Pantasma is a region in the north of Nicaragua. In the Miskito language the word Pantasma means small humans or flat head. The Spanish word Fantasma (Galego: Pantasma) origins from the Greek Phantasma and means ghost.
The Valle de Pantasma, also called the "Crater of Pantasma", is a circular valley over 12 km in diameter situated in Nicaragua. It is passed by the Rio Pantasma, a tributary of the Rio Coco (also called Rio Segovia). In its center lies the village of Las Praderas, the principal place of the community of Santa Maria de Pantasma with about 40,000 inhabitants in the province of Jinotega. In the poor, but fertile and agricultural intensely used valley corn, grain, fruit, and coffee are cultivated and cattle is bred.
The town is the site of one of the most famous actions of the civil war between the Sandinista government and the rebel Contras. On October 18, 1983, the Nicaraguan Democratic Force's Task Force Diriangén, under Comandante "Mike Lima," launched a surprise attack on the town, overrunning a battalion headquarters, detonating a munitions depot, robbing a state bank, and destroying a police station, a school, and all other government offices and facilities, leaving 47 defenders and residents dead. Though a military success, politically the Sandinistas depicted the assault as a "massacre" and a symbol of rebel atrocities.
Impact crater hypothesis
Some have speculated that the Crater of Pantasma was formed when an over 500 m large meteorite struck into the Tertiary effusive layers of the volcanic mountains in the north of Nicaragua. The circular shape of the crater, the skew of its floor according to the spacious mountain slope and its apparently arbitrary situation supports the thesis of a meteorite impact. A central uplift is missing or may already be covered with sediments. An ejection ring is not recognizable clearly in the rough landscape. The size and the shape of the crater are similar to the 10 km large and about one million years old crater of Lake Bosumtwi in Ghana. Its embedding into the landscape is nearly identical to the impact crater of Goat Paddock in Australia (5 km, up to 50 million years). The volcanic history of the whole region and the neighbourhood of an active volcanic zone suggest a volcanic origin, but don't prove it conclusively.
A search for typical impact material (shatter cones, suevites, tektites), that could prove an impact event, has yet to take place. Based on available observations and data, this site is listed as improbable, or unlikely to be an impact site. But in spite of this an expedition by the Nicaraguan Scientific Association of Astronomers and Astrophysicists (Astronic) to the Pantasma Valley in July 2009 has provided some supoprt for the impact hypothesis. Note: The Pantasma valley can not be "triassic" (250 to 200 million years B.C.) because it lies on the caribbean platter, that was formed between 140 and 70 million years ago. The fresh look of the crater suggests an age of only up to 1 million years. In 2010, the Geologist Jean H. Cornec from Denver/Col. reportet the detection of a new tektite strewn field (about 800,000 years old!) in western Belize, 300 miles north-west, which could be strongly related to the Pantasma crater.
- Richard Weyl: The geology of Central America, Borntraeger, 1961 (ISBN 3-443-11001-0)
- Bruno Engels: „Geologische Problematik und Strukturanalyse Nikaraguas“. International Journal of Earth Sciences, Springer 1965 (ISSN 1437-3254)]
- Maps of "INETER", Managua, Nicaragua
- NSF press release 96-009
- "Sterne und Weltraum", May 2006
- "A METEORITE FORMED PANTASMA?" in Envio.Org Sept.2009, about the expedition in July 2009 by "Astronic" to the Pantasma Valley
- Leo Kowald: Pantasma - a young meteorite impact crater in the old volcanic landscape of Nicaragua?