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First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world'

By Anna Liesowska
17 July 2014

Experts examine the newly-discovered hole in the earth in Siberia.

The crater has an icy lake at its bottom with water cascading down its eroding permafrost walls. Picture: Andrey Naumenko, 'Yamal-Region'

The crater on the Yamal Peninsula was caused by aliens, a meteorite, a stray missile, or an explosive gas cocktail released due to global warming, according to various theories in recent days.

Images of the remarkable phenomenon have gone round the world since The Siberian Times highlighted helicopter images of the giant hole earlier this week. 

The first expedition to the scene - the scientists have just returned - took these epic pictures of the hole, including the darkening pattern on the inner rim. 

Now they are using Russian satellite pictures to fix the moment when it suddenly formed. 

They found the crater - around up to 70 metres deep - has an icy lake at its bottom, and water is cascading down its eroding permafrost walls.

It is not as wide as aerial estimates which suggested between 50 and 100 metres.

First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 

The first scientific expedition has just returned from the site, now the experts are working with satellite pictures to fix the moment when the crater has formed. Pictures: Marya Zulinova, press service of the Governor YaNAO

While the team insist that it is a 'natural phenomenon', they insist further study is essential to understanding the formation of the crater in lake-studded Yamal - a name which means 'end of the world' in the local tongue. 

Andrey Plekhanov, Senior Researcher at the State Scientific Centre of Arctic Research, said: 'The crater has more of an oval than a circular shape, it makes it harder to calculate the exact diameter. As of now our estimates is about thirty metres.

'If we try to measure diameter together with soil emission, the so-called parapet, then the diameter is up to sixty meters.

'The crater is from 50 to 70 metres deep'.

First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 

The first look down the crater. Picture: Andrey Naumenko, 'Yamal-Region'

The researchers were unable to make their way to the bottom of the lake, but did go inside the crater. 

'There is ice inside the crater which gradually thaws under the sun.

'Also there is melted water flowing down from its sides, you can see water traces on the pictures. The crater is filled with ice by about eighty per cent. '

He stressed: 'We are working with space photographs to figure out exact time of its formation.

'We have taken soil and ice samples which went straight to laboratories. We can be certain in saying that the crater appeared relatively recently, perhaps a year or two  ago; so it is a recent formation, we are not talking about dozen years ago. 

'Could it be linked to the global warming? We have to continue our research to answer this question. 

'Two previous summers - years 2012 and 2013 were relatively hot for Yamal, perhaps this has somehow influenced the formation of the crater.

'But we have to do our tests and research first and then say it more definitively'. 

First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 

The crater is filled with ice by about eighty per cent. Pictures: Marya Zulinova, press service of the Governor YaNAO

The best theory for now is that the crater was formed by internal - not external - forces. 

'For now we can say for sure that under the influence of internal processes there was an ejection in the permafrost. I want to stress that it was not an explosion, but an ejection, so there was no heat released as it happened'.

Earlier scientists were sure there was burning visible on the sides of the crater. 

'I also want to recall a theory that our scientists worked on in the 1980s - it has been left and then forgotten for a number of years. 

'The theory was that the number of Yamal lakes formed because of exactly such natural process happening in the permafrost. 

'Such kind of processes were taking place about 8,000 years ago. Perhaps they are repeating nowadays. If this theory is confirmed, we can say that we have witnessed a unique natural process that formed the unusual landscape of Yamal peninsula. 

First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 

Experts examine the newly-discovered hole in the earth in Siberia. Pictures: Marya Zulinova, press service of the Governor YaNAO

'There was no traces of anthropogenic impact near the crater, just as there was no traces of human presence, except for very few sledge traces and of course reindeer traces.

'If it was a man-made disaster linked by gas pumping, it would have happened closer to the gas fields', Andrey Plekhanov told The Siberian Times. 

These are about 30 kilometres away. 'Gas workers would have been on alert, letting us know about it immediately.'

Denigrating speculation of aliens or UFOs he insisted:'There is nothing mysterious about it. There is no weird or unexplained feelings there, we came back safe and sound'.

Despite this, he said: 'I've never seen anything like this, even though I have been to Yamal many times.'

First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 


First pictures from inside the 'crater at the end of the world' 

The hole is in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous, some 30 kilometres from the Bovanenkovo gas field. Pictures: Marya Zulinova, press service of the Governor YaNAO

The crater is different from others on Yamal.

'There is nothing mysterious here, it is simply Mother Nature's law with its internal pressure and changes in temperatures', Andrey Plekhanov said.

Marina Leibman,Senior Researcher at the Earth's Cryosphere Institute of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said: 'About the future of the crater - its walls are constantly thawing, water is gathering up and I suspect that it gets frozen at the bottom of the crater. If the water stream intensifies - for example because of the hot second part of July - then it won't have enough time to freeze. This will likely lead to a formation of a new lake.'

Vladimir Pushkarev, Director of the Russian State Scientific Center of the Arctic Research, 'It is an interesting phenomenon, there is every sense in continuing scientific work on it and right now we are discussing the best ways of exploring the site.'

The hole is in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous, some 30 kilometres from the Bovanenkovo gas field. 

