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Disturbing melody of melting permafrost in 'crater' called 'gateway to hell'

By The Siberian Times reporter
10 March 2017

Running water is one of the most soothing and relaxing sounds known to man, but here it signals the rapid thawing of ground frozen for thousands of years.

Song of dying permafrost. Picture: Alexander Gabyshev

This remarkable footage is from the floor of the Batagaika or Batagai, a megaslump in the Siberian wilderness, where ancient permafrost is exposed to the full destructive impact of climate change.

As the August sun beats down on this Arctic odyssey, our video shows water frozen in the soil for tens of thousands of years trickle and gush away, released from its ancient clasp.

The cliffs of this vast hole, some as high as 100 metres, crumble even as you watch due to the thawing permafrost.  

Locals know this place as the doorway to the underworld, and many are frightened to approach it after hearing fearsome booms emanating from here.

These thudding sounds are probably large chunks of frozen soil cascading down the cliff sides from the unstable rim as the permafrost trench widens yet more.

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost
The Batagai mega slump is some 650 km north of Yakutsk in Yakutia. Pictures: Alexander Gabyshev, Melnikov Permafrost Institute, The Siberian Times

This tadpole-shaped gash in the Earth's surface - around one kilometre long, and 800 metres wide - is enlarging by up to 30 metres a year because of the corrosive melting of the exposed frozen upper layers of ground, say experts.

Sergey Fyodorov, researcher at the Institute of Applied Ecology, Yakutsk, said: 'One of the most serious things we must understand looking at this slump is that its growth is not something we, humans, can stop.

'We cannot put a curtain against sun rays to stop it from thawing. 

'Even at the beginning of September, when air temperatures drop to OC, you see springs and rivers of water. 

'As you stand inside the slump on soft piles of soil that was left after ice thawed, you hear it 'talking to you', with the cracking sound of ice and a non-stop monotonous gurgling of little springs and rivers of water.' 

Watch: running water is one of the most soothing and relaxing sounds known to man, but here it signals the rapid thawing of ground frozen for thousands of years.

Fedorov said: 'It is good it happened in a remote area away from a  settlement where people live. 

'Imagine if there was a village or a city above what is now an ever-deepening depression?

'It's time for the world to wake up and pay more attention to what is happening (with melting permafrost) here in Yakutia.'

For now ithe depression represents an unparalleled natural laboratory for scientists seeking to understand the threat to permafrost due to climate change. 

Batagaika - some 650 km north of the regional capital of Yakutia, also known as the Sakha Republic - is a thermokarst depression which started to form in 1960s after a chunk of forest was cleared: the land sunk, and has continued to do so, evidently speeded by recent warmer temperatures melting the permafrost, so unbinding the layers on the surface and below. 

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost
The Batagai slump shown as it was first noticed in 1968, and now. Pictures: Alexander Gabyshev, Melnikov Institute of Permafrost, The Siberian Times 

The director of the Research Institute of Applied Ecology of the North, Gregory Savvinov, said: 'In the 1960s there was a road between the village of Batavia and some industrial facilities. 

'The forest was cut down, and this led to the formation of the ravine. In recent years, against the backdrop of climatic changes, due to the warming, the ravine grew to the size of crater.' 

In 2009 the carcass of  an Holocene era foal - some 4,400 years old - was discovered,  and a mummified carcass of a bison calf.

Remains of ancient bison, horses, elks, mammoths, and reindeer were also found here. 

On the Yana plateau, its winter temperatures are among the coldest for inhabited places on the planet. 

The Batagai slump, all pictures The Siberian Times

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost

the song of dying permafrost

Comments (8)

Recent studies show Native Americans arrived by boat following the coastline and the land was iced over at the time.
The earth has had several pole flips since it got a magnetic field but a planet can only ever have one equator, albeit one that can move around. Since an equator is an imaginary line equidistant from it's poles, when the poles change so does the equator.
And geology does not prove the Earth heats up every 12,900 years. The time ranges between warm-ups and cool-downs vary much more than that. Where did you get your stats because they're ridiculous.
Mea Cadwell, Wisconsin
22/07/2023 08:41
I've been following all these situations that are happening with permafrost, whether in the Arctic, in Switzerland, Canada... and it's extremely worrying! I wish that the valiant Russian environmental scientists and researchers will be able to propose actions to preserve such an environment. Salute from Brazil!
Edmar, Brazil
06/08/2022 07:22
We don't have that phenomena in northern Canada. I checked. If anyone can give proof, feel free to post.
Randal North, Alberta
30/01/2021 19:25
To Eva Schulz: Yes this is happening wherever there is permafrost. And to Enrique: No the land does not become arable as it is too wet and muddy to navigate on foot or with a tractor. Lots more info available now.
Margaret A Weiss, United States
05/10/2020 22:46
Geology proves earth not only heats up each 12,900 years, but changes to one of three equators. The next one runs up through the Baja to the Alaskan chain. American indians got to north America by crossing ice connecting asia to north America, and it melted before humans could have caused that melting. Florida is covered in coral impregnated with 13000 year old fossils of Arctic plankton, just one proof of flipping earth. Now you climate change extremists can go home and start over.
Mikefromspace, Flagstaff Az US
19/05/2020 16:32
We have the same phenomenon in northern Canada. Some of the slumps are partly revegetating where the soil has stabilized enough, but others are still actively thawing. I visited some of these while doing vegetation surveys in northern Yukon. One in particular was humongous, like the one in this article, and was actively thawing. Remnants of the surrounding forest were still struggling to survive on toppled chunks of soil in the pit. Some of the soil was treacherously sticky and unstable. Some shrubs and other vegetation had colonized more stable parts of the pit. With the increase in global temperatures, these thermokarsts are going to increase in number and size, causing significant disruption of landscapes for a long long time.
RR, Canada
15/03/2017 23:38
That looks and sounds really weird! What I would like to know - is this the only one or are there more big holes like this?
It's already well known that the permafrost is slowly melting but this is far from 'slowly'!
If the Bagatai crater is unique, perhaps the reason for it is unique too? That would be a little hope.Otherwise it's more or less a catastrophic scenario! Maybe I'm wrong but I think the woods are good shelter for the permafrost, at least against melting with such horrible speed.
Eva Schulz, Wenns Austria
13/03/2017 10:15
On the midterm it will mean new arable lands as there is no permafrost.
Enrique, Spain
11/03/2017 11:03

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