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Systemaic minerals:
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Diameter:5 km
Age:500 ± 10 Ma
Coordinates:60° 39' N, 9° 0' E
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Associated specimens:

The Gardnos area is situated 9 km north of the village Nesbyen in the county of Buskerud, south-central Norway. The peculiar "Gardnos breccia" was first described in 1945 and ascribed to explosive volcanic activity in Permian time. This conclusion has lately been questioned, and preliminary field and microscopic investigations by the authors in 1990-91 substantiated a theory of impact origin for the breccia and the structure. The Gardnos Impact Structure is the first of its kind to be described from Norway. Its geographical position is lat. 60 degrees 39'N, long. 9 degrees 00'E. The topography surrounding the structure ranges from 200 m.a.s.l. in the main Hallingdalen valley to more than 1000 m.a.s.l. in the high mountains nearby. At heights of 900-1000 m erosion has cut through the important, more or less horizontal boundary between a complex Precambrian crystalline basement and a deformed Caledonian cover sequence of Cambro-Ordovician sediments and overthrust nappes. Rocks of the latter sequence are however, still preserved in outliers no more than 3 km from the Gardnos structure. Erosional remnants of the Gardnos structure rocks are found within a semicircular area of 4-5 km diameter. Topographically the eroded structure now appears as a bowl-shaped, hanging side valley to Hallingdal. Wooded, late-Quaternary moraines and fluvioglacial deposits cover to a great extent the solid rocks, but the beds of many branching creeks provide good exposures. Thus a great variety of rocks formed within the Gardnos structure can be studied from approximately 350 m.a.s.l. up to more than 800 m.a.s.l. A variety of rocks from the Precambrian basement complex have been affected by the impact. This gives a unique opportunity to study shock-metamorphic effects on varying lithologies. Among the impact-produced structures and rock types that can easily be identified is an outer zone of breccia veining in the varied Precambrian lithologies, a lowermost lens of autochthonous breccia, the "Gardnos breccia" proper, above it a lens of suevite and suevite-like breccias, and at the transition to a series of crater-fill sediments there occur deposits that we interpret as back-fill and slump deposits. Type variation, trace fossils, and numerous sedimentary structures in the crater-fill sediments also testifies to the existence of a local, steep-sided sedimentary basin formed in the Precambrian rocks below the Cambro-Ordovician sea that probably existed in the region at this time. The autochthonous breccia shows great variation in clast size and extensive internal fracturing in the clasts. The fine-grained, black, carbonaceous matrix has entered even the most minute cracks. It is interesting to note that driving a tunnel through this breccia resulted in 30% greater wear on drilling equipment than that experienced when driving in unbrecciated gneiss. Microscopic study of thin sections made from the impactites shows many typical shock-metamorphic textures. Many types of planar features are seen in quartz and feldspar. In quartz methane- carrying fluid inclusions are very common along these directions. Biotites are strongly kinked. Partly vesicular fragments in different stages of devitrification are common in the suevite breccias, and so are crystals of quartz and feldspar showing different stages of isotropisation and melting--all in a heterogeneous mixture together with apparently undeformed rock and crystal fragments. Slight deformation and metamorphism seen in the crater-fill sediments are ascribed to the Caledonian orogeny, which influenced the area in Devonian time. Our studies so far indicate the following sequence of events: At a point in time corresponding approximately to the Cambro- Ordovician transition a bolide of a few hundred m diameter fell into the Lower Palaeozoic sea blasting a crater through its deposits of carbonaceous shale and deep into the underlying crystalline gneisses. Continued sedimentation filled the crater and development of the Caledonides then followed. Deep erosion has left structures and materials enough to unravel the story. Detailed mapping of the structure will continue in 1992, and a drilling project is planned for 1993.