It was like Armageddon. No, really. It was just like the movie. A meteorite the size of Table Mountain (as opposed to the size of Texas*) hit a huge inland lake around the area where Vredefort is now about three thousand million years ago.
The effect was that of multiple atom bombs going off. It was Hiroshima, but vastly more destructive. Some rock shattered, some melted, of some only powder remained. The meteorite made a hole 90 kilometres wide, and radically shifted the crust of the earth in concentric circles another 200 kilometres in diameter beyond that.
In spite of the fact that the rock landed in the water, the dust fallout from the impact covered the atmosphere of the entire planet, and remained there for four years.
In the cold darkness most plants died, then the herbivores died, and then the carnivores died. The only cold blooded animal that survived was the crocodile, which, apparently, is amazing. Some small rodents and other warm blooded minutiae made it as well.
There was a sort-of-an ice age, long before life as we know it existed.
A thousand million years later, almost the same thing happened in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. Bam wham thank you m’am, and life as it was, was over, again. There have been other such events. And I think one can reasonably assume that there will more.
A recent BBC documentary made the point that, as human beings, we are not actually busy destroying the earth. We are simply making it uninhabitable for our own race. Regardless of the consequences of our actions the earth will be here, and it would seem, absolutely fine, long after we have gone. The natural disasters that the earth, and life on it, have survived WAY surpass anything we can concoct by not recycling glass and plastic in a world economy driven by fossil fuels.
(Just out of interest, at this juncture, is anybody other than me impressed by the fact that you can score more carbon brownie points by simply eating local brie than by eschewing the driving of a gas guzzler? People who ride bicycles to work but eat only imported cheese and chocolate are greater culprits in the demise of the human race on earth than the driver of the Hummer who takes up two parking spaces at the mall on a Saturday morning. I LOVE this eco stuff.)
Since our visit yesterday to Thabela Thabeng (“love for the mountain”) near Venterskroon I have been gripped by a sense of wonder. Such an astonishing event happened virtually down the road from where I live. Every time I think of it, I am amazed.
From Parys, once you leave the R53 to Potch the gravel road takes you to a magic place where some folk really just go to sit on the stoep for hours.
I found it reassuring somehow that everything around me was much older than I was, and that my passing through was incidental, and completely unimportant . It is such a relief to be reminded that a person makes no difference, unless you make a difference.
Johannes van der Merwe, who owns the farm and has retired there, went to great pains for many months to overcome various strains of deadly local government bureaucracy in an effort to resettle a new troop of baboons on the farm in the 90’s. He did this because the original troop was slowly shrinking because of people shooting them, poisoning them and because of inbreeding. In areas that are more densely populated, young males who leave the troop will soon fight for a troop of their own, thus spreading the love and the genes. On Thabela Thabeng this was not happening, until Johannes made an effort.
Who knows, when the next big rock falls from the sky, maybe Johannes’s baboon troops will evolve into a race superior to the extinct one who sucked the oil from beneath the crust and pumped it into the air.
With these thoughts, and with everything temporarily, if absurdly, in context, the day for me is brighter, and my problems are creative opportunities. I really should get out more.
*So it wasn’t EXACLY like the movie – there were small differences, like for example, the Vredefort crater was made long before the invention of deep core drilling techniques and the birth of Bruce Willis.