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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