Almost 5,000 years ago, a meteorite shower hit the Outback of Australia leaving 12 large craters in the arid surface of the desert. The Henbury Meteor weighed several tonnes and accelerated to over 40,000km per hour on its descent to Earth. It shattered before impact and the fragments or meteorites created the resulting craters.
The Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve is one of the world's best-preserved small crater fields. Named for the nearby Henbury cattle station and discovered by the station manager in 1899, little interest was shown in the site until the Karoonda meteorite fell on South Australia in 1930. The impact of the Henbury Meteorites occurred 4,700 years ago, and the largest crater is 180m wide and 15m deep, while the smallest crater is only 6m wide and a few centimetres deep. It's thought that the impact of the meteorites would have occurred while humans inhabited the area and the crater field is considered a sacred site to the local Arrernte Aborigines.
Due to the passage of time and the elements, the defined edges of the craters have softened to be the broad undulating mounds visible today. The fragments dispersed from the meteorite shower consist of mainly iron and nickel, and over 500kg of metal has been found on this site with one specimen alone weighing in at over 100kg. Now a protected site, it's illegal to remove any meteorite fragments, although there are few left in the area. For a closer look at the craters, there's a self-guided walking track around the mounds where four of the craters can be seen clearly and inspected in detail. The reserve also contains a camping site, pit toilet, wood barbecue and picnic facilities.
Entry to the reserve is free, although there's a fee to camp onsite. To visit the Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve, drive 132km south from Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway then turn onto Ernest Giles Road. Follow the gravel road for 8km, then turn north and drive a further 5km to reach the reserve entrance point.