- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 25, 2005

CAPE CHARLES, Va. (AP) — More than a dozen countries are taking part in a drilling project at the site of a 35-million-year-old impact crater on the Eastern Shore.

A drilling rig is expected to arrive Sept. 9 and set up on a farm near Cape Charles that was settled by Englishmen in the early 1600s.

From samples of rock and sediment that are collected, scientists hope to learn about the prehistoric climate, the effects of an asteroid or comet collision, how life survives after natural disasters and why groundwater in the Hampton Roads area is salty, among others.

“None of us will probably ever drill a 7,000-foot hole again,” said Greg Gohn of the U.S. Geological Survey, one of four principal investigators for the project.

The crater is about 56 miles wide and at least a mile deep. Core samples already have been taken from other locations, including Mathews County, Gloucester, Hampton and Newport News.

But the latest site near Cape Charles is by far the deepest.

“We’ll be crossing bridges that nobody’s crossed,” USGS scientist David Powars said.

In 1994, Mr. Powars and other scientists announced the crater’s existence. They had been trying to figure out why some aquifers were salty and why older fossils could be found lying on top of younger ones.

The $1.3 million project is being funded by the USGS and the International Continental Scientific Drilling Program — a consortium of science agencies in 13 countries, including China, Canada, Germany and South Africa.

The Chesapeake Bay impact crater was created by an object from outer space. Because it is buried under layers of sediment, it is one of the best preserved craters in the world.

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