In Denmark, a short drive south from Copenhagen, there is a beautiful coastline named Stevns Klint. This site shows the answer to an important question: Why Dinosaurs didn’t like Asteroids?! Come along!
Dinosaurs didn’t like asteroids
Millions of years ago, 66 to 67 millions, to be almost precise, Earth was home to dinosaurs. Small dinosaurs, big ones, really really big ones, nice ones, mean ones… you’ve seen Jurassic Park, so you have an idea. Just to be clear, there was nothing resembling humans at that time. We, Humans, came on Earth much, much later.
Dinosaurs were roaming the Earth, minding their business, when an asteroid came crashing on them. And that was bad news, really bad news for them. Such asteroid was one of the biggest to have ever stroked the Earth and its impact was devastating. As the asteroid crashed at sea, it first created a mega-tsunami. But the asteroid was so big that the shock waves from the impact triggered earthquakes and volcanic eruptions all around the globe. These were followed by emission of ashes, dust and micro particules that covered the entire surface of the Earth for years, probably decades, blocking the sun and transforming the surface of the Earth into a unbearable environment, even for dinosaurs.
A majority of dinosaurs were killed by the asteroid and its immediate consequences. The ones who survived the impact, the tsunami or the super-heated dust created by the impact, died later, probably of starvation, maybe of lungs diseases (joking!) or else.
This asteroid is widely accepted by scientists as being the cause of the mass extinction of dinosaurs. So I concluded that dinosaurs probably didn’t like asteroids!
Where did this Chicxulub Asteroid crashed you may wonder?
In the Golf of Mexico near the town of Chicxulub which gave its name to the asteroid.
What is the link with Stevns Klint which is in Denmark, roughly 10,000 km (6,000 miles) from there? Well read on to understand!
The Chicxulub Asteroid was big and here it is in number:
Diameter of the Asteroid: 10 to 15 kilometres (6 to 9 miles)
Size of the crater: 180 kilometers (110 miles) in diameter and 20 km (12 mi) in depth
The importance of Stevns Klint
So if the Chicxulub asteroid crashed in the Golf of Mexico, why are we here on a beach in Denmark looking at a pretty cliff? What is the link?
As mentionnes above, the aftermath of the impact was devastating. The chain reaction created by the asteroid crash, had global consequences, as ash and debris swirled around the globe. And, this is precisely what can be seen at Stevns Klint: the sedimentary record of the ash cloud.
Although Stevns Klint isn’t the only site where such sedimentary record can be seen, it is the most easily accessible.
You will also notice that the Stevns Klint cliffs display an incredible number of fossils, from before and after the Chicxulub event. As such it is a precious record of how the Earth evolved over millions of years.
You are not allowed to dig with tools or else, but whatever fossils you find on the beach can be yours to take home and that is pretty cool!
Visiting Stevns Klint and hiking around
As you arrive at Store Heddinge, follow the Stevns Klint signs, to reach the site. You will be able to park and go see the little church called Højerup Old Church. It is located by the cliff and is famous as part was destroyed due to the erosion of the cliff. On your right, you will find the stairs to go down on the beach.
You may want to start by visiting the Stevns museum, which will give you a quick background in geology and other useful information.
Next you will probably need to decide which part of the site you want to further explore. There is a 20km (12 miles) path along the cliff that you can walk. Such path leads to the lighthouses, the Nature Center, and the Stevensfort, to name a few of the interesting places to see.
The part of the site around the old church is the busiest part. I was actually quite surprised to see so many people as I kind of thought that Stevns Klint wouldn’t be a very touristy site. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that crowded! Just more than I had imagined.
As you go further from this main part, you can walk by the cliff totally peacefully, meaning totally alone!
The Chicxulub asteroid hitting the Earth transformed it forever. Yet, as you can see at Stevns Klint, such event is only represented by a thin black line, which one could easily miss if not told to look for it. So I can’t help to wonder: What will remain of Mankind in 66 Million of years? A line made of fossilized plastic? I know we are better than this, but at this moment in time, there is a great chance that fossilized plastic is the only thing that remain of us and it saddens me.
The astronomy lesson of the day
An asteroid is a small rocky body orbiting around the sun, usually between Mars and Jupiter.
A meteoroid is a piece of an asteroid which broke off.
A meteorite is a meteoroid which traveled to Earth without vaporizing in the atmosphere.
A meteor is the streak of light in the sky caused by a meteoroid entering the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizing.
It is hard to say if the Chicxulub crater was formed by the full asteroid or by a piece of the asteroid. As such, references found on the net are both to the Chicxulub asteroid and the Chicxulub meteorite.
The Technical bits:
The official website: http://kalklandet.dk which includes the map of the site and lots of other useful information.
Do note, that there are only 5 places along the path where you will find stairs to go down the cliffs (check the map on the official website).
Wear comfy shoes. Yes as usual!
No digging, no tagging… There’s a brochure available on what you are allowed and not allowed to do. It’s actually worrying to me that they had to create a brochure to tell people what seems to be common sense.
You can get married at the old church, on the balcony, overlooking the Baltic Sea… just saying!
Stevns Klint is part of the UNESCO World Heritage list since 2014.