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陨石撞击打造的德国“钻石城”

更新时间:2017-12-14 19:34:04 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The German town encrusted with diamonds
陨石撞击打造的德国“钻石城”

As I climbed the narrow staircase of the gothic church tower in Nördlingen, Germany, the worn stone steps appeared to glimmer in the sunlight, bringing unexpected flashes of light to what should have been a dark, grey climb to the top.

德国诺德林根(Nördlingen)小镇有一处哥特式教堂塔楼,爬行在塔楼内狭窄的楼梯上,我发现破旧石阶在阳光的照耀下闪闪发光,给通往塔顶的阴暗之行带来了意想不到的光亮。

“That’s because the entire tower is made out of suevite stone, and enclosed in it are small diamonds,” Horst Lenner, the tower watchman, told me enthusiastically.

"这是因为整个塔楼是用陨磺砾岩建成,里面包着一颗颗小钻石,"塔楼的守夜人霍斯特·伦内尔(Horst Lenner)兴致勃勃地对我说。

“Luckily they’re very, very small, otherwise the tower would've been taken down a long time ago," he joked, a wide smile unfolding across his face.

"幸运的是,这些钻石非常小,否则塔楼可能在很久以前就被拆毁了。"他开玩笑说,脸上露出了灿烂的笑容。

Although light-hearted, Lenner’s words are true. During construction of the town, which was first mentioned in records in the 9th Century AD, the settlers didn’t realise the stone they were using was embedded with millions of tiny diamonds, in a concentration seen nowhere else in the world.

伦内尔的话虽轻佻,却无可辩驳。据最早记载,小镇在公元九世纪开始建造,当时定居者们并没有意识到他们所用的石头上镶嵌着数以百万的微小钻石,如此庞大的数量在世界上其他地方绝无仅有。

As I looked down on the sleepy Bavarian town from the top of the tower, it was hard to picture the area as being anything other than tranquil. It was, in fact, a violent and otherworldly event – an asteroid strike that hit 15 million years ago – that led to the strange reality of Nördlingen becoming Germany’s diamond-clad town.

当我从塔顶俯瞰这个安睡中的巴伐利亚小镇时,很难联想到除安静祥和以外的其他画面。但事实上,正是一次暴力的撞击事件才形成了这个超然世外的小镇——1500万年前,一颗小行星的撞击使德国诺德林根"钻石城"成为了现实。

Travelling at an estimated 25km per second, the 1km-wide asteroid slammed into the ground with such force that it not only created a 26km-wide crater in which the town lies, but subjected the bedrock to such intense heat and pressure that the bubbles of carbon within it transformed almost instantaneously into tiny diamonds all less than 0.2mm across – barely visible to the human eye.

这颗1公里宽的小行星以每秒25公里的速度撞击地面后,不仅产生了一座26公里宽的陨石坑,而且基岩遭受强烈的热量和压力,内部的碳气泡几乎瞬间变成了不足0.2毫米的微小钻石,肉眼勉强可见。

With no knowledge that the rock, called suevite, was peppered with diamonds, the buildings were made almost entirely with the gem-laden stone – making Nördlingen like no other town on Earth.

由于不知道陨磺砾岩含有钻石,这里的建筑物几乎全部用镶满宝石的岩石建成——于是,诺德林根一样成为世界上独一无二的"钻石城"。

“Everything within the city wall is made from that asteroid impact rock,” said Nördlingen resident Roswitha Feil.

"城墙内的所有建筑都是由受到那颗小行星撞击的岩石建成。"诺德林根镇的居民罗斯维塔·费尔(Roswitha Feil)说道。

Even more bizarrely, it wasn’t until relatively recently that Nördlingen residents learned the origin of their crater.

更令人费解的是,直到近年来诺德林根镇的居民才知道火山口的起源。

Never paying much notice to their homes’ shimmering quality, locals had always believed that Nördlingen was built in the crater of an extinct volcano until US geologists, Eugene Shoemaker and Edward Chao, visited the town in the 1960s. After studying Nördlingen’s landscape from afar, the scientists noticed the crater did not meet exact criteria for a volcano, and travelled to the town to test out their own hypothesis: that the land had instead been shaped from above rather than below. It didn’t take long for the scientists to prove their theory correct; they needed only to inspect the wall of Nördlingen’s church to discover the clusters of minute gemstones.

直到美国地质学家尤金·舒梅克(Eugene Shoemaker)和美籍华裔地质学家赵景德(Edward Chao)在20世纪60年代造访小镇之前,当地人从来没留意到他们的房子会闪闪发光,并且一直以为诺德林根镇是建立在一个死火山的火山口。后来,科学家远距离研究了诺德林根镇的地形,发现火山口并不满足火山的确切标准,于是前往小镇验证假设:这片土地是从地上而不是地下形成的。这一理论很快得到证明,科学家唯一要做的是考察诺德林根镇教堂的墙壁,发现一簇簇微小的宝石群。

“The school books taught that the land was the way it was because of a volcano,” Feil said. “Then it was discovered that it was from an asteroid, and they had to change all the school books.”

