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A large hill crashes into the Bureya River caused by 'a meteorite'

By Olga Gertcyk
25 December 2018

These are the first pictures and video of scene in Khabarovsk region where a sudden and massive rock movement causes semi-blockage and flood risk.

‘An object entered at a sharp angle, pulled down a mound and spread it along the river bed.'

Experts are at odds over the cause of an extraordinary landfall amid reports of hot rocks and extraterrestrial meteorite fragments on a 160 metre-high hill partially now damming the Bureya, a tributary of the Amur River. 

Some experts believe the phenomenon maybe a landslide but this is disputed especially by those who have visited the remote site, some 1,300 km by road from regional capital Khabarovsk. 

Alexey Maslov, the head of Verkhnebureinsky district, said after witnessing the newly formed hill: 'The riverbed is blocked by a bulk, about 600-to-800 metres wide.

‘The height is from 80 to 160 metres above the ice level. 

‘There is no radiation. 

‘An object entered at a sharp angle, pulled down a mound and spread it along the river bed. 

‘It is not clear what it is: maybe an explosion, a bomb, or a falling airliner.’

Yet there have been no reports of rocket tests that went astray here, let alone plane crashes. 

Those who have seen the carnage insisted ‘it cannot be man-made’, he said.

His view is that this was a meteorite strike from a’huge’ lump of space rock block 40 metres of the river channel. 

'We are trying to find the explanation for this incident. I insist that it was a meteorite,’ he said.

Evgeny Zubko, a cosmic dust expert from the School of natural Sciences at the Far Eastern Federal University, said an unnoticed  meteorite is a possible cause.

‘Local residents noted the arrival of a blast wave, (so) the meteorite version is to be clarified. 

‘Whether it will be possible to find the fragments of a meteorite depends on the parameters of the fall - and good luck.’

Rock in the river


Place from which the part of rock fell down


Place from which the part of rock fell down


Place from which the part of rock fell down

'It can be seen that something flew here, touched the top of the hill and landed in the water.…

Those who ventured here made videos of the phenomenon which probably formed in the first two weeks of December some 73km (45 miles) from the remote village of Chekunda.

‘They either started some major building site or a UFO collapsed here,’ said a voice on one video. 

‘This mountain was a kilometre in size - and it just vanished. And the Bureya River …is blocked.’

On another video, observers comment on how ‘trees slid down from the top of the hill (leaving) a naked desert’.

A man waves his hand standing barely visible on the debris to show the sheer scale of the landfall. 

Alexey Maslov

Alexey Maslov, the head of Verkhnebureinsky district

Large rocks were claimed to be ‘meteorite pieces’ and tests will be conducted.

Hunters Anton Ivanov and Alexander Makan found the dramatically changed landscape on 14 December. 

'You don't come across this every day,’ said Ivanov.

'Such scale, such force.

'There is lots of earth, thousands of tons. 

'It can be seen that something flew here, touched the top of the hill and landed in the water.…

Rock in the river


Rock in the river


Rock in the river


Rock in the river

‘This mountain was a kilometre in size - and it just vanished. And the Bureya River …is blocked.’

'It smells like hydrogen sulphide and vapour comes out in some places. 

'We even found a spot on the very top where there are warm stones, we used them to keep our hands warm. 

'It looks like it was very hot there.

‘The ice edges are slim as if they were in boiling water.' 

Aleksei Makhinov, regional chairman of the Russian Geographic Society, suggested it was a landslide possibly caused by seismic activity. 

'It happens very often in the (Russian) Far East,’ he said.

‘The entire coast of the Sea of Okhotsk is covered with these landslides when half a mountain falls down.’

But he believes this was a ‘seismic landslide’.

Boris Shustov


Evgeny Zubko

Head of the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Boris Shustov (top) and Evgeny Zubko, a cosmic dust expert from the School of natural Sciences at the Far Eastern Federal University (bottom).

‘Cracks formed in rock for natural reasons and the cause of the landslide could have been an earthquake,’ he said.

‘A meteorite could have been the reason too but it is unlikely.

