A hole in the ground is just a hole in the ground … unless it’s a mysterious Siberian crater, 165 feet deep, and has something about it that Siberia’s leading crater expert tells The Siberian Times:
“This object is unique. It holds a lot of additional scientific information, which I am not yet ready to disclose.”
Huge craters that seem to appear overnight with no advance warning or visible explanation have been plaguing Siberia for the past few years. Yamal (the name means End of the Earth) Peninsula in northern Russia is where the first ones were found starting in 2014. Rumors of giant sandworms, alien spaceships, secret government weapons, hungry reindeer (really!) and other strange theories were considered before scientists like Vasily Bogoyavlensky of the Russian Oil and Gas Research Institute in Moscow settled on hydrolaccoliths or pingos, which are mounds of frozen water, soil and methane gas which build up pressure as climate change warms the permafrost until they explode and collapse. Well, that’s the accepted theory.
“Through the cracks, natural gas got into the melting ice core, filled it and the pingo erupted. It was also heated by a stream of warmth coming from the bowels of the earth through the cracks … It’s a very interesting process, which we have never observed before.”
Bogoyavlensky was baffled in 2014 when he inspected his first crater, but methane was always a possibility for him. While most scientists blamed the pingo explosions and collapse on the heat of climate change, one in 2016 generated this unusual theory from Vladimir Melnikov – the Head of the Faculty “Earth’s Cryosphere” at the Tyumen State Oil and Gas University.
“There was a grass and lichen cover on the Yamal Peninsula. But with increasing number of reindeer, the [vegetation] gets overgrazed. The reindeer are eating too much. No moss, no cover to reflect [sunshine] from the soil surface.”
Who points the finger at reindeer … other than other reindeer playing games? Another strange incident occurred in 2015, when an expedition was sent to inspect a crater containing what appeared to be a metallic object, possibly a spaceship.
“At this moment their call ended, and we could not reach them again. When we sent a back-up helicopter to the site there was no sign of the three-man team. They have vanished. The crater was empty.”
That story seemed to disappear too.
While many are pushing the climate-change-melting-permafrost-triggering-pingos-making-craters explanation, some are blaming overly aggressive natural gas mining by Russian companies. Could that be what Bogoyavlensky is not yet ready (or perhaps afraid to) disclose?
“In a number of areas, pingos – as we see both from satellite data and with our own eyes during helicopter inspections – literally prop up gas pipes. In some places they jack up the gas pipes… they seem to begin to slightly bend these pipes.”
It’s not clear how close this latest crater is to the nearest city or village (photos here), but many have been close. They also seem to grow over time as sides collapse and the crater fills with water. The scariest aspect is that they’re generally big, deep, unannounced … and happening more frequently every year.
‘Crater’ sounds too boring, ‘pingo’ sounds too cute and ‘hydrolaccolith’ sounds too scientific. Climate-change-induced methane explosion hole sounds like the real (not to mention scary and depressing) cause, but as long as drilling goes on and scientists are suspicious and hesitant to speak … these Siberian craters will continue to be mysterious.