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Chesapeake Invader: Discovering America's Giant Meteorite Crater [Hardcover]

C. Wylie Poag

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Book Description

7 Nov 1999

Thirty-five million years ago, a meteorite three miles wide and moving sixty times faster than a bullet slammed into the sea bed near what is now Chesapeake Bay. The impact, more powerful than the combined explosion of every nuclear bomb on Earth, blasted out a crater fifty miles wide and one mile deep. Shock waves radiated through the Earth for thousands of miles, shaking the foundations of the Appalachians, as gigantic waves and winds of white-hot debris transformed the eastern seaboard into a lifeless wasteland. Chesapeake Invader is the story of this cataclysm, told by the man who discovered it happened. Wylie Poag, a senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, explains when and why the catastrophe occurred, what destruction it caused, how scientists unearthed evidence of the impact, and how the meteorite's effects are felt even today.

Poag begins by reviewing how scientists in the decades after World War II uncovered a series of seemingly inexplicable geological features along the Virginia coast. As he worked to interpret one of these puzzling findings in the 1980s in his own field of paleontology, Poag began to suspect that the underlying explanation was the impact of a giant meteorite. He guides us along the path that he and dozens of colleagues subsequently followed as--in true scientific tradition--they combined seemingly outrageous hypotheses, painstaking research, and equal parts good and bad luck as they worked toward the discovery of what turned out to be the largest impact crater in the U.S. We join Poag in the lab, on deep-sea drilling ships, on the road for clues in Virginia, and in heated debates about his findings. He introduces us in clear, accessible language to the science behind meteorite impacts, to life and death on Earth thirty-five million years ago, and to the ways in which the meteorite shaped the Chesapeake Bay area by, for example, determining the Bay's very location and creating the notoriously briny groundwater underneath Virginia.

This is a compelling work of geological detective work and a paean to the joys and satisfactions of a life in science.

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"A light-handed tale of scientific exploration, fascinating as living theater, where the daily grind has a chance to reval more cosmic thrummings. . . . All this Poag relates with clipped vibrancy, and it makes for riveting reading. . . ."--Kirkus Reviews

"Poag does a good job of making his text accessible to a lay audience and ofexplaining why it is important to study such a phenomena as this rater"--Library Journal

From the Inside Flap

"Chesapeake Invader is excitingly written.... Poag shows us how scientific discoveries are made and how there are many twists and turns along the way."--Donald Prothero, Occidental College

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Paleontologist Tracks Down Killer Meteorite 3 May 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
For those interested in the effects of giant meteorites on the earth, this book is worth reading. It is not a novel, more like a documentary, but facinating just the same. The author details his efforts to prove the existance of a giant meteor crater under Chesapeake Bay. Along the way, he details the effects of the strike on the flora and fauna of the time. This is a real-life example of the scientific method applied to geology and paleontology tempered with human nature and a little good luck thrown in.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Love A Good Mystery 9 Feb 2002
By Bruce Crocker - Published on Amazon.com
Geology is a fun science and part of the fun is due to the historical nature of much of geology - geology is all about solving ancient mysteries. Chesapeake Invader by C. Wylie Poag excellenty describes the solving of one such geological mystery. Starting in the middle of the 20th-Century, geologists began to find unusual rock formations in coastal Virginia that didn't have a garden variety geologic explanation. The plate tectonics revolution, which provided so many solutions to so many geologic conundrums, didn't unravel these weird East Coast rocks. This mystery had to wait until humans wrapped their minds around one of the last great discoveries of geology, the realization that asteroid and comet impacts are an important force in our Solar System and that the Earth is not immune from the devastation of these impacts. Poag gives the reader a good glimpse of how geologists [and scientists in general] go about solving problems. Folks who enjoy learning about impacts, but are tired of reading about the end of Cretaceous impact, should enjoy Chesapeake Invader as a welcome change of pace. [If you haven't read enough about the end of Cretaceous impact, I would highly recommend The End Of The Dinosaurs by Charles Frankel and Night Comes To The Cretaceous by James Lawrence Powell.] I enjoyed going along for the ride while C. Wylie Poag solved this great geological mystery and I recommend that you also take this ride.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars America's biggest meteor strike unmasked. 3 Jun 2002
By Jerald R Lovell - Published on Amazon.com
The book presents an interesting first-person study of how the 53 mile-wide Chesapeake impact structure was identified. The 40-million year-old feature is not apparent from surface observation, and its unmasking forms this classic tale of scientific detective work at is finest. The author is not hesitant in issuing praise to those who knew some atypical feature was present, but who lacked the means or opportunity to categorically identify the structure for what it was. In this respect, the narrative is delightfully free of much of the acrimony that has marked so many of the works about the Chixulub dinosaur killer.
The book's text is highly readable and explains in an unpatronizing manner many of the tools and concepts used in solving this great scientific puzzle. Also, the book's author doesn't allow himself to be bogged down in minutiae, an all-to-easy peril in a work of this nature.
The book is recommended to any teen or adult with a limited background in science, and to any and all persons with an interest in earth science or the scientific method in action. I liked it very much. Enjoy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good science, readable science 30 Dec 2001
By Duncan C. McDougall - Published on Amazon.com
This book is well-written non-fiction.
Poag tells of a fifty-year geological research project on the East Coast of North America. He tells us how the findings of several natural sciences have combined to demonstrate, beyond reasonable doubt, that a large meteor impacted Earth at Chesapeake Bay, some 35 million years ago. In doing so, Poag teaches the reader about undersea sonic surveying, about core drilling to determine the structures surrounding impact craters of various types, about fossils found in seabed (and former seabed) rocks, and about how those fossils permit approximate dating of sedimentary deposits back to life's origin on earth, some 4 billion years ago.
We now know that large meteor impacts have played a major role in the Earth's evolution. Striking only 35 million years back, Poag's "Chesapeake Invader" was a relatively recent such event. In its closing chapter, his book addresses the present NASA search for the NEXT one.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A clearly written description of science at work 10 Mar 2013
By Peter F. Zoll - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The books begins with a series of seemingly disconnected geological puzzles and gradually knits the skeins together as the surprising cause - a marine impact by a massive asteroid more than 30 million years ago - reveals itself.
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