South Africa boasts 7 World Heritage Sites, recognized as sites of important cultural, natural and historical value. One of these natural heritage areas is Vredefort Dome in South Africa’s Free State Province. Named after the town which lies near its center, the Vredefort Dome (also referred to as the Vredefort Crater) is both the oldest and the largest verified meteorite impact zone worldwide and is a fascinating feature that tourists should make an effort to see.
Scientists believe that the meteorite impact structure, also known as an astrobleme, of Vredefort was formed about 2 000 million years ago. According to research, scientists have stated that a meteorite bigger than Cape Town’s Table Mountain collided with the earth those many years ago. The impact created a crater, approximately 400 km in diameter and radius of 190km, it is still visible today. Geologists have determined that the area’s small hills and valleys in a dome shape were created by the major impact of the asteroid. This ring of hills has formed after years of erosion of the dome that was originally created when the rock below the point of impaction rebounded. The crater at Vredefort was probably around 250 to 300 km in diameter before extensive erosion. Calculations state that plus-minus 70 km cubed of rock were vaporised on impact of the meteorite.
The Vredefort Dome is regarded as the largest as well as the oldest visible impact structure on Earth. It is even greater than the well-known Sudbury impact structure of Canada which is about 200 km in diameter. The hills of Vredefort are marked by granitic gneiss rock. When the meteorite struck it produced large cracks in the rock beneath. Melted rock ran into the fractures and are today seen as ridges of dark rock called granophyre dykes.
Many Scientists believe that Vredefort dome bears testament to the largest energy release event on the earth, saying it lead to great global change and even evolutionary transformations. The structure is considered by many to give insight into the concept of evolution on Earth as well as a vital piece of evidence in the planet’s geological history. Thus the area has earned its status as a vital World Heritage Site.
Over and above the amazing history and geological interest of Vredefort Dome, the area boasts a number of fun activities. After a tour of this important geological structure, tourists can enjoy some horse riding, hiking, rafting, abseiling, mountain biking or archery. Alternatively you can continue your fascinating tour of the area at the Venterskroon wild olive forest, local distilleries or Anglo Boer War sites.