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No. 78: Nov-Dec 1991

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Tunguska-like event in new zealand 800 years ago?

"Very calm and placid have become the raging billows, That caused the total destruction of the Moa, When the horns of the Moon fell from above down."

Thus have the Maoris sung. Their myths, songs, and poetry clearly link the demise of the moa, not to their own overhunting as others maintain, but rather to a cataclysmic event that occurred some 800 years ago. Maori oral history tells of "the falling of the skies, raging winds, upheaval of the Earth, and mysterious devastating fire from space." Even some of the place names in New Zealand relate to some kind of catastrophe. In the province of Otago, there is Waipahi (place of the exploding fire) and Tapanui (big explosion).

Oral history is entertaining, but scientists want something more palpable before they will entertain Velikovskian ideas about recent history. Well, if you visit Tapanui (big explosion place), you can find Landslip Crater, a 900 x 600meter depression 130 meters deep. This does not have the appearance of a bona fide meteor crater, but all around it are suspicious signs. For example, treefall distribution from 800 years ago was radially away from Tapanui out to 4080 kilometers. In the same area one finds the trinities, small globules of silicates with tektite overtones. And then there is the extirpation of the moas about this time.

To be sure, there are separate, conventional explanations of all these phenomena. But, if you add the Maori oral traditions to all these suspicious physical signs, a Tunguska-like event does not seem impossible. (Steel, Duncan, and Snow, Peter; "The Tapanui Region of New Zealand: A 'Tunguska' of 800 Years Ago?" paper at the Conference on "Asteroids, Comets, Meteors, '91'," Flagstaff, June 1991.)

From Science Frontiers #78, NOV-DEC 1991. 1991-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987