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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)

It would help to see what the area looked like before the hole appeared, if such a photo exists.
Jack Yaghubian , San Francisco CA USA
22/07/2014 00:04
1
2
Seems like someone would have brought a drone with a camera to look around down there!!
Mike S, Charlestownn, In. USA
21/07/2014 23:40
4
2
I believe that this is not a sink hole. Something came out of the ground which created which created the cavern below from it power source. Notice the pile of dirt around the cavern. It didn't fall into it but was pushed back. Whatever it was , it was not to far below the surface and as it ascended, it pushed back the ground and the exhaust blast melted the ice below.
Mike Tancredi , USA
21/07/2014 22:22
6
5
Definitely a large experimental laser fired from space! LOL
Laser, BC/Canada
21/07/2014 21:43
7
3
The ejected material seems to be only soil. Where is the rest of the cylindric hole? Did it sink down? What is below the ground of the hole? An explosion is rather unlikely. For me it looks like as if there was a cavern under the hole which collapsed and made the crater.
Till, Germany
21/07/2014 20:55
1
2
I'm a PhD geologist. I have never worked on anything like this, but it does not look exceptional. To me, it looks like a sinkhole because the sides are so steep. If an eruption occurs, the slope of the crater is usually something like 30 to 60 degrees. In this one, they are nearly vertical. I can't explain the debris ejected from the crater, but if you'll notice, the ejecta looks brown. I don't see any gray ejecta.

Everything you see in the wall of the hole is rock. (I use that term loosely because the "rock" may be many millions of years old, but still be soft like soil.) From the water upwards, the layers are (1) very dark gray rock, probably shale, (2) light gray and brown rock, probably shale (white spots are probably ice), (3) dark gray rock, probably shale, (4) light brown soil, and (5) dark brown to black topsoil. All of this looks very ordinary.
Steve, Nitro, West Virginia, USA
21/07/2014 19:55
12
8
It's either just a normal sinkhole in the permafrost caused by melting due to global warming, or a UFO crash site. Take your pick.
Anthony Maw, Vancouver/Canada
21/07/2014 19:26
2
1
UFO alien space ship crash site looks like....
Anthony Maw, Vancouver/Canada
21/07/2014 19:23
5
2
It was a weather balloon.
Bruce, Australia
21/07/2014 12:17
9
2
All the soil around the hole is loose rubble but the crater side walls look they have been cut with a diamond saw. That doesn't make sense.
Jim Bob, Texas USA
21/07/2014 12:14
9
2
I can't see the loose soil surrounding the hole, filling the hole. So what else was in there? I'm not buying this natural phenomenon "story". Sounds like usual Government "weather balloon" nonsense.
Richard, Cedar Falls USA
21/07/2014 12:09
4
3
Have they measured the approximate cubic volume of the soil ejected versus the cubic volume of the hole?
John, Australia
21/07/2014 12:05
3
2
Looks a whole lot like the hole in the movie Alien vs. Predator. And that could be bad.
Non-techie Talk, Canada
21/07/2014 08:00
5
1
It's a pingo.
Dick Holman, WAKEFIELD
21/07/2014 07:31
1
1
I am in no way saying i know what has happened here but it does not look like material has been ejected. it is noted that this is carved out of permafrost . you can see the ground around has expanded in relation to the hole that has formed . think of it this way in the winter you can see this happen when you have ground that is full of water and when it freezes it lift and separates giving you a sense it was pushed up from underneath . i haven't seen many good pictures of the vegetation but it looks as if the ground has come up around some of it like bushes and such that are years old ( not so much exploded).... just my thoughts.
Jeremiah Mcdaniel, GV/CA
21/07/2014 04:02
1
1

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