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Kaali meteorite crater

Location: N58° 22` 22.0", E22° 40` 9.99"

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Kaali field of meteorite craters is situated in Saaremaa and is the rarest nature wonder in Estonia, being at the same time the most spectacular one in Eurasia. People usually talk only about one, the biggest crater, but actually there are nine of them in the area. Among the world's giant craters Kaali crater is on 8th place. It was the last giant meteorite to fall into a densely populated area. Meteorite fall caused big damages on already inhabited Saaremaa during the Bronze Age. Wildlife and a lot of people were probably killed within a 6 km radius. It could be compared to explosion of an atomic bomb which is 25% more powerful than the atomic bomb thrown to Hiroshima city at the end of the World War II. According to the scientific research, the approximate time of Kaali meteorite fall is 7,500- 7,600 years ago. The giant meteorite weighing 400 – 1,000 tonnes entered the atmosphere of the Earth with a speed of 15 to 45 km per second. Falling with that cosmic speed it exploded meeting the Earth's atmosphere at the height of 5-10 km, fell apart and came down to the ground in pieces. The largest of the pieces slammed the earth creating a big crater with diameter of 110 m and depth of 22 m. Today it is known as Lake Kaali because it is usually full of water. The meteoric origin of the lake was first proven in 1937. This new landform was good for building a stronghold, getting fresh water and sacrificing to nature gods as the lake was also known as Holy Lake and there is a lot of archaeological evidence.                                         

The event has figured in the mythology of different nations. In old runes there are lines that tell about burning Saaremaa. In Finnish epic Kalevala the falling fireball was described. In the 13th-century chronicle of Henricus de Lettis was written how in North Estonia, on the top of Ebavere holy hill, the God of Saaremaa islanders was born and flew as a 'spark-tail' to Saaremaa. (The meteorite entered the atmosphere just near Ebavere and became visible as a fireball) It is possible that Saaremaa was the legendary Thule Island, first mentioned by Pytheas, an ancient traveller from a former Greek colony, which we know as Marseille today. He might reach the island some time between 350 – 320 BC where local barbaric tribesmen showed him the place where 'the sun went to rest'. A local legend tells a different story about the birth of Lake Kaali: Once upon a time there lived a landlord near Kaali who had twelve children. The first child was a boy and the last one a girl. The youngest of daughters married to the oldest of his sons. Brother loved his sister a lot because she was the most beautiful woman in the world. On the wedding day, the local priest was asked to come to the manor and wed them. On their way back from the wedding the priest asked his coachman not to look back. The coachman couldn't stop himself and looked back because he was curious and at that very moment the manor house with all the people inside sank underground. That is how Kaali lake appeared. Sometimes in the depth of the lake the ruins of the old manor house can be still seen and every year on Midsummer Eve the hands of poor bride and groom with wedding rings on rose to the surface of the lake.