By Nancy J. Farrier
Many of us remember, or have seen, the devastation caused in 1982 when Mt. St. Helens erupted. In researching the Tunguska Event, I am reminded of those hillsides of downed trees and the barrenness of what was once a lush forest area.
On June 30th, 1908, in the Tunguska forest of Western Siberia, a mysterious
event happened and scientists still debate the cause. Due to the remoteness of the area, there were few witnesses. The event happened so fast that even those few witnesses had confusing accounts. The commonality among them was fear.
|Map, Tunguska Event|
One peasant, seated on his porch that morning, reported a bright light so hot he thought he would be burned or his shirt would be in flames. As he turned to see what caused the light, it disappeared and darkness fell. An explosion occurred with a wind so strong he was blown off the porch.
Because of the difficulty getting to the blast site, it would be almost two decades before the explosion would be researched. In 1927, Leonid Kulik, a Russian mineralogist read a newspaper account of the event and took a team to the Siberian forest along the Tunguska river. They found hundreds of trees flattened and the landscape changed. The devastation consisted of approximately 80 million trees and covered 820 square miles. There were bog holes and a lake that they don’t believe existed prior to the explosion.
There were many accounts recorded by people who supposedly witnessed the event but many proved false. Some said they touched the still-warm meteorite that hit the earth, a decidedly false statement. Kulik found no evidence of a meteor crater, even going so far as to drain a bog or sinkhole to see what was at the bottom. He only found a tree stump and no evidence of a meteor.
|Map of impact zone, by Denys, Wikimedia Commons|
So, what happened to cause this explosion which has been compared to the hydrogen bomb at Bikini Atoll? The theory at the forefront is a meteor, possibly an ice meteor, exploded in the atmosphere above the Siberian Tunguska forest. They estimate the meteor was from three to six miles up when the explosion occurred. There is no explanation for why this happened, only conjecture.
|Photo from Kulik's Expedition|
In 1908, or even 1927, the scientists didn’t have the equipment to do testing that is available today. There have been many expeditions since then to study this event. In more recent studies, they found molecules in the downed trees that were made of nickel or iron, supporting the meteorite theory. The molecules were the same as those found in known meteorites.
Scientists believe this to be the biggest event of this type even known, although the Tunguska Event is not an isolated occurance. The shock wave reached as far as Washington D. C.. For days afterward, the night sky had unusual colors that could be seen in Asia and Europe. Scientists believe this had to do with atmospheric particles of ice caused by the explosion.
|Downed Trees at Tunguska, by CYD|
Descriptions given to Kulik and to others mentioned more than one explosion, which could have been the main explosion and aftershocks. Women in one village ran through the streets, thinking it was the end of the world. Some reported seeing a light too bright to look at in the sky and then thumps, not like thunder but more like falling rocks.
One man, who raised reindeer and was considered wealthy because of his large herd of reindeer, went with his brother to check his herd and his sheds where he kept his equipment. They found charred carcasses of the reindeer, the ones they found. Some they never located. The sheds and the contents were burned or melted, including utensils and equipment used for the reindeer.
It is hard to imagine such a devastating event happening today. There is always the possibility, although with the technology we have today I imagine there would be warning. Haven’t we all watched movies based on this possibility?
What are your thoughts on the Tunguska Event? Have you ever heard of this phenomenon?
It is July again and today is my birthday. I love giving gifts on my birthday. For every 10 people who comment on my blog post, I will give away a copy Bandolero, or one of my other books—winners choice, as long as the book is available. Don’t forget to leave your email address to be entered in the giveaway.
Nancy J Farrier is an award-winning author who lives in Southern Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.
She’s been rejected and betrayed. He sacrificed all to seek revenge.