The first Anderson or Witzke learned of this setback to their careers was when they arrived at a conference in South Dakota and found people coming up to them with sympathetic looks and saying: "We hear you lost your crater." It was the first they knew that Izett and the other USGS scientists had just announced refined figures revealing that Manson couldn't after all have been the extinction crater.
It was pretty stunning, recalls Anderson. "I mean, we had this thing that was really important and then suddenly we didn't have it anymore. But even worse was the realization that the people we thought we'd been collaborating with hadn't bothered to share with us their new findings."
He shrugged. "Who knows? Anyway, it was a pretty good insight into how unattractive science can get when you're playing at a certain level."
The search moved elsewhere. By chance in 1990 one of the searchers, Alan Hildebrand of the University of Arizona, met a reporter from the Houston Chronicle who happened to know about a large, unexplained ring formation, 120 miles wide and 30 miles deep, under Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula at Chicxulub, near the city of Progreso, about 600 miles due south of New Orleans. The formation had been found by Pemex, the Mexican oil company, in 1952—the year, coincidentally, that Gene Shoemaker first visited Meteor Crater in Arizona—but the company's geologists had concluded that it was volcanic, in line with the thinking of the day.