An Article In Meteorite-Times Magazine
by Robert Verish

Recent Crater at Willcox Playa - Nov. 2007

What formed this crater? An old "dud" bomb? An illegal test of a homemade bomb? Or, was it a meteorite?

WARNING -- Something or somebody has blasted a large crater in the middle of Willcox Playa (Arizona). Since it is unknown how this recently-formed crater was produced, the possibility of another explosion occurring poses a risk to anyone who travels on the surface of this dry lake. Until the cause has been determined, travel at your own risk.

A Meteorite-Recovery Team member took these images after driving up to the rim of this crater in November 2007. The crater was deep enough that it could have easily engulfed their SUV, but the 4 foot-high rim prevented any accidental driving into the 12 foot-deep pit.

Click on the image in order to see an enlarged version of the image:


Nothing in the way of debris from whatever caused the explosion could be found among the chunks of lakebed sediment in the rim of the crater. But in the general area on this part of the playa, pieces of old, rusty shrapnel have been observed over the years. It is no secret, that many decades ago, this part of the playa was used by the U.S. military as a bombing range.

[After departing from Willcox Playa it was recollected that there were fragments of twisted black plastic tubing found scattered nearby the crater. Unfortunately, none was collected or imaged. It was later conjectured that the black plastic tubing may have been a conduit - a kind of jacketing for cables - in which to run a set of wires down to the buried explosives and used to set them off.]

There were a number of tire tracks that converged upon this crater. Some of the tracks predated the explosion because they were covered over by chunks of mud-debris. Most of the tracks head due west towards the Cochise County Indian Reservation. This is the closest habitation to the crater site.

Click on the image in order to see an enlarged version of the image:


How does this crater "pose a risk" to visitors travelling on Willcox Playa?

1) If the crater was caused naturally, such as, by an explosion due to an accumulation of methane gas, then there is a possibility that there may be other accumulations ready to explode.
2) If the crater was formed by an old, unexploded "dud" bomb going off, then there is chance that there may be other unexploded bombs ready to explode.
3) If the crater was man-made as a result of someone setting off (a lot of) explosives, then who is this "someone"? Is this "someone" a dangerous person? Is this "someone" a member of a paramilitary group, or worse, a member of a terrorist cell conducting a practice bombing? Wouldn't the possibility of encountering someone like this out on the playa "pose a risk"?

If you "click" on the image below to see an enlarged version, you'll see that those are empty beer cans at the botton of the crater. Were these beer cans drunk and tossed into the crater as some sort of celebratory toast?


In any case, whoever or whatever caused this crater to be formed is still an unsolved mystery.

If you attend this years "Tucson Show", and intend on making a visit to the nearby Willcox Playa, I hope that these images can give you some sense of what you could expect to encounter out on the playa. Hope to see you next year.


The following "references" are used in this article:

My previous articles can be found *HERE*

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