Yamal is a peninsula in northern Siberia. In the language of the peninsula’s indigenous inhabitants, the Nenets, Yamal means “end of the world”.
This past week, aerial images of the peninsula posted to YouTube showed a giant, 80m wide crater. Check out the footage below:
Authorities from Yamal have organized a team of scientists from Russia’s Center for the Study of the Arctic, the Cryosphere Institute of the Academy of Sciences and Russia’s Emergencies Ministry to investigate.
At first glance, it just looks like a sinkhole. But experts who have examined the images say the debris around the edge of the hole isn’t consistent with a sinkhole, and the blackened rim of the crater indicates “sever burning”.
This has led to speculation that the hole was the result of an explosion, a space laser, or even the burn-hole left behind by an alien spaceship.
One of the best theories I’ve heard so far comes from an expert at the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center in Canada. He theorized that warming temperatures in Siberia could be melting the thick layers of ice and permafrost on Yamal Peninsula.
When that ancient ice is melted, it releases gases that have been trapped within it. The theory is that these gases mixed with water and salt closer to the surface, creating an explosive chemical reaction (think vinegar and baking soda, but MUCH bigger) which pushed the earth up out of the crater, kind of like the cork popping off a champaign bottle.
It’s also possible that simply the pressure of the released gas alone could have caused this same cork-pop effect.
Those are still just theories though. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this investigation as more information becomes available.