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ILUMETSA METEORITE CRATER

Location: N57° 57` 32.0", E27° 24` 23.1"

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Meteorite craters are rare around the world. In Ilumetsa in Põlva County, however, there is a group of craters formed from meteorite impacts which the locals call Põrguhaud (Hell’s Grave), Sügavhaud (Deep Grave) , Kuradihaud (Devil’s Grave) and Inglihaud (Angel’s Grave) and Tondihaud (Ghost’s Grave). The biggest of the craters, which were formed around 6,600 years ago, is Hell’s Grave. It is up to 80 meters in diameter at its widest point, and 12.5 meters deep. The bottom of the crater is filled with a layer of peat up to 2.5 meters deep. Hikers will find their way to the crater along a well-maintained boardwalk, passing interesting wooden sculptures as they go. There is a forest hut with information boards at the mid-point of the trail. 

Ilumetsa is one of the six places in Estonia known as locations of craters formed by some celestial body. There are five craters in Ilumetsa. The meteorite struck the earth from the west. There is a 3-4 metre-thick peat layer at the bottom of the main crater and it has grown since the falling of the meteorite. Probably due to the very sparse settlement in the area the craters haven’t left much traces to the historic memory of local people. The ‘graves’ were discovered by geologists less than a hundred years ago , however, local inhabitants knew these hollows before.  

There are also some beliefs and legends about Ilumetsa craters. The names of the craters show that people believed the craters would be a home of the Devil. How long local people have known the existence of ‘graves’ and why the hollows have been given the names as they have – Hell’s Grave, Ghost’s Grave, Devil’s Grave, Deep Grave - remains secret. Nowadays wooden sculptures set up in the area convey ancient beliefs.   

Legend has it that a church used to stand where the Põrguhaud crater is now, until one night during the worship three impious brothers entered the church upon which the church sank into the ground together with the crowd in it. Later the thick forest grew at the place to keep locals to remain heathens.  

Another legend tells that in Hell’s grave the life was busy in late evenings. In the center of the cave there was a kettle boiling and the pine forest nearby was overcrowded by Hell’s servants who collected firewood for the bonfire. The bravest even dared to get closer and saw the light of the fire in the distance. If someone went too close, they could become the hell’s servants themselves for being too curious. People were afraid to say Devil’s name near the Hell’s Grave because the Hell’s servants caught those and dragged into the grave. Passing the Hell’s Grave people kept their mouths shut. Herd boys and children were the most afraid of that place.