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'Lake Baikal: the very name fills Russian hearts with awe'

200,000 year old soil found at mysterious crater, a 'gate to the subterranean world'

By 0 and 0 and 0
18 May 2016


Batagaika 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. Picture: Alexander Gabyshev

Many Yakutian people are said to be scared to approach the Batagaika Crater - also known as the  Batagaika Megaslump: believing in the upper, middle and under worlds, they see this as a doorway to the last of these. 

The fearsome noises are probably just the thuds of falling soil at a landmark that is a one kilometre-long  gash up to 100 metres (328 feet) deep in the Siberian taiga. 

Batagaika 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. Major flooding in 2008 increased the size of the depression which grows at up to 15 metres per year.



Such 'thermokarst depressions' can be observed in the north of Canada, but Batagaika is two-to-three times deeper. Pictures: Alexander Gabyshev, Research Institute of Applied Ecology of the North

The result is an unparalleled natural laboratory for scientists seeking to understand the threat to permafrost due to climate change. 

A recent expedition to the partially manmade phenomenon sought to date the layers of soil which had been frozen in time as permafrost, and also to gather samples of plants and soil.

Until now, it was believed the layers of soil were around 120,000 years old. But Professor Julian Murton from the University of Sussex - who inspected the site near the village of Batagai, in Verkhoyansk district, some 676 kilometres (420 miles) north of Yakutsk, capital of the Sakha Republic - determined that the correct age is around 200,000 years old. 

'This project will allow us to compare the data of similar objects in Greenland, China, Antarctica. Data on ancient soils and vegetation will help us to reconstruct the history of the Earth,' he told Russian journalists. 

Julian Murton

Batagaika walls

Batagaika walls

Batagaika walls

Professor Julian Murton: 'Batagaika itself struck my imagination - its size is amazing, the crack itself is  perfectly exposed, uncovered, all the layers are perfectly visible and can be thoroughly studied.' Pictures: Research Institute of Applied Ecology of the North

'I was both surprised and excited to learn that we can date the samples found in the lower horizon as 200,000 years.' He explained: 'We found several layers of buried soils. Two of them look especially promising. They show that thousands of years ago the climate in the region of Verkhoyansk was the same as it is now, and even warmer. 

'We took the samples of the remains of trees to find out what kind of forests grew in this area. We also took the sediment samples - they will help us to find out what kind of soil predominated here in ancient times. Due to the permafrost, the preservation of organic is excellent. 

'Batagaika itself struck my imagination - its size is amazing, the crack itself is  perfectly exposed, uncovered, all the layers are perfectly visible and can be thoroughly studied.'

The expedition was a 'pilot study' at one of 'most important' sites in the world for the study of permafrost. The samples will be examined in more detail at the Institute of Physicochemical and Biological Problems in Soil Science in Pushchino, near Moscow, he said.




The 'most important' sites in the world for the study of permafrost is located near the village of Batagai, in Verkhoyansk district, some 676 kilometres (420 miles) north of Yakutsk, capital of the Sakha Republic. Pictures: NEFU, The Siberian Times

The next stage of work here will 'study samples of ancient ice'. He noted that such 'thermokarst depressions' can be observed in the north of Canada, but Batagaika is two-to-three times deeper.

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 Batagai 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. 

The area is one of the coldest places on the planet, and competes with Oymyakon, from the same region, for the title of the world's coldest inhabited place. 

Comments (26)

