The Kaali meteorite crater is the result of a meteorite impact that possibly occurred somewhere between the 4th and 8th century B.C. It is about 110 meters wide and 22 meters deep. The crater walls are covered with trees and vegetation. A path around the rim of the crater allows you to observe it from all sides.
The walls of the crater have been used as a fortress in the middle ages. The crater is also part of many Estonian myths and stories. More recently a famous children story writer in Estonia, Henno Käo, wrote a story involving a comet and this crater. I bought the book, in Estonian nonetheless, in the hope that it would help me to learn the language.
The water level of the lake changes with the seasons, as you can see from the photos below. When the lake is nearly dry a small elevated central mound appears in the lake, distinctive of impact craters.
The age of the crater has been estimated at anywhere between 2400 years and 7500 years. The younger estimates (2400 to 2800 years) being based on iridium deposits in a nearby bog appears to be the most likely. What this implies is that the impact happened at a time that the island was inhabited, thus it must have been witnessed by human beings, and possibly even caused human casualties. Studies have shown that the forest of Saaremaa most likely burned down entirely as a result of the impact.
There are 8 other smaller impact craters in the surrounding area.
The Kaali meteorite crater is definitively worth visiting if you are on the Estonian island of Saaremaa. It is very close to the main road to the island's capital Kuressaare.
Copyright Otto de Voogd 1997-2008