Anna Kurchatova from the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Centre thinks the crater was formed by a water, salt and gas mixture igniting an underground explosion, the result of global warming. 

Gas accumulated in ice mixed with sand beneath the surface, and that this was mixed with salt - some 10,000 years ago this area was a sea.

Global warming, causing an 'alarming' melt in the under soil ice, released gas causing an effect like the popping of a Champagne bottle cork, she suggests.

Yamal, a large peninsula jutting into Arctic waters, is Russia's main production area for gas supplied to Europe.

Comments (167)

Wow reading some of these comments i didn't realise there were so many scientists out there! Lets be honest no one knows what happened yet and anyone that thinks they know more than then the people who are researching are idiots. Everyone is so quick to say its got no correlation to global warming well shit I'm sure it doesn't help. We are in a changing state of our planet and over the next 20 years I'm sure we will see more strange phenomenons that people will claim have no correlation to global warming. I mean how many hints can mother nature give us to make a change I'm no greeny preaching hippie but whats it gonna take for people to realise that we are not the most important thing on this planet theres so much more complexity to the planet then what goes on in any humans lives. What good is money when the world we live in is soon to become a very toxic decaying world.
Jerry, Australia
31/07/2014 07:17
4
8
end of world something cameout didn't went in pump the water out will see foot prints
raz, canada
31/07/2014 03:26
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3
It looks as if the hole was dug up because there is gravel and dirt around the rim on top. If it would of been a sink hole that drops the rim around it on top would not look like that.
Elizabeth, USA
30/07/2014 22:42
2
5
Looks kind of like the hole that the Predators created in "Alien vs. Predator" so that the humans could descend down into to start their war games. Just sayin'...
Gregg, USA
30/07/2014 21:38
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5
Looks kind of like the hole that the Predators created in "Alien vs. Predator" so that the humans could descend down into to start their war games. Just sayin'...
Gregg, USA
30/07/2014 21:37
5
4
Simple- its an ice block formed underground by sucessive freeze heave cycles untill flooded and floated to the surface by an extra warm period.
The surface covering earth slid off to the sides and then the block melted and the water drained away.
Look at all the other now lakes in the area - this has been happening for many years.
Tom, New Zealand
30/07/2014 12:14
8
13
Where's Chuck Norris when you need him?
Winston, Australia
30/07/2014 10:42
9
6
It is as if a circular knot in wood was punched out or rotted out... what if the same was true under the ground. Sort of like the limestone in Florida and many sink holes there.
Thomas, Florida
30/07/2014 10:34
1
5
3 pits a year for 8,000 years gives 24,000 circular lakes. Are there that many circular lakes, swamps etc. in the region?
Where are the craters from 2013, 2012, 2011...? Why haven't they been seen? Or is this a new, or at least intermittent phenomena? If so, what's triggering it now?
Elliot Mossman, USA
30/07/2014 06:48
6
6
Could this be a gas jet from the formation of a diamond pipe? This looks a lot like it was created by a high velocity gas jet as the sides of the hole are smooth and do not look burned.
John, Arizona
30/07/2014 06:12
4
6
The scientists know more about that area of Russia than any of us. The article is poorly translated. The photos may look unbelievable but they have not been altered or photoshopped (the last one is distorted due to moisture on the window of the plane) The top layer of soil is vegetative with decomposing organic material (brown mud) Below that is sand which is frozen solid (permafrost, black smooth walls) The sand may be volcanic in origin (look at wikipedia page for "Siberian Traps") which is why it's black. Smoothness is a result of the exposed permafrost melting and refreezing, it is not bedrock, there is no solid rock here. Could not be formed by an explosion of methane (lightning strike) because methane will not ignite without adequate oxygen, and there was no sign of charring. Was likely caused by a bubble of methane gas, or water ice, which lifted up the soil over a period of years. When the gas escaped or the ice melted, the soil collapsed back into the hole.
Dustin, Oregon
30/07/2014 04:58
15
3
This sure debunks the silly global warming hoax. "'Such kind of processes were taking place about 8,000 years ago. Perhaps they are repeating nowadays. If this theory is confirmed, we can say that we have witnessed a unique natural process that formed the unusual landscape of Yamal peninsula.'" See this stuff happened 8,000 years ago. It's climate change and not global warming. It is a NATURAL process. Stop blaming global warming for this stuff. Uneducated!
Hunter, USA
30/07/2014 01:33
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Na minha opinião algo saiu de dentro dela e não ao contrário, pois a terra em roda esta como se algo saísse de dentro da terra. Será que não foi o Godizila.
jose moises, Brasil
29/07/2014 09:53
3
4
E os buracos encontrados em lagos como se explica?????
Victor Hugo Ferreira da Silva, Porangatu-Goiás-Brasil
29/07/2014 07:09
1
2
The article has three or four instances of the scientist stating that this the crater was created by "normal" processes, but he doesn't bother to say HOW it was created. Well, there's that and the crackpot-like sounding water + salt explosion theory. I haven't learned a thing reading this article. :-(
Balunga, Cologne, Germany
29/07/2014 02:55
7
10

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