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summary of results from analyses of deposits of the deep-ocean impact of the eltanin asteroidDeposits of the late Pliocene (2.5 Ma) Eltanin impact are unique in the known geological record. The only known example of a km-sized asteroid to impact a deep-ocean (5 km) basin, is the most meterorite-rich locality known. This was discovered as an Ir anomaly in sediments from three cores collected in 1965 by the USNS Eltanin. These cores contained mm-sized shock-melted asteroid materials and unmelted meteorite fragments. Mineral chemistry of meteorite fragments, and siderophole concentrations in melt rocks, indicate that the parent asteroid was a low-metal (4\%) mesosiderite. A geological exploration of the impact in 1995 by Polarstern expedition ANT-XIV4 was near the Freeden Seamounts (57.3S, 90.5 W), and successfully collected three cores with impact deposits. Analyses showed that sediments as old as Eocene were eroded by the impact disturbance and redeposited in three distinct units. The lowermost is a chaotic assemblage of sediment fragments up to 50 cm in size. Above this is a laminated sand-rich unit that deposited as a turbulent flow, and this is overlain by a more fine-grained deposit of silts and clays that settled from a cloud of sediment suspended in the water column. Meteoritic ejecta particles were concentrated near the base of the uppermost unit, where coarse ejecta caught up with the disturbed sediment. Here we will present results from a new suite of cores collected on Polarstern expedition ANT-XVIIU5a. In 2001, the Polarstern returned to the impact area and explored a region of 80,000 sq-km., collecting at least 16 sediment cores with meteoritic ejecta. The known strewn field extends over a region 660 by 200 km. The meteoritic ejecta is most concentrated in cores on the Freeden seamounts, and in the basins to the north, where the amount of meteoritic material deposited on the ocean floor was as much as 3 g/sq-cm. These concentrations drop off to the north and the east to levels as low as approximately 0.1 g/sq-cm. We were unable to sample the impact south and west of the seamounts, as the deposit was buried beyond the reach of our 25 m piston corer. We estimate that ground zero was in the region just north, or northwest, of the seamounts. There is no evidence that the impactor penetrated the ocean floor or formed a crater. The composition of the melted ejecta is inconsistent with mixing between projectile and terrestrial materials other than seawater salts. X-ray radiographs of sediments reveal details not seen in earlier cores. The uppermost impact unit is well-preserved in several cores, found as much as 50 km from the seamounts to the east, north, and west of the seamounts, where at least 25 cm of this unit is preserved. At greater distances burrowing organisms have mixed the sediments so if this unit did exist, it was too thin to survive bioturbation. These finegrained sediments are clearly laminated, and show alternating layers of low- and high-density (meteoritic) sediments, consistent with ripple formation in an energetic flow regime. We have extracted 35 g of meteoritic melt rock and 3 g of meteorite fragments from sieved sediments. Additionally a 9 g, 2.2 cm meteorite was recovered during opening of one core. The fact that 9\% of the coarse ejecta is unmelted meteorites may be characteristic of deep-ocean impacts. This may have significance for delivery of organic matter to the early Earth by small impacts into primordial oceans, where actual meteorite fragments can survive in significant amounts. However, a large portion of the meteoritic debris is buried rapidly by the sediments disturbed by the impact.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Kyte, Frank T.
(California Univ. Los Angeles, CA, United States)
Kuhn, Gerhard
(Alfred-Wegener-Inst. for Polar and Marine Research Bremerhaven, Germany)
Gersonde, Rainer
(Alfred-Wegener-Inst. for Polar and Marine Research Bremerhaven, Germany)
Date Acquired
August 23, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 2005
Publication Information
Publication: Eos Transactions. AGU
Volume: 86
Issue: 52
Subject Category
Lunar and Planetary Science and Exploration
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
AGU Fall Meeting 2005(San Francisco, CA)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits