The project will study the physical & chemical characteristics of Round Marsh and surrounding area, both on & below the surface, to hopefully identify the impacting object. This will include systematic searches for impact debris, testing suspected debris samples, mapping their distribution on the site and preserving them. Funds are needed for these tasks; many studies will be non-destructive and will rely on resources of the Sensors Group at UNF. Searches will be carried out for shattered subsurface rocks and shells, over-turned stratified materials, and the shape of the excavation, which have been useful for proving impacts in other verified crater sites.
Round Marsh is a mile from Fort Caroline and the Ribault Monument, sites dedicated to French pioneers and those who occupied the fort in the summer of 1564. Surviving accounts detail phenomena consistent with a modern understanding of the impact of a massive extraterrestrial object.
The French account includes comments from the Timucua, Native Americans, now extinct, which were in contact with the French at that time. Timucuan shell middens form the northeast crater rim, as shown in accompanying images.
British farmers may have later grown rice in Round Marsh, which was a known crop elsewhere on the southern coast, circa 1770. Searching for evidence of this activity in Round Marsh could provide a more complete understanding of the site. If the British farmed here, then all three European colonial powers active in North America, the British, French and Spanish, were involved here at different times, making this a unique site in colonial history.
The success of these studies would tie together the early colonial history of northeast Florida with a unique natural event. This impact on a continent’s boundary will providing an opportunity to study the crater from such an impact.
This National Park area is popular for hiking, biking and birding in a beautiful forest. Judging from the Timucuan shell middens, this has been a popular picnic site for thousands of years. But for the past nearly 450 years visitors have not been aware of the exciting natural history that we propose unfolded here.
This site is accessible via paved roads in an American city, Jacksonville, FL, with modern transportation and hospitality infrastructure. This would make Round Marsh the most accessible impact crater on Earth.
This study is timely now as two years hence will bring the 450th anniversary of the impact, and also of the founding of St. Augustine, 40 miles to the south, the oldest city built by Europeans in the USA. This anniversary could bring many additional visitors here where they can enjoy the natural history of this site while learning of the French colonialists and Timucuan.
The money contributed will be used for systematic investigations of this site, to hopefully confirm it as a meteor impact crater. Chemical sensors, ground penetrating radars, GPS trackers, metal detectors and sonar will be obtained and used to probe the interior of the marsh and surrounding area searching for impact debris to verify the extraterrestrial origin of the impacting object. The internal geometry of the marsh will also be studied, perhaps with Cone Penetrating Technologies to avoid more site disturbing core sampling.
Any extra funds provided will be used to publish and distribute educational materials to explain, interpret and promote site visitations.
Discovering the nature of the impacting object would be an important discovery in that it would explain the unique nature of the site. Round Marsh would then be the most publicly accessible impact crater in the US, and possibly the world, being in a major city [Jacksonville, FL] with its modern transportation and hospitality infrastructure and moderate year-around climate.
The marsh site is only a few miles from I-95 on paved roads. A few local schools, colleges and universities have already used the site for laboratory classes dealing with archeology, astronomy, biology, geology and history, but confirmation of the impact origin should greatly expand these activities from increased awareness. This work has the potential to turn Round Marsh into an important tourist venue.
Dr. Jay S. Huebner, Founding Faculty Member and Research Professor, Physics Department, University of North Florida, 1 UNF Drive, Jacksonville FL 32224
I worked as an engineer and materials scientist in the petro-chemical, aerospace, and electronic manufacturing industries. I have degrees in engineering and physics, including a PhD, and have additional training in biophysics, photochemistry, astronomy and sensor sciences. When given a chance to teach as a founding faculty member at UNF I jumped at the opportunity, and began my career as a university professor helping nurture a new university which has in turn nurtured me. I am now a professor emeritus and research professor.
Early in my career at UNF, the instructional needs of a small, new and growing university soon had me branching out to teach courses in astronomy, space explorations and “The Impact of Asteroids.” Two colleagues and I wrote “Basic Astronomy Labs”, published by Prentice-Hall. We wished to offer lab exercises on ‘impacts,’ and never dreamed we could find an impact crater a few minutes’ drive from UNF. Now we are working to make it known and available for all who wish to take advantage of this unique asset on the Timucuan Preserve of the National Park Service.
Asteroids, comets and meteorites have been important parts of the natural history of the Solar System, but most of the countless impacts on Earth have been erased over time. Yet here in Jacksonville we can study such an impact site, and what those who witnessed the impact had to say about it. History and science come together here. This site is a gift of nature that needs to be revealed by careful study and then fully described so its exciting history can be available to all that would consider it. Please help, your support of this important work will be greatly appreciated by those of us working at that, as well as those who will understand the site better because of this work.