By Heather Strange
It’s an understatement to say that Jay Huebner has many interests. His educational span impressively includes; Electrical Engineering, Nuclear and Solid State Physics, Membrane Biophysics, Photochemistry, Observational Astronomy and now Sensor Sciences [see www.sensorsgroup.com]. His latest research project, however, will bring together faculty from anthropology, history, engineering, physics, and chemistry.
In the 1990s, Huebner taught a class titled “The Impact of Asteroids.” His development of materials for that class led to an evolving path searching for the origins of Round Marsh, a curious feature located in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Jacksonville, 10 miles north of UNF.
Huebner is quick to give credit where it is due, and in the case of the Round Marsh impact hypothesis, the credit lies with the late John Golden, UNF’s first Chief Wildlife Sanctuary Ranger, an environmental educator for UNF, and a National Park Service Ranger for almost 20 years.
“It was his idea,” Huebner states. Golden had gotten wind of the asteroid course that Huebner was teaching and shared the idea of Round Marsh being an impact crater. Golden’s penchant for the unconventional was not lost on Huebner, and soon an ad hoc committee of UNF faculty and staff was exploring this idea. The group found historical and environmental implications of a meteor impact in the Timucuan Preserve.
They discovered several coinciding accounts from 1564, which spoke of unusual events in the Fort Caroline area. First, historical records provide an account from a Spanish ship in the Bahama Channel [the Gulf Stream] whose crew reported seeing a blazing object streaking west across a moonless night sky toward Florida. French soldiers in Fort Caroline reported seeing light flashes and fires that smoked and burned for days. The French also found many fish floating in the river, which they collected and ate, unfortunately, making many ill. Such illnesses are consistent with toxic metals from a meteor poisoning the aquatic life when it impacted at the water’s edge. Frightened Timucuans, also having observed these phenomena, credited them to the cannons at Fort Caroline and threatened to move away if additional shots were fired.
The consistency of these accounts, from three different cultures, makes this impact unique in having been observed and described in historic documents. The topography of Round Marsh, its location near Fort Caroline and the river, also provide a basis for suggesting it was the meteor impact site. Searches with sensors on and below the surfaces, with funding from various sources and agreement from the National Park Service, may provide proof to confirm the impact hypothesis. That would help make Round Marsh an inviting tourist destination. Descriptions, images and videos of the site, and research planned are posted to www.petridish.org, an Internet site that promotes scientific research.
“If this is a meteor crater, it would be the most accessible crater on the planet for visitors,” Huebner proclaims. Jacksonville is a gateway city with nearly 3 million people arriving annually at the International Airport along with countless highway travelers. Verification of a meteor crater inside the city could elevate tourism here to new levels, encouraging more to stop and stay in Jacksonville to see the wonderment at these sites. “Tourists on the way to Disney World to see a plastic mouse, can stop and see these historical sites and results of this unusual natural phenomenon here,” Huebner muses.
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