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Tswaing Nature Reserve, Pretoria

tswaing nature reserve pretoriaThe Tswaing Nature Reserve lies just off the R35 north of Pretoria. The reserve houses not only a number of wild animals and a large variety of birds, trees and plants, but it is also the place of a 220 000 year old crater, the impact of a huge meteorite – said to be between 30 and 50 metres in diameter. The impact site is one of the best-preserved and youngest in the world and one of the most accessible.

The Tswaing crater lies virtually in the centre of the Tswaing Nature Reserve, it has an elevated circular rim set roughly 60 metres above the surrounding bushveld. On its floor is a brine lake. Evidence of Stone Age and Iron Age have been found at the Tswaing crates. It was only during the 1990s that evidence proved that this crater was caused by a meteorite. Before this, there was rife speculation that it was an old volcano. The meteorite was probably about the size of a an average house and it would have taken no more than 10 seconds to slam into the ground after entering the Earth's atmosphere, releasing the energy of about 100 Hiroshima atom bombs. Life within a 35 kilometre radius would have been wiped out.

The saline lake formed by the meteorite crater has attracted humans ever since it was formed. White settlers named the region Zoutpan (Salt Pan). Local Tswana tribes call the region ""Tswaing"" or ""Place of Salt"". The Early Stone Age people that occupied the Magaliesberg region at the time would have witnessed an incredible explosion.

Although the Tswaing crateris considered far less important, geologically speaking, than the Vredefort Dome, it is a lot more pleasing on the eye, as well as being southern Africa's only example of a lake within a crater caused by a meteorite collision. Unfortunately, before the value of the crater site was understood, the lake was the site of a commercial salt-making operation. Today it is a sanctuary with a small interpretation centre and museum and fairly popular for picnics.




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