Giant crater in Russia's far north sparks mystery

Jul 26, 2014 by Anna Malpas
A mysterious crater in the permafrost north of regional capital Salekhard in the Yamalo-Nenets region, 2,000 km from Moscow, on June 16, 2014

A vast crater discovered in a remote region of Siberia known to locals as "the end of the world" is causing a sensation in Russia, with a group of scientists being sent to investigate.

The giant hole in the remote energy-rich Yamalo-Nenetsky region first came to light in a video uploaded to YouTube that has since been viewed more than seven million times.

"The crater is enormous in size—you could fly down into it in several Mi-8s (helicopters) without being afraid of hitting anything," the person who posted the video, named only as Bulka, wrote.

The crater is located in the permafrost around 30 kilometres (18 miles) from a huge gas field north of the regional capital of Salekhard, roughly 2,000 kilometres northeast of Moscow.

The appearance of the mysterious chasm prompted numerous conspiracy theories and speculation that it may have been caused by something otherworldly, with some even suggesting aliens might be behind it.

Initial theories suggesting the crater was caused by a meteorite, however, were dismissed by scientists.

"This does not stand up to any criticism," the deputy director of the Oil and Gas Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vasily Bogoyavlensky, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

He said the crater was likely to have been caused by the melting of underground ice in the permafrost, freeing gas that then built up high pressure and broke through to the surface.

"At some point an explosion took place without any flame," Bogoyavlensky said.

In an effort to discover its mysteries, regional governor Dmitry Kobylkin sent a group of scientists into the tundra where the crater is located in the Yamal peninsula—which translates as "the end of the world", Interfax reported.

A scientist walks near a mysterious crater in the permafrost north of regional capital Salekhard in the Yamalo-Nenets region, 2,000 km from Moscow, on June 16, 2014

Marina Leibman, chief researcher at the Earth Cryosphere Institute, which studies permafrost, was part the team sent to scour the area.

"A thorough search showed there were no traces of people or machinery" by the crater, Leibman said in a statement released by local authorities.

She said that the crater could not have been caused by a meteorite because there were no traces of burning around the edge.

"It most likely happened when pressure went up in some cavity containing deposits of marsh gas (methane)," she said.

"So far this is just a hypothesis, the least contradictory one. There is no proof," she cautioned.

No radiation

Andrei Plekhanov, a senior researcher at the state Scientific Centre for the Study of the Arctic, said the crater has a diameter of around 40 metres (130 feet) on the inside and 60 metres on the outside.

"To measure the depth precisely, you need specialists with serious mountaineering equipment," he added.

"It's deadly dangerous to go close because the sides of the raised mound around it constantly cave in," Plekhanov said, quoted by the regional authorities in a statement.

Scientists measured radioactivity levels and found there was no dangerous radiation.

The Yamalo-Nenetsky region is the source of more than 80 percent of the natural gas Russia pumps out.

The find also prompted speculation that the crater could have been caused by an explosion of shale gas, the regional authorities said in a statement, adding: "This version will also be studied by researchers."

Scientists have also found a second, smaller crater with a diameter of around 15 metres, Interfax reported, after reindeer herders alerted them.

"It's just like the one near Bovanenkovo but many times smaller, around 15 metres in diameter. Snow can be seen inside the hole," local lawmaker Mikhail Lapsui told Interfax after visiting the site.

Experts said they were keen to explore the big crater further.

"It's an interesting phenomenon. We are discussing further study of this place. It really is worth continuing scientific work," Vladimir Pushkarev, the head of the Russian Centre for Developing the Arctic, was quoted as saying by regional authorities.

"A lot of scientists... would like to study the vertical wall of the crater," said Leibman.

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User comments : 38

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ThomasQuinn
3.3 / 5 (7) Jul 26, 2014
...bring in the 'hollow-earth' nazi-madcaps.
Lex Talonis
1.4 / 5 (11) Jul 26, 2014
It's the ventilation for the hollow earth nazi base kitchens.....

It's not big enough for the standard interplanetary flying saucers to fly through.
Arties
1.6 / 5 (20) Jul 26, 2014
The formation of these sinkholes is quite frequent in recent time and it could indicate the shrinking of Earth as it comes out of dark matter cloud (which could indicate the end of global warming period too)
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (10) Jul 26, 2014
This is the third time this has been reported about, on Physorg alone, in the last couple of weeks. I still wanna hear a little more about what they have learned about it.
Mayday
4.5 / 5 (6) Jul 26, 2014
We have extensive photographic surveys of 4+ planets/moons (Earth, Mercury, Moon, Mars, and portions of outer moons), but this crater is the only one of its kind that has ever been seen? That's a little odd. What am I missing here?
savroD
4 / 5 (4) Jul 26, 2014
I hope nobody saw a Silver Surfer nearby!
antigoracle
2.3 / 5 (16) Jul 26, 2014
Methane eh!!
This must be the earth's anus.
adam_russell_9615
4.1 / 5 (9) Jul 26, 2014
"To measure the depth precisely, you need specialists with serious mountaineering equipment," he added.

Send in the drones?
Shootist
2.3 / 5 (6) Jul 26, 2014
The only thing that is enormous around here is the hyperbole.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (6) Jul 26, 2014
We have extensive photographic surveys of 4+ planets/moons (Earth, Mercury, Moon, Mars, and portions of outer moons), but this crater is the only one of its kind that has ever been seen? That's a little odd. What am I missing here?

