When is the best time to explore a mysterious crater that opened unexpectedly in the Siberian tundra with no warning and no explanation? When it’s frozen and whatever is inside is plugged up with ice, of course. That’s why researchers from the Russian Centre of Arctic Exploration waited until winter (isn’t it always winter in Siberia?) before rappelling down the sides of the largest crater found earlier this year in the northern Siberia area of Yamal.
Led by the center’s director, Vladimir Pushkarev, scientists descended this week into the hole using climbing equipment. When thawed, the hole was estimated to be 200 feet (61 meters) deep. They went down 54 feet (16.5 meters) before reaching the solid ice plugging the hole.
At that point, Pusharev says his team got to work.
They did radiolocation tests at a depth of 200 meters, took probes of ice, ground, gases, and air. Now they have all gone back to their institutes and laboratories and will work on the material. ‘The next stage is processing all of the gathered information. Then we plan to explore the surrounding area, comparing images from space, and even those taken in the 1980s, to understand if there are - or were - some similar objects.
Oh, come on, Mr. Pushkarev. Didn’t you see any missile fragments or UFO imprints or sandworm feces?
As of now we don't see anything dangerous in the sudden appearance of such holes, but we've got to study them properly to make absolutely sure we understand the nature of their appearance and don't need to be afraid about them.
The prevailing scientific theory for the holes is still the release of gas hydrates that were thawed by something which caused them to explode, creating the crater from below. Most researchers lean towards climate change as the reason for the increased heat, but scientist Vladimir Popapov thinks it could be geothermal:
The crater is located on the intersection of two tectonic faults. Yamal peninsula is seismically quiet, yet the area of the crater we looked into has quite an active tectonic life. That means that the temperature there was higher than usual.
The team intends to return to explore the other holes and hopefully take some more of these really cool pictures.