It was first thought to be a meteorite crater ... but it acts mysteriously like a UFO crater … and it’s in Siberia where locals fear it and some believe it could be the result of a neutron star drilling completely through the planet. So, what IS it? ‘It’ is the Patom Crater and it has baffled scientists for decades while scaring both researchers and locals with its strange and allegedly deadly powers. Now a team has developed a new theory explaining its existence that isn’t has cool as a neutron star drilling through the center of the Earth but perhaps more plausible.
The Patom or Patomskiy crater, aka "Fire Eagle Nest," was discovered in 1949 by Russian geologist Vadim Kolpakov in the Irkutsk region of southeastern Siberia, a remote area hundreds of miles from the nearest big city. Kolpakov himself was puzzled by what he found – a circular mound made of crushed limestone measuring 520 feet (160 meters) in diameter and 139 feet (40 meters) in height, with a mound in the depressed center of the ring standing 39 feet (12 meters) high. That’s a pretty unusual 250,000 cubic meter (8,800,000 cu ft) pile of limestone weighing about one million tons. What could have caused it … or put it there?
“I thought I was mad. From a distance it reminded me of a giant pit mine and I even wondered if people were there. Why would they be? This is a dense area of the taiga. Plus there were no NKVD labor camps around here - I knew it for sure. Secondly, I thought that it might be an archeological artefact, but the local Evenk and Yakut people were not ancient Egyptians. They can’t built rock pyramids.”
Kolpakov bravely climbed the mound, despite warnings from the indigenous people he had just insulted that “Fire Eagle Nest” had an evil power that caused deer and other animals to stay away from it and eventually and mysteriously killed anyone who stepped inside of it. While it didn’t affect Kolpakov, the leader of an expedition in 2005 died shortly afterward of a heart attack. Coincidence?
Kolpakov believed he was standing in a meteorite crater near the Patomskiy river. While some who agreed with him suggested it was from a fragment of the 1908 Tunguska meteorite, brave expeditions after the fateful one in 2005 determined it to be about 500 years old. Theories formed from data collected during those expeditions (and subsequently rejected) included a volcanic eruption (too small, no other craters), a super-dense, metallic, cylindrical object crashed (no one has found any metal), an underground nuclear explosion (no radiation), a spaceship landed there (and left a pile of limestone?), a fragment of a neutron star drilled through the Earth (where’s the entry hole?) or some sort of Siberia-only, warming-freezing, possibly methane-related phenomenon like the Siberian craters.
A recent article in Russia Beyond reveals the latest and most plausible theory for the Patom crater:
“A phreatic (steam) explosion, that happened either during magma emplacement into hydrous rocks or due to the faulting and decompression of heated hydrous rocks.”
A what? A hydrous rock or mineral is one which has undergone a chemical reaction that added water to its crystalline structure (amphibole, lawsonite, zoisite, chloritoid, talc, etc.). Magma emplacement is the vertical migration of magma that is driven by gravity. So, magma hits the water-filled rocks, heats up the water, creates steam, causes an explosion and leaves a crater and a mound behind to baffle natives and scientists.
This theory explains why Kolpakov felt heat, which may be the reason why animals avoid it and why vegetation may be unable to grow around it. However, if there was enough magma and hydrous rocks to form one crater, why aren’t there more?
Science, especially geology, is still leading in the race to explain the Patom Crater, despite efforts to promote pseudoscience reasons. One thing is certain -- never insult or underestimate the abilities of indigenous peoples.