A giant hole has emerged at our “world’s end” – the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia. The gaping crater was spotted and filmed by a helicopter pilot and is estimated to be a football field in diameter, or close to 330 feet across. Just how deep this stunning crater goes, no one can say.
Reports Reuters news service on July 16: “It was unclear what had caused the gaping crater, about 100 meters in diameter, filmed from the air in Yamal, which means ‘the end of the Earth’ in the local Nenets language, where temperatures plummet to -50 degrees Celsius (-58 degrees Fahrenheit) and the sun barely rises in winter.”
The Siberian Times said that reports of the hole in the gas-rich Yamal Peninsula were initially thought te be fabricated. Scientists now think that the hole may have been formed two years ago, and an expedition is being sent to the crater to collect soil and water samples.
“Two researchers from the Siberian-based Center for the Study of the Arctic and a scientist from Russia's Academy of Science” are en route to the hole, says Reuters.
Since news broke about the massive crater, wild Internet theories have begun to take shape. Many have thought the hole was caused by a meteorite, but a spokesman for Siberia’s Emergencies Ministry ruled it out. “We can definitely say that it is not a meteorite. No details yet,” said a spokesman.
The Siberian Times reported that a researcher from the Sub-Arctic Scientific Centre, Anna Kurchatova, “thinks the crater was formed by a water, salt and gas mixture igniting an underground explosion, the result of global warming. She postulates that 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 permafrost, released gas causing an effect like the popping of a Champagne bottle cork, she suggests.”
Dr. Chris Fogwill, a polar scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, believes the hole may be formed by a vacating pingo – a massive ice chunk covered by earth. The melting of the pingo, brought on by global warming, would have produced the striking hole.
“Certainly from the images I've seen it looks like a periglacial feature, perhaps a collapsed pingo,” Fogwill said. “This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there’s been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there.”
Dr. Fogwell was referring to a planned gas pipeline project.
The oil and gas bearing region of Russia is inhabited by Nenets and Khanty reindeer herders and their half-million herds of domestic reindeer.