‘The level of water will increase, a lake will form, and water will either flow above the edge or, most likely, it will find a way and flow through the rocks in the body of the landslide.’

For now the Bureyskaya hydro power station reservoir downstream is receiving less water. 

There are warnings of flooding upstream because of the semi-blockage. 

Head of the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Boris Shustov, expressed doubt about a meteorite suggesting the havoc was wrought by ‘just a landslide’.

A space object would have been registered by ground based tracking systems. 

'I have looked at the data on the records of all world services, and nothing like that was present.’

Comments (7)

These photos remind me of an event that took place in my area....the Hope Slide. A minor earth tremor caused a massive land slide. The entire mountain came down and the lake disappeared as it did so. To this day (it took place in the sixties), it is a mass of boulders and desolation.
Sid Finster, British Columbia
01/01/2019 16:58
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Quite right! I like your thought. I suggest to fix a theme.
Andrzejnedo, Warszawa
30/12/2018 20:26
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Hi Pamela, good to hear from you again, and glad you like my input!

AGU American Geophysical Union has a write-up, and they cite & credit Siberian Times right off the top! Actually, this is a personal blog on the AGU site, but the 'person' is a ranking research head at Sheffield U, UK. They have a couple satellite pics, not great art-work but useful images. https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2018/12/25/bureya-river-1/

Aleksei Makhinov, Regional RGS, provides a valuable & possibly key piece of 'intelligence', when he says;

" 'It happens very often in the (Russian) Far East,’ he said.

‘The entire coast of the Sea of Okhotsk is covered with these landslides when half a mountain falls down.’ "

This can be a primary topography-formation mechanism, on some geology provinces. I looked for it, in the pics that look up & down the river; not quite a good-enough view. (Plus, hints - and now the AGU pics - seem to say this is very long landslide FLOW (which will affect the seismic signature too), and these may not be so noticeable.)

The AGU piece has a sole/top comment, asserting contact with former Regional seismology survey head Mr. Nikilai Kharitonov, who affirms an earthquake in the area was recorded. But the slide itself would provide a seismic signal. [I suspect not a 'comment', but a professional update.]

And if a quake was going to break things, why just this one spot? Because it was poised, anyway?

Interesting.

I will wander back and find that article with the photos of pretty Far East timberlands.
Ted Clayton, Forks, Washington, USA
30/12/2018 06:47
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Thanks Ted, I really like your detailed explanations (also thanks again for the suggestions for helping the falcons). I also hope the pictures you have seen of model 20th century enlightened forestry are accurate as well.

What do you think of Aleksei Makhinovhe's thoughts on seismic activity?
Pamela K Tetarenko, United States
29/12/2018 19:57
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Is logging-off the river bank standard practice in these parts? Actually, I've seen pictures of large-scale logging in the Far East, where President Putin is encouraging foreign investors to come in and help support the region (which has badly slumped following the loss of Soviet programs), and it's a model of 20th C enlightened management (at least, the pics they shared are ;).

Elsewhere, Russia and Siberia generally utilize conventional logging techniques. It's a lot easier & cheaper & more-profitable to strip-off what you can reach from a barge in the river, and raft the wood downstream, but there are several obvious & non-obvious reasons not to do it this way.

Sometime even, such practices contribute to the destabilization of adjoined geology.

A possible explanation here, would be that this stretch of river is the upper reaches of a reservoir above a planned dam. In such a case, yes, the trees should all be removed to the shoreline of the new lake.
Ted Clayton, Forks, Washington, USA
28/12/2018 20:33
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Hi FishOutofWater, I like your "nickname".,,,:-). What do you think could be a root cause of this type/magnitude of landslide?
Pamela K Tetarenko, United States
28/12/2018 03:13
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A meteorite would have caused a blast that would have blown down trees radially from the center of the explosion. These trees have been dragged down by a flowing landslide. In fact, the landslide scar is visible in the photos. Yes, I am trained in geology, geophysics and I even studied meteorites for a short while. This is an obvious landslide.
FishOutofWater, Raleigh, North Carolina
27/12/2018 05:55
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