Chicken Little Was Right
On June 30, 1908...at 7:17 AM near the Tunguska River in Sibera, the sky did indeed fall. Something exploded with tremendous force, equal to 2,000 times the force of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It leveled 850 square miles, destroying approximately 60 million trees.
What exactly happened?
Obviously that part of Siberia was very remote, but there were several witnesses. They saw a column of bluish light, as bright as the sun, flying across the sky. Minutes later, there was a blinding flash and a series of loud explosions. Suddenly, a massive shockwave spread across the area - killing the natives' livestock, destroying barns, and even shattering windows hundreds of miles away. The shockwave was so tremendous, it even registered on seismic instruments in England.
40 miles from ground zero, people were literally knocked unconscious by the shockwave. Afterwards, fires burned for weeks. Natives believed it was Doomsday.
Semen Semenov: "At that moment I became so hot that I couldn't bear it, as if my shirt was on fire; from the northern side, where the fire was, came strong heat. I wanted to tear off my shirt and throw it down, but then the sky shut closed, and a strong thump sounded, and I was thrown a few yards. It damaged some crops. Later we saw that many windows were shattered, and in the barn a part of the iron lock snapped." Is his name really Semen? Yowza.
Russian scientist Leonid Kulkik lead an expedition to the site in 1927. Why is took nearly 20 years to finally investigate is a mystery to many. I'm thinking maybe some small distraction called World War I got in the way or something. He was expecting to mine some iron from the meteorite that everyone assumed caused the explosion. But they couldn't find a crater...and certainly there was no meteorite.
Several more scientific studies continued throughout the years, and they had some startling results from scientific study and witness testimonies. Strange findings included:
-disturbances in the magnetic field in the area
-local geomagnetic storm
-a reversal of soil magnetization
-an electromagnetic pulse, similar to what would be created by a nuclear explosion
-aurora displays before and after the event
-genetic mutations in plants and animals
-radiation-like burns and deaths of exposed people
-increased Vodka consumption by locals
OK, so I made up the last one. But the other findings are startling indeed. To this day, there is no conclusive explanation for what happened in Tunguska, Siberia. Scientists do have several interesting theories:
An Asteroid Air Burst: Considering the size of the destruction, scientists estimate the rock weighed 100,000 tons. Because there is no crater, an air burst is a logical explanation. But where are all the fragments? Scientists say they were vaporized. To this day, the only debris found at the site has been tiny glass nodules embedded in trees. Those who disagree with this theory remark how very little debris has been found.
A Comet: A comet is different than an asteroid, as comets are made of ice and stone. This would account for the lack of a crater and debris. A lack of evidence leads to this theory being widely accepted - it's like the default theory.
Geophysical Event: The area lies in an ancient volcanic zone. The massive explosion could have been from a build up of methane gas suddenly released from the earth.
Black Hole: This is a 1973 theory. A couple quacks said that a black hole passed through the Earth. I think the pair of scientists who came up with this was was smoking the 'wacky tabbaky.'
Antimatter: Conjured up in 1965, three scientists theorized that a chunk of antimatter fell from space and collided with Earth. I think maybe these guys were dropped on their heads when they were babies.
UFO: You knew these people were going to get in on this controversy. Some say it was a UFO crashing. Others believe aliens used some sort of weapon to create such an explosion. If I were to go with a UFO theory, it'd have to be the crash one. In fact, in 2004, scientists claimed to have found debris from an alien spacecraft.
Nikola Tesla: This is my favorite theory. Tesla was the great Russian-born scientist (born in Siberia actually). He became a U.S. citizen, and he's known as the greatest inventor in the world. Some believe the Tunguska Event was from a massive Tesla experiment gone wrong. Tesla built the Wardenclyffe Tower on Long Island, NY in order to see how to create and transmit energy from point A to point B. It's said Tesla told Robert Peary, who was leading a second expedition to the North Pole, to look out for some unusual aurora phenomon while out there. Witnesses recall Tesla working with sending the energy via the Tower on that date, but there's just too much room for speculation. Still, it's a pretty colorful theory.
The Tunguska Event continues to be a mystery today, and it continues to be a subject in the most imaginary of ways. X-Files, Ghostbusters, and even Star Trek have all incorporated the mystery of Tunguska somewhere. Even after nearly 100 years later, Siberians still look up to the sky, wondering "what if..."
I wonder how you say "The sky is falling" in Russian...