Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve

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Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve

Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve is a protected area in the Northern Territory of Australia. The reserve is located 145 kilometres south west of Alice Springs and contains twelve craters, which were formed when a fragmented meteorite hit the earth’s surface.

Henbury is one of five meteorite impact sites in Australia associated with actual meteorite fragments and one of the world's best preserved examples of a small crater field.[1] At Henbury there are 13 to 14 craters ranging from 7 to 180 metres in diameter and up to 15 metres in depth that were formed when the meteor broke up before impact. Several tonnes of iron-nickel fragments have been recovered from the site. The site has been dated to ≤4.7 thousand years ago based on the cosmogenic 14C terrestrial age of the meteorite[2] and 4.2±1.9 thousand years ago using fission track dating. [3]

The craters are named for Henbury Station, a nearby cattle station named in 1875 for the family home of its founders at Henbury in Dorset, England. The craters were discovered in 1899 by the manager of the station, then went uninvestigated until interest was stirred when the Karoonda meteorite fell on South Australia in 1930.[4] The first scientific investigations of the site were conducted by A.R. Alderman of the University of Adelaide who published the results in a 1932 paper entitled The Meteorite Craters at Henbury Central Australia.[5] Numerous studies have been undertaken since.

The largest crater at the impact site.

Cultural Significance[edit]

The Henbury crater field is considered a sacred site to the Arrernte Aboriginal people and would have impacted during human habitation of the area.[6] J.M. Mitchell [7] said that older Aboriginal people would not camp within a couple of miles of the Henbury craters, referring to them as chindu china waru chingi yabu, roughly translating to sun walk fire devil rock. An elder Aboriginal man that accompanied Mitchell to the site explained that Aboriginal people would not drink rainwater that collected in the craters, fearing the "fire-devil" would fill them with a piece of iron. The man claimed his paternal grandfather had seen the fire-devil and that he came from the sun.

A story was recorded by Charles Mountford [8] that attributed the largest crater's formation to an anthropomorphic figure tossing soil out of the crater, forming its bowl-shape. The story is considered "women's business" (knowledge restricted to women) so the details of the story are concealed here.

The Parks & Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory give the Arrernte name for the crater field as Tatyeye Kepmwere (or Tatjakapara) and state "some of the mythologies for the area are known but will only be used for interpretation purposes after agreement by the Aboriginal custodians of the site".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Haines P.W. (2005). Impact cratering and distal ejecta: the Australian record. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, Volume 52, pp. 481–507. Abstract
  2. ^ Kohman T. P. and Goel P.S. (1963). Terrestrial ages of meteorites from cosmogenic 14C. In: Radioactive Dating, pp. 395–411. International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna.
  3. ^ "Henbury". Earth Impact Database. University of New Brunswick. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  4. ^ Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve Draft Plan of Management 2002. Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory. ISBN 0-7245-2765-6
  5. ^ Alderman, A.R. (1931). The meteorite craters at Henbury, Central Australia with an addendum by L.J. Spencer, "Mineralogical Magazine", Volume 23, pp. 19-32.
  6. ^ Hamacher, D.W. and Norris, R.P (2009). Australian Aboriginal Geomythology: Eyewitness Accounts of Cosmic Impacts? Archaeoastronomy: the Journal of Astronomy and Culture, Volume 22, pp. 62-95. Bibcode2009Arch...22...62H
  7. ^ Mitchell, J.M. (1934). Meteorite Craters - Old Prospector's Experiences. The Advertiser, Adelaide, South Australia, Thursday, 11 January 1934, p. 12.
  8. ^ Mountford, C.P. (1976). Nomads of the Australian Desert. Rigby, Ltd., Adelaide, pp. 259-260.


  • Svend Buhl, Don McColl: Henbury Craters & Meteorites - Their Discovery, History and Study. Edited by S. Buhl, Meteorite Recon, Hamburg 2012, ISBN 978-3-00-039026-5.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 24°34′19″S 133°08′54″E / 24.57194°S 133.14833°E / -24.57194; 133.14833

Preceded by
Rio Cuarto craters
The last impact event on Earth
4.2 thousand years ago—660 BC
Succeeded by
Kaali crater