They've reported a smaller one in the region.
I see a tourism opportunity here, for "the end of the Earth" tours...
adam_russell_9615
3 / 5 (2) Jul 26, 2014
Looks like a gopher hole.

JRi
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 26, 2014
I would love to drop a torch in the hole from a helicopter and see what happens.
axemaster
4.8 / 5 (4) Jul 26, 2014
They should just fly a quadcopter drone into it to measure the depth.
Dr_toad
Jul 26, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Dr_toad
Jul 26, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Whydening Gyre
4.3 / 5 (7) Jul 26, 2014
I would love to drop a torch in the hole from a helicopter and see what happens.


You wouldn't want to send a gas probe down on a cable first? Or a camera or two? Just "throw a torch in it", like an idiot?

Right...

Hey, T.. A torch might be more fun, tho...
Dr_toad
Jul 26, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Psilly_T
3 / 5 (4) Jul 26, 2014
The whole torch idea does sound a lot more fun than waiting around some more. :D Lets combine the drone thing with the torch thing and bam 2 birds one stone less dummies involved.
Seriously though, I am very curious, as are most, to see how deep this is. News that there is a smaller one is just making this more intriguing.
Sean_W
5 / 5 (9) Jul 26, 2014
It's called a "pingo" it's a geological formation, common in that area and others of similar climate conditions. Geology. Maybe people should have looked at that first instead of UFOlogy and climatology.
http://wattsupwit...-name-o/
Dr_toad
Jul 26, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
kochevnik
1.2 / 5 (17) Jul 26, 2014
Obviously the work of Russian separatists. No proof is needed because USA needs to get the war started
OZGuy
4.8 / 5 (11) Jul 26, 2014
@kochevnik

Take your nasty little mindset and puerile attitude and crawl back under your rock!
kochevnik
Jul 26, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
OZGuy
5 / 5 (15) Jul 26, 2014
@kochevnik
Not usually one to react emotionally BUT you went from push to shove and Aussies don't take that crap from the likes of you.

I've reported you and emailed Physorg requesting you be banned. I don't give a flying f**k about your politics BUT we lost good people on MH17 and the Dutch a hell of a lot more. Please just F**K off if all you're interested in doing is being offensive.
Eddy Courant
1 / 5 (6) Jul 26, 2014
Just more proof of global warming
Vietvet
5 / 5 (8) Jul 26, 2014
Just more proof of global warming


Your snarky comment aside, if the Russian scientist are right, the unusually warm winters of past two years could have contributed to the formation of the craters.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2014
Looks like a gopher hole.

That would be one BIG gopher...
Sinister1812
5 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2014
Sounds like the Russian sequel to The Thing.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (3) Jul 27, 2014
Who you gonna get to do that? Oh, wait. I'll bet there are lots of folks here that think methane is a benign gas, right?

Dr. T. Since it's open at the top, wouldn't that have allowed any remaining methane to rise? And. after a few months of atmospheric diffusion, wouldn't it have already dissipated? Therefore, no explosion?
Dr_toad
Jul 27, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
NIS_0
1 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2014
So our nuclear testing seismic sensors were sleeping that day? Must have been a soft belch on a big scale. Or...
Osiris1
not rated yet Jul 28, 2014
Are those smooth sides? Why is that?
mooster75
not rated yet Jul 28, 2014
The planet farts and everyone gets in an uproar...
cjn
5 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2014
Graboids.
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (6) Jul 28, 2014
I'm all for sending scientists to investigate but would it be asking too much to have an actual PROFESSIONAL photographer to take some decent photos????
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (5) Jul 28, 2014
The planet farts and everyone gets in an uproar...

Not everyone. Mostly just those of us on Phys.org...
What really surprises me is the lack of comments on plasma discharge thingies..
Rutzs
1 / 5 (3) Jul 28, 2014
I thought this was already debunked to be a Kimberlite Pipe?
Eddy Courant
not rated yet Jul 28, 2014
Send in the Drones!
Vietvet
5 / 5 (2) Jul 28, 2014
A third crater has been found.

http://www.nbcnew...-n166901
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Jul 29, 2014
A third crater has been found.

http://www.nbcnew...-n166901

Wasn't this area home to extensive volcanic activity numerous millions of years ago?
Dr_toad
Jul 29, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Jul 29, 2014
Probably not as recently as the oil and gas deposits, and the permafrost that's melting.

Which makes me wonder about something else -
as deep as these appear to be hints the possibility that the Earth is heating from the inside, as well...
At least in the Northern Hemisphere...
skills4u
5 / 5 (1) Jul 29, 2014
Osiris1
Are those smooth sides? Why is that?

Sink holes can have smooth sides ! look @ this one in Brazil
http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1017191/thumbs/o-KILLER-SINKHOLES-facebook.jpg
rockwolf1000
5 / 5 (5) Jul 30, 2014
Osiris1
Are those smooth sides? Why is that?

Sink holes can have smooth sides ! look @ this one in Brazil
http://i.huffpost.com/gen/1017191/thumbs/o-KILLER-SINKHOLES-facebook.jpg


Conspicuously absent from your photo is the rim of ejected material present in the Russian crater/hole. Hard to believe the same process could create both of them.
Professor Plum
not rated yet Aug 09, 2014
Here's me hoping they discover ruins of an ancient civilization at the bottom of one of these craters, then I googled earthed "Yamal Peninsula Russia" and saw the whole landscape is littered with these shapes.