Mahuika crater is a submarine bolide impact crater, 20 ± 2 km wide and over 153 m deep, on the New Zealand continental shelf named after the Māori god of fire. It was discovered by Dallas Abbott and her colleagues from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of the Columbia University.
Around the year 1400, the natives of New Zealand abandoned their southern coastal settlements. New Zealand tsunami expert Professor James Goff attributes coastal abandonment in New Zealand at 1500 AD to an earthquake-induced tsunami event. However, the largest historical earthquakes produced maximum tsunami runups of 40 to 60 metres. On Stewart Island, New Zealand, beach sand is present ~220 metres above sea level at Hellfire Hut and ~150 metres above sea level at Mason Bay. In eastern Australia, there are megatsunami deposits with maximum run-ups of over 130 metres and a C-14 age of ~1500 AD. Megatsunami deposits occur on the eastern side of Lord Howe Island in the middle of the Tasman Sea, implying a source crater for the tsunami further east. Abbott et al. (2003) suggests that a bolide impact would explain both the geological and anthropological evidence better than an earthquake.
Based on elemental anomalies, fossils, and minerals, which are interpreted to be derived from the impact, found in an ice core from the Siple Dome in Antarctica, Abbott et al. (2005) believes that the impact, which created the Mahuika crater occurred around 1443 AD.
- Abbott, D.H., P. Biscaye, J. Cole-Dai, and D. Breger, 2005, Evidence from an Ice Core of a Large Impact Circa 1443 A.D., American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2005, abstract #PP31C-05.
- Abbott, D.H., A. Matzen, E.A. Bryant, and S.F. Pekar, 2003, Did a bolide impact cause catastrophic tsunamis in Australia and New Zealand? Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs. 35:168.
- Abstract of Geological Society of America talk by Andrew K. Matzen on tektites from Mahuika crater
- …and the Fire from Heaven 2004 article disputing Mahuika impact origin of 15th century tsunami
- Expedition hunts giant meteor by S. Collins. Newspaper article about ongoing Mahuika impact research.