Beneath the Surface

The Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater’s central area is about 56 miles (90km) across, making it the largest in the United States and the 6th largest in the world.  To give you an idea of what the crater would look like if it weren’t under the Bay and filled with marine sediments, take a look at this photo of the Barringer Crater in Arizona, about 600 ft deep and 4,000 ft in diameter. (Image Courtesy: Michael Collier; Image source: Earth Science World Image Bank, Copyright Michael Collier.         

(Landsat photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey)

Our Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater kept its identity a secret for a good bit of its 35 million year existence. Some material was vaporized when the bolide struck; some was thrown into the air and fell back in a jumble; some was melted and flung into the air, falling as glassy blobs called tektites as far away as Georgia and Texas. Over the eons, marine sediments filled in part of the crater and disguised its origin.

But it was the discovery of “shocked” quartz in undersea core samples off the New Jersey coast that led C.Wylie Poag, chief scientist on the Glomar Challenger, to search for the impact area. There’s a great article at with excellent photographs and explanations.

So now you know about what’s under Mathews County. In the next post, I’m going to start talking about some of our special places and things happening in Mathews.


The Crater Rim–Hiding in Plain Sight

Driving through Mathews towards Gloucester Courthouse, when woods don’t obscure the view, you can see that the slope of the land is relatively flat.

As you approach Main Street in Gloucester though, there is an unexpected sharp rise.

Very high compared to the surrounding areas, but not that impressive–until you learn this is the very top of the wall of the Chesapeake Bay Crater rim which extends down somewhere between 1,000 and 4,000 feet.  Now that’s impressive.



How did I land in an impact crater?

Even though I started out only 300 miles away, it took most of my life and a few cross-country trips to get to Mathews. On vacation in Virginia a few years ago, a friend from Alexandria suggested I go online and check out Rivah Country. I did and fell in love with the Deltaville website.

On my next trip to Virginia, I headed to Deltaville and drove down General Puller Highway enjoying the views of homes, shops, woods, marinas–all the way to Stingray Point. After another trip up and back, I realized Deltaville was not the town around a courthouse green that I’d imagined.

No mystery where this story ends: I found my way along Route 14 to Buckley Hall Road and then to Main Street in Mathews Courthouse. A stop at Mathews Art Gallery and the Bay School, a look in the library and a drive around the county…and it felt like coming home. It took several months more to arrange it, but I made it home here 8 years ago.