabited by man during the iron age of civilization.  All that remains are rows of rocks piled up to form corrals for their cattle and the perimeter of their houses.  In this same area we saw a lookout that was used by the British during the Boer Wars.  It was located on the top of a ridge and provided an excellent view of the region.

For lunch we stopped at the abandoned mining commissioner’s office and house.  This facility has had numerous uses over the years in addition to the commissioner’s office.  It has been a police station with prison, post office and most recently a museum.  It is currently being renovated into a lodge facility complete with a restaurant, hotel, swimming pool etc.  We had our lunch on the patio at the restaurant.

Composite Rock - Smaller Rock held together by the Heat of the Meteorite Impact

Opening to the Gold Mine

One of the Mine shafts

Iron-Age Village Site - Walking in the Steps of Prehistoric Man

Village is now a Backpackers Stop

View from the Lookout

Shattercone Rock - Shattered by the Meteorite Impact

More Shattercone Rock

The Vaal River - This Bridge is Covered when the River Floods

Another Composite Rock - White at the top is Granite

Early Carvings in the Rocks - An Eland

Another Beautiful Sunset
Our total tour of the area lasted until 4:30 pm.  After dropping our guide off at his house we stopped for some ice cream and headed back to the farm.  Our final evaluation of the day was that it was very educational and enjoyable, learning a lot about something we had no idea existed. What happened that day when the collision occurred is unfathomable.

No comments:

Post a Comment