I agree with Thomas' previous comment, it does resemble a 'large sperm cell'. First thing I thought of was a large Polliwog. What if huh?????
Jimmie Vitale, USA
26/07/2023 23:26
Look at the picture of the aerial view oh, it's happened before right beside huge much bigger! Should be looking at the place where it happened before! Right beside it it happens every 400 years it's the 400-year cycle
Allen Hynes, Canada
11/07/2021 03:14
Looking at the Batagaika depression on Google Earth, one can see a gigantic spermatozoid. It only means one thing. Mother Earth is in reality Father Earth and some Russians suck it so to speak.
Réal Morrissette, Quebec, Canada
07/05/2020 01:18
The gash looks like a giant sperm cell. God is telling us "l can make ANYTHING."
03/12/2019 20:34
It doesn't seem a coincidence to me that the 4,400 year old foal died in a sea of mud along with millions of other animals. The time period coincides with the end of the Africa Humid Period ( which also ended abruptly and completely changed the Sahara to that of the present day desert. Have these two events been linked? Oddly enough the biblical record of the time of the Flood is also ~4,500 BP, which resulted in a major change in the landscape and climate of parts of the earth. Is it still a mystery?
Percy Lynn, Victoria, Canada
02/11/2019 03:24
There is indeed a Korean company that is trying to create a mammoth/ elephant hybrid using DNA isolated from well preserved frozen carcasses. These are not being hydraulically mined at the Batagaika site, but rather in the New Siberian Islands.
Brian H, Costa Mesa, CA, USA
10/05/2019 04:19
"The remains of bison, horses, elk & mammoth were found there." Bison never lived in Siberia, but their bones, & the bones of many other species are found all over the North. The New Siberia Islands are made up of the bones of Mammoth, trees, sand & rocks. What you are not told is that these bones have been smashed together by a massive wall of water. If you want to know why & how, go read Immanuel Velikovky's "Earth in Upheaval" & 'Worlds in Collision." These catastrophes happened in historical times ... Man was decimated too.
Jim Fox, Australia
16/08/2018 19:03
perhaps they should not export thousands of cubic kilometers of gas and petrol because they get worthless paper in exchange anyway, and leave huge voids underground which will collapse sooner or later; Russia has enough resources to make everything it needs without exporting natural resources
Justin, Brasov, Romania
12/08/2018 19:41
Why are all the other people from the US intent on posting alternative "facts"?

Paid denial bots.
Peter Malsin, United States
25/04/2017 02:56
@cheri Vaughn, Usa
For sure there was a great flood, but also on this planet has been a lot of them, and this will happen in the future too. Maybe our lifetime and the lifetime of our civilization isn't enough to understand how, at his own scale, the planetary nature works.
The last one, with massive extinctions was during the Younger Dryas.

Albert, Spain
04/04/2017 08:33
The article does not mention the type of sediment that is being eroded. I will assume therefore it is sedimentary. Sedimentary with fossils was probably laid down in the ocean. Could prove that there was a great flood, or there could be other mechanics involved. As the ice melts you could be getting isostatic rebound like they have in Finland. As the ground rises, water erosion works more rapidly .
cheri Vaughn, Usa
03/03/2017 07:32
I am not surprised the present future, both requires, and is screaming for further research in order to understand the subcontinental "world" that appears to rise above our 'human' capability to understand, where forms of life start to infiltrate in "our" world. It is clearly visible that "we, humans are not alone" and "their marks are to be found" to leave a clear message behind (photo #1 and #9). "They" are making us -humans- aware of the fact they are about to come. In this case, either the question arises whether they are coming for our own sake, and benefits or do they truly have another intention we really should be afraid for ...?
Yannick X., Eindhoven-Acht, The Netherlands
03/03/2017 07:07
It's even more interesting and also concerning that this story is what they share with the world. The reason this area is feared, and also a hotbed for scientist, is not for the reasons they told you hear. In fact, this is part of a Korean backed research, funded with 100s of millions of dollars through the Russian Gov and KGB to recover DNA from an in tact mammoth. The Korean BioTech company behind this is on a mission to revive the Mammoth and reintroduce them to the world through DNA cloning. The fear of the locals is from the shady characters who are in the area to find these mammoth samples since a single in tact tusk can fetch upwards of $50,000 to $100,000. They do this by pumping 10's of 1,000s of gallons up into the crater from barges on the river and blasting the soil from the crater. There are 24 hour a day rivers of water running back out of the crater as they blast through the permafrost. There is a unimaginable reward posted for anyone who provides the Korean based company with a Mammoth specimen that is in tact and will deliver a useable DNA sample. In the mean time, the workers in this region flood in from Russia where the KGB controls the countless ivory Mammoth tusks pulled from the site. Where there is 100s of millions of dollars and black market trade, there is violence & corruption.
02/02/2017 14:22
This story is all non sense folks, as a matter of fact I wrote a posting telling you the truth of this area and they blocked it several times from posting. I even hid keywords by spelling them out. If you want to know the truth, look up, Korean Bio tech, mammoth DNA, reviving the mammoth, black market ivory trade.
Ryan Hollenbeck, USA
02/02/2017 14:21
I can "see" at least 2 "human faces" and even Cheshire Cat's face -- as long as one tries hard enough and puts the imagination to work... but I'm sure it's only in my mind, not in the image itself
Suzana, Sao Paulo/Brazil
30/07/2016 08:18

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