The Enigma of the Origin of Round, Deep, Rimed Lakes in the Russian Heartland-Was Lake Smerdyachie Formed During the Impact of an Extraterrestrial Body?
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
The heartland of Russia has many enigmatic deep lakes. Shallow lakes have a more obvious origin, perhaps as kettle lakes, oxbow lakes or subsidence features. Deep lakes, particularly round lakes with partial or complete rims are more problematic. Traditionally, round or nearly round lakes with rims are candidates for Holocene age impact structures. The problem is that there are too many such lakes in the Russian heartland- a minimum of 15 deep, round lakes with diameters between 0.2 and 3 km. Even with a possibly increased impact rate during the Holocene, these deep lakes would represent the entire budget of Holocene impacts concentrated in one small region of the Earth. We examine here Lake Smerdyachie, a previously proposed impact lake. Smerdyachie is perfectly round with a raised rim. It has a diameter of about 350 meters and a maximum water depth of over 30 m. The basement at Smerdyachie is at~40 meters depth. It consists of Carboniferous age carbonate rock with fossils of brachiopods, crinoids and gastropods. The overlying material consists of unconsolidated, sand and silt-sized, quartz-rich sediments. We found clasts of brachiopod, crinoid and gastropod-bearing Carboniferous carbonate rock up to 32 cm in diameter on the SE rim of Smerdyachie. These clasts are present over about 1/3 of the total circumference of the lake. We also made panned concentrates of the sediment on the rim. To the NW, the concentrated sediment has a negative magnetic susceptibility (-0.07 to -0.03 cgs units), consistent with a higher concentration of pulverized limestone. To the SE, the sediment has a positive magnetic susceptibility (0.06 to 0.35 cgs units). The areas of positive magnetic susceptibility lie on the SE two-thirds of the rim of the lake. The highest susceptibility value is from the sample taken closest to the lake shoreline on the SE rim. This spatial distribution of susceptibility could mean that there is a higher concentration of iron rich material on the SE side of the lake. To test this hypothesis, we plan to remove the calcium carbonate from our previously measured samples and then to remeasure their magnetic susceptibility. We will then examine the material with the highest magnetic susceptibility for possible impactor fragments.