Cover image for Chesapeake invader : discovering America's giant meteorite crater
Chesapeake invader : discovering America's giant meteorite crater
Poag, C. Wylie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
xii, 183 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 25 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QE613.5.C48 P6 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Thirty-five million years ago, a meteorite three miles wide and moving sixty times faster than a bullet slammed into the sea bed near what is now Chesapeake Bay. The impact, more powerful than the combined explosion of every nuclear bomb on Earth, blasted out a crater fifty miles wide and one mile deep. Shock waves radiated through the Earth for thousands of miles, shaking the foundations of the Appalachians, as gigantic waves and winds of white-hot debris transformed the eastern seaboard into a lifeless wasteland. Chesapeake Invader is the story of this cataclysm, told by the man who discovered it happened. Wylie Poag, a senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, explains when and why the catastrophe occurred, what destruction it caused, how scientists unearthed evidence of the impact, and how the meteorite's effects are felt even today. Poag begins by reviewing how scientists in the decades after World War II uncovered a series of seemingly inexplicable geological features along the Virginia coast. As he worked to interpret one of these puzzling findings in the 1980s in his own field of paleontology, Poag began to suspect that the underlying explanation was the impact of a giant meteorite. He guides us along the path that he and dozens of colleagues subsequently followed as--in true scientific tradition--they combined seemingly outrageous hypotheses, painstaking research, and equal parts good and bad luck as they worked toward the discovery of what turned out to be the largest impact crater in the U.S. We join Poag in the lab, on deep-sea drilling ships, on the road for clues in Virginia, and in heated debates about his findings. He introduces us in clear, accessible language to the science behind meteorite impacts, to life and death on Earth thirty-five million years ago, and to the ways in which the meteorite shaped the Chesapeake Bay area by, for example, determining the Bay's very location and creating the notoriously briny groundwater underneath Virginia. This is a compelling work of geological detective work and a paean to the joys and satisfactions of a life in science.

Originally published in 1999.

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Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

A senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Poag recounts the years of painstaking research that led to the identification of a 50-mile-wide meteorite crater formed 35 million years ago and now lying beneath newer rock and the waters of Chesapeake Bay. The chapters on the biological side of the research are a little weak, but the focus is on earth science and meteorology. Poag does a good job of making his text accessible to a lay audience and of explaining why it is important to study such phenomena as this crater. This book focuses on a specific site, but earlier volumes, for example, Bevan French's Traces of Catastrophe (Luna and Planetary Inst., 1998), Paul Hodge's Meteorite Craters and Impact Structures of the Earth (Cambridge Univ., 1994), and Kathleen Mark's Meteorite Craters (1987) have already covered the subject of meteorite craters in general. For academic libraries and larger public libraries.ÄJean E. Crampon, Science & Engineering Lib., Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

It is difficult to write about the rather complex and interconnected science of geology without becoming either entirely superficial or too technical for the general reader. Poag (US Geological Survey, Woods Hole, MA) has done an admirable job of balancing these aspects, but for a book that begins by defining basic rock types, some nonspecialists may find the total tome somewhat overwhelming in its scope. For a geologist or geology major, this presentation of the story of the subsurface meteoritic impact structure under the Chesapeake and how such a meteorite could change the area's geology are a quick way of catching up on the topic. The book is written in a straightforward style, clearly with the nonspecialist reader in mind. To some extent, the book is also concerned with the way science proceeds in today's environment--perhaps younger readers not acquainted with research will be enlightened by this aspect. Recommended for general undergraduate holdings but not for research or specialist libraries. P. K. Strother; Boston College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Chapter 1 Telltalesp. 3
Chapter 2 Microfossil Magicp. 20
Chapter 3 Tektitesp. 29
Chapter 4 Toms Canyonp. 42
Chapter 5 Super Tsunamip. 50
Chapter 6 Chesapeake Crater Revealedp. 53
Chapter 7 Proof in the Puddingp. 57
Chapter 8 A Perilous Pathp. 67
Chapter 9 Mass Extinctionsp. 80
Chapter 10 Eocene Environmentsp. 90
Chapter 11 Sinking Sandp. 104
Chapter 12 Threatened Ground Watersp. 115
Chapter 13 Faulty Floorp. 123
Chapter 14 Seaward Explorerp. 127
Chapter 15 Buried Treasurep. 138
Chapter 16 Subterranean Wastep. 143
Chapter 17 Chicken Little's Dilemmap. 147
Glossaryp. 157
Suggestions for Fuither Readingp. 163
Recommended Sites on the World Wide Webp. 165
Indexp. 167