WHITECOURT / WOODLANDS METEORITE IMPACT CRATER
Whitecourt Meteorite Impact Crater
Links and documents
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Whitecourt / Woodlands Meteorite Impact Crater consists of a bowl-shaped depression and scattered, sub-surface meteorite fragments. The crater is roughly 36 metres in diameter and 10 metres deep. The crater and sub-surface meteorite fragments are located in a wooded environment roughly 15 kilometres southeast of Whitecourt.
The heritage value of the Whitecourt / Woodlands Meteorite Impact Crater lies in its scientific importance as the youngest and best preserved meteorite impact structure in Alberta.
The Whitecourt / Woodlands Meteorite Impact Crater impact structure is a bowl-shaped depression formed by the explosive impact of a meteoroid (a rock from outside the earth's atmosphere) hitting the surface at a high velocity. The resultant explosion and radiation of heat, light and shock waves excavated the large cavity. The surface exposure of the cavity is unique in Alberta; neither of the other two impact craters in the province - the 10-kilometre diameter Steen River structure in northern Alberta and the 25-kilometre diameter Eagle Butte structure in southern Alberta - are evident on the ground. The Whitecourt impact structure is preserved in glacial till and dates from the Holocene. Material excavated and thrown out during the impact buried soil containing charcoal which has a radiocarbon age of approximately 1000 years. There are no more than 10 Holocene impact structures in the world. The next youngest impact structure in Canada is 1.4 million years old. Typically, a meteoroid is vaporized by the explosion at the time of impact. At the Whitecourt / Woodlands Meteorite Impact Crater, however, dozens of iron meteorites have been discovered subsurface at a depth of roughly 25-30 centimetres. The angularity of the meteorites suggest that the meteoroid fragmented very near the surface, perhaps just prior to the main body impacting the surface and forming the crater. The recentness of the impact, the high concentration and shape of iron meteorites at the site, and the accessibility and excellent preservation of the crater make the Whitecourt / Woodlands Meteorite Impact Crater an immensely valuable scientific and interpretive site.
Source: Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch (File: Des. 2259)
The character-defining elements of the Whitecourt / Woodlands Meteorite Impact Crater include such features as:
- the high degree of preservation and surface exposure of the impact structure;
- glacial till walls of the impact structure;
- shape of impact structure;
- strewn meteorites;
- shape and composition of meteorites;
- potential to yield information about meteoroids and the processes involved in formation of impact structures.
Province of Alberta
Historical Resources Act
Provincial Historic Resource
Theme - Category and Type
- Expressing Intellectual and Cultural Life
Function - Category and Type
- Nature Element
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
Alberta Culture and Community Spirit, Historic Resources Management Branch, Old St. Stephen's College, 8820 - 112 Street, Edmonton, AB T6G 2P8 (File: Des. 2259)
Cross-Reference to Collection