Graeme Addison
3 minute read
16 Jul 2022
11:00 am

Knowing the story of Vredefort Dome

Graeme Addison

Inside the world’s oldest and largest impact crater

Picture: iStock

Yesterday I was happy to take a couple of filmmakers on a short tour of the Vredefort Dome. They came to identify places and people to include in a production to be made later this year.

A huge number of cast members is scheduled to arrive when filming gets underway. The pair were good listeners and questioners. I was pleased to be told at the end that it had been an “educational” experience for them. I quipped that when I do tours for the general public I start by saying: “Attend carefully now because afterwards there’s an exam!”

Seriously, though, some visitors just seem to have no interest in knowing the Dome story. It leaves me marvelling that they took the trouble to drive to Parys, only to brush off attempts to inform them about this incredible feature on the Earth’s surface. Most visitors are not like that but eagerly soak up the information.

The minority of Dumb Dome Dropouts seem to think they know it all and don’t need to be told anything. One rocked back on his heels with a supercilious expression saying: “So what am I looking at?” But didn’t bother to listen and wandered away. Visitors do need to have things explained. For one thing, you can’t see the crater. It’s too big.

ALSO READ: These are the top 10 most searched for South African destinations

This vast ringed structure with an upheaval Dome at its centre is so big there is no vantage point on Earth from which to view it. Only photos taken from space reveal that the outside one of three rings stretches from Johannesburg to Welkom.

For another thing, the word “Dome” confuses people. There is no visible Dome – it’s all underground having eroded on the sur- face over a period of two billion years. But there are plenty of small “isostatic” domes of granite, up-wellings dotting the landscape.

Picture: Supplied

People drive to Vredefort looking for the Dome and indeed they see a dome about 150m across. They don’t realise that the entire surrounding landscape from horizon to horizon is the Dome.

So their natural reaction to the little dome at Vredefort is to say: “What’s all the fuss about.” One visitor wrote on Trip Advisor that the place was “underwhelming” and he advised others not to bother going.

Well, local tour guides like me and Christo Meyer could have enlightened him. Some come looking for the meteorite and want selfies of themselves with the “stone thing”. Big disappointment! There is no stone thing because the asteroid from space, estimated to be 8-11km across, vaporised on impact. I have visualised a visitor sitting atop that enormous nuclear bomb and being vaporised along with it. Some stone, some selfie!

We show videos with artist impressions of the mighty blast. We demonstrate how the crater was formed by throwing a rock in the water. And we drive, hike, cycle or raft on the Vaal through a magnificently scenic landscape.

The so-called comprises eight ridges with seven valleys in between. The highest ridge is the same elevation as the High Point in Hillbrow and is, in fact, part of the same gold-bearing Witwatersrand Supergroup…that’s another part of the story.

There are nice watering holes along the way and cool breezy places to stop and take in the views. Scientifically knowledgeable people are the ones to do it. I’m not blaming visitors for not know- ing. Those who are too impatient and self-centred to pay attention should realise that they are indeed wasting their time.

And ours. Our mission is to educate, but also entertain.

The big problem in the region is that most local people themselves have little idea they are sitting inside the world’s oldest and largest impact crater. If asked about it they have no answers – or worse – they repeat totally made-up nonsense such as that Noah’s flood caused it. We have much to do