The University of Arizona

Physical distribution trends in Darwin glass

Kieren T. HOWARD


Darwin glass formed by impact melting, probably during excavation of the 1.2 km diameter Darwin crater, Tasmania, Australia. The glass was ejected up to 20 km from the source crater and forms a strewn field of >400 km^2. There is at least 11,250 m^3 of glass in the strewn field and relative to the size of the crater this is the most abundant ejected impact glass on Earth. The glass population can be subdivided on the basis of shape (74% irregular, 20% ropy, 0.5% spheroid, 6% droplet, and 0.7% elongate) and color (53% dark green, 31% light green, 11% black, and 5% white). The white glasses contain up to 92 wt% SiO2 and are formed from melting of quartzite. Black glasses contain a minimum of 76 wt% SiO2 and formed from melting of shale. Systematic variations in the proportion of glasses falling into each of the color and shape classes relative to distance from the crater show: 1) a decrease in glass abundance away from the crater; 2) the largest fragments of glass are found closest to the crater; 3) small fragments (<2 g) dominate finds close to the crater; 4) the proportion of white glass is greatest closest to the crater; 5) the proportion of black glass increases with distance from the crater and 6) the proportion of splashform glasses increases with distance from the crater. These distribution trends can only be explained by the molten glass having been ballistically ejected from Darwin crater during impact and are related to 1) the depth of excavation from the target rock stratigraphy and/or 2) viscosity contrasts between the high and low SiO2 melt. The high abundance and wide distribution of ejected melt is attributed to a volatile charged target stratigraphy produced by surface swamps that are indicated by the paleoclimate record.


Darwin Impact Crater;Tasmania;Australia;Strewn field;Impact processes;Impact glasses

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