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Mystery holes in Siberia multiplying: Two new craters found in Russian north

There have been three mystery holes found in Siberia thus far -- two in the Yamal Peninsula (in the upper portion of the yellowed area) and one in Krasnoyark region (in green). Scientists are still at a loss as to how these craters form.
There have been three mystery holes found in Siberia thus far -- two in the Yamal Peninsula (in the upper portion of the yellowed area) and one in Krasnoyark region (in green). Scientists are still at a loss as to how these craters form. PANONIAN, Creative Commons

It would appear that the massive hole in Siberia discovered earlier in the month was not a result of isolated events, because within a few days of discovery of the strange feature in the permafrost of north Russia, two more craters have been found. Although not as large as the giant hole in the Yamal Peninsula, the two new formations seem to be of similar construction to the first. And what that construction entails has scientists puzzled.

The Siberian Times, which broke the story on the Yamal crater, reported July 28 that two new holes have been discovered in Siberia, both by reindeer herders. Both are smaller than the one located about 20 miles from the Russian gas fields and extraction plant of Bovanenkovo, one considerably so. But the discovery shows that the phenomenon is not isolated, even as scientists peruse data from the first crater in order to determine exactly what it is and what caused it to be.

The second crater finding also occurred at the "End of the World" (the translation of "Yamal" from the native language of the region), a couple hundred miles to the east and outside the village of Antipayuta. It is about 15 meters (49 feet) in diameter.

According to the local deputy of the regional parliament - or duma - Mikhail Lapsui, who observed the hole by helicopter, "There is also ground outside, as if it was thrown as a result of an underground explosion."

Lapsui says that the hole was formed September 27, 2013. "Observers give several versions," he noted, speaking toward what may have caused the Siberian hole. "According to the first, initially at the place was smoking, and then there was a bright flash. In the second version, a celestial body fell there."

The third crater was discovered hundreds of miles east in the Taymyr Peninsula. Smaller than both of its counterparts toward the west, it measures just over four meters (13 feet) across, and it is perfectly conically shaped. However, its depth goes just as deep as the first Siberian mystery hole, between 60 to 100 meters. Herders came upon the hole in the ground by nearly falling into it. Recovering, they took photos and sent them to scientists at the Norilsk Taimyr Explorers' Club, according to the Times.

The sighting of the first hole in Siberia caused an international sensation. Russian officials sent scientists to the Yamal Peninsula to observe and take samples from the formation, which turned out to be slightly smaller than estimates derived from just videos and photos of gigantic hole. Still, the massive hole in the permafrost measured about 60 meters (197 feet) wide and approximately 70 meters (230 feet) deep.

Although almost nobody took seriously speculation that the hole was formed by a landing UFO, more serious speculative offerings were set aside as well, such as that the hole was formed by a meteorite or a stray test missile or rocket. After first on-site observations were made, experts also quickly ruled out that the Siberian hole was formed by an explosion, due to lack of burn or heat-related evidence. So, barring any new theories, scientists have settled on the overarching theory that the crater was formed as a result of intense pressure beneath the surface, something that caused an expulsion from underneath the permafrost.

Ultimately, though, the trigger for the formations just might come down to a rise in temperature in the region. Grist reported in October that a study published in Geophysical Research Papers suggests that recent temperatures in the region are higher than they have been in the last 120,000 years.

But studies continue, causative forces remaining a mystery. And without definitive evidence, scientists are hesitant to declare conclusions based on so little information and speculative theories. However, now there are two more holes to study...