An interesting regional feature of the state is the Carolina Bay, an elliptical depression rich with biodiversity, thousands of which are found all along the coast from Delaware to Florida. While at least 500,000 have been identified, new laser-based technology is enabling the discovery of thousands more, previously unnoticed.
Though not all Carolina Bays are in the Carolinas, many are and that’s where they were first documented. They’re called “bays” not for the water within them—indeed, many hold little or no water at all—but for the proliferation of bay trees often found inside. Carolina Bays can be substantially older than the surrounding terrain, with many well over 25,000 years old. Native Americans referred to the distinctive wetland habitat within a Carolina Bay as a pocosin.
Theories abound as to their origin. One has it that they’re the result of wave action from when the entire area was underwater in primordial times. The most popular, if unproven theory, is that they are the result of a massive meteor shower in prehistoric times. Certainly their similar orientation, roughly northwest-southeast, makes this intuitively possible as an impact pattern. Further bolstering this theory is the fact that most Carolina Bays are surrounded by sand rims, which tend to be thicker on the southeast edge.
An old, once-discredited theory now gaining new credence is that Carolina Bays are the result of a disintegrating comet, which exploded upon entry into the earth’s atmosphere somewhere over the Great Lakes. Apparently if you extend the axes of all the Carolina Bays, that’s where they all converge. This theory takes on an ominous edge when one realizes that the same comet is also blamed for a mass extinction of prehistoric animals such as the mammoth.