Great Ball of Fire
Twisting and tumbling through space, heading straight toward planet Earth at a rate of 70, 000 miles per hour, an extraterrestrial, flaming fireball is about to make a monumental impact on land and life in the late Eocene Epoch. It is a warm day on Earth, sea levels are high and tidewaters lay in the coastal shallows on the ancient continental shelf that would eventually become eastern North America. Lined with tropical forests, plush with both weird and modern-looking mammals and with waters rich in marine life, never expecting that the Grande Coupure, the “Great Break” in continuity, the extinction that would end the epoch, was perhaps approaching at 1, 167 miles per minute (19 miles per second). Suddenly the extraterrestrial bolide, (large, luminous, exploding meteorite) smashes into the shallow ocean, plunging through nearly 1,000 feet of water, several thousand feet of sedimentary rocks, and 6 miles into the underlying crystalline rocks (granite). Billions of tons of ocean water and rock instantly vaporize, while the atmosphere is filled with millions of tons of ejecta (shattered rock particles), which rise as high as 50 miles and spread for hundreds of miles. Everything along the coast is instantly incinerated by thermal radiation. Giant tsunamis, measuring perhaps thousands of feet high, decimate all life on land.
After the cataclysmic bolide plunged down from outer space and straight into the ocean floor, the crater left behind altered the eastern coastline. The crater was buried more than a thousand feet below sand, silt and clay, lying undiscovered at the bottom of Chesapeake Bay and its surrounding peninsulas for more than 35 million years. It wasn’t until the recent discovery, made by geologists C. Wylie Poag, David S. Powars, and T. Scott Bruce, that the ancient mysteries of this extraterrestrial bolide surfaced from the dark depths of the bay.