Science

Mysterious Funnel-Like Crater Opens Up in Remote Arctic Tundra

A gaping, funnel-like hole estimated to be at least 50-meters-deep has been discovered in a remote area of the arctic, on the Yamal Peninsula, in Siberia.

Discovered accidentally from the air by a Vesti Yamal television crew en route from an unrelated assignment, the mysterious crater is the latest to be spotted in northern Siberia since the phenomenon was originally documented, in 2014. Chunks of soil and ice were thrown hundreds of metres around the funnel, which strengthens scientists’ theory that such craters are the result of methane gas buildups in pockets of thawing permafrost under the surface of the Earth. As pressure increases, the “lid” of the pocket is blown off and the methane gas is released.

“This object is unique. It carries a lot of additional scientific information, which I am not yet ready to disclose,” Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, of the Russian Oil and Gas Research Institute in Moscow, told Vesti Yamal. “This is a subject for scientific publications. We have to analyse all this, and build three-dimensional models.”

“In a literal sense, it is a void space filled with gas with high pressure,” Bogoyavlensky added. “The covering layer distends, the thickness of which is 5-10 metres approximately.”

The Russian professor who previously claimed that human activities, like gas drilling could be a factor in the forming of these craters expressed his concern about the risk of such structures forming close to gas pipelines, production facilities or residential areas.

A group of scientists conducted an expedition to examine the large cylindrical crater, the latest of several discovered in the Siberian Arctic in the last decade.

“We know of seven craters in the Arctic area,” Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky said back in 2015. “Five are directly on the Yamal peninsula, one in Yamal Autonomous district, and one is on the north of the Krasnoyarsk region, near the Taimyr peninsula. We have exact locations of only four of them. But I am sure there are more craters on Yamal, we just need to search for them.”

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