"教科书上说,因为火山所以形成了这片土地,"费尔解释,"后来发现是因为一颗小行星,所以不得不更改所有教科书的内容。"

Not long after Shoemaker and Chao first visited Nördlingen, it was estimated by local geologists that the town walls and buildings contained approximately 72,000 tons of diamonds. Although suevite can be found in other parts of the world from similar impacts, nowhere is the gemstone concentration as high as it is in Nördlingen.

舒梅克和赵景德第一次造访诺德林根小镇后不久,当地地质学家估算出城墙和建筑物中大约镶嵌有72,000吨钻石。尽管世界其他地方因为类似撞击影响发现过陨磺砾岩,但诺德林根小镇的宝石集中程度绝无仅有。

After descending the steps from the top of the tower, I meandered through the town’s quiet streets. It was a chilly day, but I was protected from the biting Bavarian breeze by colourful townhouses and the old defensive wall that encircles Nördlingen. Whenever the sun broke free of the clouds, shimmering diamonds embedded in walls would catch my eye.

爬下塔顶之后,我在安静的小镇街道上漫步。虽然天气异常寒冷,但是色彩鲜艳的联排房屋和诺德林根小镇四周依然挺立的古老城墙将巴伐利亚的刺骨寒风牢牢阻挡在外,使我不受一点侵袭。每当太阳穿破云层,镶嵌在墙上的钻石就会闪闪发光,耀眼夺目。

“It’s quite unique,” said Dr Stefan Hölzl, geologist and director of the RiesKrater Museum. Housed in a 16th-Century barn, the museum educates visitors on how the asteroid impact shaped the town’s future. Throughout its six rooms, display cases are filled with pieces of meteorite and, of course, suevite.

里斯陨石坑博物馆(RiesKrater Museum)馆长地质学家斯特凡·霍尔兹(Stefan Hölzl)博士说:"这可真是独一无二。"博物馆建在16世纪的一个谷仓里,帮助游客了解行星撞击如何改变了小镇的未来。六个展览室的陈列柜里装满了陨石碎片,当然包括陨磺砾岩。

“You have some places in the world where this sort of asteroid impact material has been used for buildings, but nowhere near this amount,” Hölzl said as we moved from case to case. “Here it was used to build the whole town.”

"世界其他地方也有这类撞击形成的岩石被用于建筑,但数量远不及此,"我们参观陈列柜时,霍尔兹说道,"这里整个小镇都是用撞击岩石建成的。"

And it’s not just the buildings that reflect that event millions of years ago. Outside the wall, Jurassic-like conifer and pine forests rim the crater’s edge, nourished by the extremely fertile soil that once sat at the bottom of a salt lake formed in the aftermath of the asteroid strike. Peppered across the landscape lie abandoned mineshafts and quarries from which the suevite was extracted.

除此之外,建筑物并不是百万年前行星撞击事件的唯一证据。城墙之外,陨石坑的边缘长着像侏罗纪时期一样茂密的针叶林和松树林,这是由于小行星撞击后形成了盐湖,而这片土壤正好位于湖底,所以土质肥沃,源源不断地滋养着树林。整个地形中到处都是废弃的矿井和采石场,陨磺砾岩正是从这里开采。

Hölzl told me that Nördlingen’s crater is so distinctive that the Apollo 14 and Apollo 16 astronauts visited in the run up to their moon missions to learn about what sort of rocks they could find in space, and which ones they should bring back to Earth.

霍尔兹告诉我,诺德林根镇的陨石坑与众不同,阿波罗14号和阿波罗16号宇航员在执行登月任务之前都前来参观,提前了解可能在太空中发现的岩石类型,以及应该带回地球的岩石类型。

“We still get visits from Nasa, and astronauts from the European Space Agency were here just two weeks ago,” Hölzl told me proudly. He led me to a room on the museum’s ground level, where a moon rock, a souvenir from one of the Apollo space missions, sat on display.

霍尔兹还充满自豪地对我说:"就连美国宇航局,甚至欧洲航天局的宇航员也来我们这里参观。"在他的带领下,我参观了博物馆一层的展览室,那里陈列有执行阿波罗太空任务之一带回的登月纪念月球岩石。

Yet despite this, many in town remain indifferent about living among millions of tiny diamonds. As one woman told me as I emerged from the church: “We see it every day, for us it's nothing special.”

尽管如此,镇上的许多人仍然对身处数以百万的小钻石无动于衷。正如一位妇女在教堂时告诉我的那样:"这是我们日常所见,对我们来说平淡无奇"。

For Hölzl, who moved to Nördlingen from Munich, the idea that people would not be captivated by the unique geology and history is alien to him. “They don’t think that it’s something interesting. They wonder why people would come here to visit,” he lamented.

但是,霍尔兹是从慕尼黑搬到诺德林根小镇的,所以无法理解为什么这里的人们对如此独特的地质和历史不为所动。"在他们眼中,这么多钻石没什么大惊小怪,反倒奇怪为什么那么多人来这里参观,"他的话语中满是痛惜。

Like the moon rock, Hölzl considers Nördlingen to be exceptional.

他认为诺德林根镇和月球岩石一样,极为罕见。

“The reality is that everything [in Nördlingen] is connected to this event millions of years ago. It may be in the past but you still see it now,” he said. “The present is a product of the past.”

"诺德林根镇的一切都离不开百万年前发生的行星撞击事件。虽然撞击已成过去,但现在它依然呈现在人类眼前,"他强调,"现在是过去的产物。"

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