Sunday, Aug 25 2019
All Cities
Choose Your City
'What has enabled Russia to rise among the great powers of the world…has been the conquest of Siberia'
W.Bruce Lincoln

Hell on fire! Raging bush inferno at Batagai Depression, giant gash in the tundra

By The Siberian Times reporter
16 July 2019

After a month of warm, dry weather and wildfires, the huge crater nicknamed ‘Mouth of Hell’ is now under direct threat.

The destruction of trees are likely to rapidly increase the speed of an phenomenon visible from space.. Picture: Social media

The fear is that flames burning on the rim of the depression will weaken the permafrost and cause a major enlargement of the Batagai or Batagaika ‘megaslump’, seen as a wonder of Siberia.

Already growing by some 30 metres a year, say scientists, the destruction of trees are likely to rapidly increase the speed of an phenomenon visible from space.

Reports say the destruction of the tundra is ‘alarming’ in the Verkhoyansk district of Yakutia region, also known as the Sakha Republic.

Wildfires close to Batagai


Wildfires close to Batagai


Wildfires close to Batagai


Wildfires close to Batagai


Wildfires close to Batagai

One account says the the impact of lighting in ‘dry’ thunderstorms is akin to carnage from ‘incendiary bombs’. Pictures: Vesti Verkhoyanya

‘In the Batagai area, fire is raging on the world-renowned depression,’ reported Vesti Verkhoyanya. 

One account says the the impact of lighting in ‘dry’ thunderstorms is akin to carnage from ‘incendiary bombs’.

Some 237 hectares of dense high forest are ablaze, according to latest reports. 

A pall of smoke hangs over the district. 

Known by some as the ‘Mouth of Hell’, locals see this spectacular crater as superstitious, and call it the 'gateway to the underworld'.

Fires


Map

The fire is 7 kilometres from Ese-Khaya village and also threatenes to Batagai.

In June we reported wildfires some 10 to 15 kilometres from the megaslump crater - a large hole in the frozen Arctic soil seen by scientists as highlighting the dramatic speed of thawing permafrost. 

The depression is a tadpole-shaped depression around one kilometre long, 800 metres wide and 100 metres deep.

Earlier Dr Petr Danilov, of the Research Institute of Applied Ecology of the North, in Yakutsk, had said: ‘If the wildfires access the depression, it surely will have a strong impact on the speed it grows.”

The fire is 7 kilometres from Ese-Khaya village. 

Batagai in smoke


Batagai in smoke


Batagai in smoke


Batagai in smoke

Batagai village is constantly in smoke from the raging wildfires. Pictures: Social media

’14 people from Batagai are seeking to control this fire, using five vehicles and 12 drones.’

Batagai village itself ‘is threatened by the fire’.

Local officials have drawn up a ‘mobilisation plan’ by which every enterprise must create ‘brigades’ ready to fight fires at any moment. 

The gash in the tundra was caused in the Soviet era when forest was cleared nearby.

This resulted in the slump.  

Batagai depression


Batagai depression

The gash in the tundra was caused in the Soviet era when forest was cleared nearby. Pictures: Slava Stepanov

It is now being enlarged and shaped by climate change due to thawing permafrost, according to scientists.

In the depression, scientists found a perfectly preserved prehistoric baby horse, an extinct foal from the cold-resistant Lenskaya species. 

There are hopes DNA from the foal will allow scientists to clone the species back to life.

Comments (3)

The article *does state the *primary* (dictionary meaning: the first in order of time or development) cause of the crater was deforestation -

"The gash in the tundra was caused in the Soviet era when forest was cleared nearby.

This resulted in the slump."

Accordingly, when the area was cleared of trees it exposed the ground beneath to sun and began to melt the top of the permafrost, making it spongy and sinking to walk upon. Thanks to the internet we know permafrost is melting in Canada + worldwide as well as Siberia due to the warmer temperatures of the last decade. As the ice in the soil melts, it compacts, slumps. The melting permafrost releases trapped methane gas from the centuries of decomposed matter in the soil and the limestone landscape which is underneath the tundra, formations of pits and craters which also trapped gas over millennia. Escaped gas accelerated the sinking of the ground until the Batagaika was exposed.

I have tried to avoid suggesting that the political tenets of climate change were part of this process. But it is a fact that high concentrations of methane released by frozen tundra is a phenomenon that will contribute to warming our atmosphere as much or more than CO2. The positive feedback loop of a melting tundra (which is already occuring worldwide) and continued higher temperatures will thaw more tundra, releasing more methane, exposing more craters Siberia, and possibly making large pockets of escaped methane a danger to people who live there. So, yes, the Soviets certainly did not have any foresight in these matters. Which is very grave, I think. We do need to find political solutions sooner rather than later.
Salmon Preston, Bellevue, WA
01/08/2019 11:09
0
0
Please stop citing climate change as the primary reason for the existence of the slump. The slump is there because the Soviets stripped a huge region of tiaga. Why did the Soviets raze the forest to begin with? That is the crux of the story, not the fell beast "climate change." The same applies to other stories here at the Siberian Times. Dumping coal ash into lakes turns the water sapphire blue and toxic, so why is coal ash dumped into the lake?
Tiki , California
17/07/2019 03:43
18
8
Looks to be a beautiful area. Nature does as it will and humans, most often, have little ability to counter. Hopefully, there will be no loss of human life, with little property damage. As to wildlife, some will be lost, hopes its kept to a minimum. As to the alteration of the landscape, it's a wait and see game. Best of luck to all in the area.
Bob Kirby, Plano, USA
16/07/2019 22:14
1
0
1

Add your comment

We welcome a healthy debate, but do not accept offensive or abusive comments. Please also read 'Siberian Times' Privacy Policy

Name

Town/Country

Add your comments

The views expressed in the comments above are those of our readers. 'Siberian Times' reserves the right to pre-moderate some comments.

Control code*

Type the code

* obligatory


News

Business

The Bank of Russia official exchange rates of foreign currencies
EUR72.62USD65.60GBP80.06Other...