THE TUNGUSKA PHENOMENON, THEN AND NOW
JUNE 3O, 1908, 7:17 AM
This arguably was the most famous Russian UFO case of the early 20th century. When something exploded over Siberia on June 30, 1908, it flattened more than 2100 square kilometers of forest, left no craters, and no obvious fragments. What was it? This question has been on the minds of Russian scientists, researchers, and ufologists since at least the 1920s. Some of those who dared study the phenomenon died in concentration camps; some perished during their search; some were ostracized, forgotten, crushed by bloody history of 20th century Russia. The Tunguska, a vast area, remains a wilderness, full of mosquito-infested swamps and marshes. The surrounding taiga is, however, a most beautiful sight, but the journey to the area is a living hell.
There are conflicting reports about the occurrence, even regarding the direction of the object’s flight. There are conflicting opinions whether it was an “object” or something else; or even if there was an object at all. Yes, we have reports from various eyewitnesses, we have learnt about subsequent mutations and the ecological impact of the explosion, read a number of hypotheses and still the most important event of Russia’s UFO history is still not that much closer to being solved. This chapter will attempt to present all points of view, and piece together scattered fragments of the ongoing quest to solve the mystery of the Tunguska Explosion.
According to Pesach Amnuel, an Israeli astrophysicist and writer of Soviet Jewish origin, the year 1908 experienced an increase in solar activity. Y. Koptev, in his article published in NLO Magazine (Issue 2, 1997) presents detailed description of the strange phenomena in the sky above that had occurred that year, and might be related to the Tunguska Explosion.
On a clear February 22nd morning, local residents of the town of Brest (Russia) observed a bright spot (in the northeastern direction). It was V-shaped, and moved to the north. The object initially was quite bright, but later dimmed. However, its size increased constantly. About half an hour later the V-shaped “spot” was only just visible.
In April, a strange meteorite fell to earth in the Kovelskaya Province, the Novoaleksandrovsky district. Local newspapers reported that it was huge, and that it fell near railroad tracks. An engineer stopped his train, and passengers got off to see a strange meteorite. Most of it was buried by the impact, and only its top part protruded from the ground. The object had a stony mass and was white in color.
In the autumn, yet another meteorite exploded over the Teletsky Lake, and its fragments once again fell to earth. A meteorite was observed flying over the city of Melitopol’ in the month of September.
Russian archives reveal that in the summer and autumn of 1908 there was a sharp increase number in the number of observed bolides (small meteorites). Newspapers throughout the world published reports about them; there were actually three times as many reports as in previous years. Reports of these bolides came from Russia, Baltic, Siberia, Central Asia, China, and England.
There were more unusual observations. From June 17 through 19, in the area of the Middle Volga in Russia, local residents were astonished to see the Aurora Borealis (northern lights). Residents of the Orlovskaya Province were at loss to explain the silvery clouds in the sky. We will discuss such mysterious clouds in other chapters of the book.
Several days later, the sky over the suburbs of Yuryev city (known as Tartu today) and other areas experienced purple-colored skies at sunrise, something which they had never seen before.
From June 21, a number of European areas as well as some in the Western Siberia observed very bright multi-colored skies at sunrise. But during the sunsets people could clearly see these unusual silvery clouds, stretching from east to west. After June 27, a number of the reported sightings of such clouds increased drastically. It was as if nature was preparing itself for something unusual to occur. Not since the 1883 Krakatau Volcanic explosion in the Pacific did mankind witness such exotic heavenly illuminations.
Events on the ground were quite irregular, too. In the spring of that year Switzerland experienced heavy snowfall and floods.
Crews of the ships that sailed in the Atlantic Ocean reported dense dust, moving high above. Then there were the earthquakes. In the Siberian city of Irkutsk scientists at the local Observatory registered over fifteen hundred weak and strong earthquakes. One was also registered on that fateful day of June 30, 1908.
What is more fascinating is that local observers filled out the questionnaires sent by the Observatory. Nobody observed any earthquakes, but people did hear something that resembled a strong thunder; however the sky was clear and cloudless. A. V. Voznesensky, director of the Observatory, researched some 60 reports, and concluded that the “earthquakes” were related to the explosion over the taiga. P. Amnuel wrote that when in the early morning of the 30th, the Observatory registered the epicenter of the earthquake; its scientists knew nothing about its origin. They registered three waves, each lasting over two minutes. The earth started moving at approximately 7:19 a.m. local time. The Observatory’s director and his assistants quickly established that the epicenter of the earthquake was between the rivers Nizhnyaya and Podkamennaya Tunguska, to the north of the Vanavara trading station. Curiously, the seismograph of the Irkutsk Observatory indicated that the last earthquake took placed at 7:46 a.m., some half an hour after the explosion over the taiga. Actually, A. V. Voznesenky believed that it was not the movement of the earth that caused the last report, but the movement of air. A sonic wave, caused by the explosion, reached Irkutsk 45 minutes after the explosion, and still continued to move around the globe.
When the authors of this book researched materials about the Tunguska Explosion, they were struck by the fact that the event itself was barely noticed by Russia’s scientific establishment at the time. Later, of course, the event generated hypotheses, discussions, and expeditions that still go on today. It behooves all those interested in the Tunguska Explosion to do a thorough research of the year when it occurred, perhaps day-by-day. We might discover reports of even more unusual occurrences that could help us find an explanation.
The object approached from an azimuth of 115 degrees, and descended at an entry angle of 30 to 35 degrees above the horizon. It continued along a northwestward trajectory until it seemingly disappeared over the horizon. When the object reached an altitude of 2.5 to 9.0 kilometers over the area, there occurred an explosion-like energy release. The trees burned for weeks, destroying an area of some 1000 square kilometers. Ash was carried by global air circulation around the planet. The mass of the object has been estimated to be 100,000 tons, and the force of the explosion at 40 megatons of TNT. That is 2000 times the force of the atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima (Japan) in 1945.
Fallen trees in the area of Tunguska
Perhaps the explosion or whatever occurred in the taiga on June 30, 1908, would not create worldwide attention (Kazantsev, Kulik, Zigel, Korolyov and others notwithstanding), had it not been for one inconsistency. Various experts in the field of ballistics, who researched the phenomenon, indicated that the body, before the explosion, slowly flew from east to west. That is what eyewitnesses who resided to the east of the lake Baikal stated. But thousands of those who lived to the west stated that the body flew from south to north. In 1969 Felix Zigel, a famous Soviet scientist and UFO researcher, published an article in Tekhnika-Molodezhi (Issue 12, 1969) magazine, and suggested that it was a UFO that flew over the taiga, and that it made a few steep turns before the explosion. Among those who had observed the flight of the body over the taiga were those who stated that it changed its trajectory, and that it turned over Baikal.
And still, there were other inconsistencies. The “southern object” was described as “star-like” and white-bluish in color; it was flying early in the morning hours. However, the “eastern object” was seen much later during the day, and it was described as a fast-moving reddish flying object. Aleksey V. Zolotov, another scientist and researcher of the paranormal, proffered an idea that two completely different objects flew over the taiga. He supposed that two UFOs, one from the south, and the other from the east, flew to the same point over the taiga, and blew up.
Was it an intercept? Such idea was discussed in Russia in 1991. Another Russian scientist is of the opinion that the objects (meteorites, in his view) flew over the taiga on two different days. And yet, if there was an explosion or disintegration of the flying object, no fragments of it were found even by modern day researchers. Later in this book we will discuss the Vashka Object, found in 1985 some three thousand kilometers away, and thought by some to be such a fragment.
Tens of millions of people around the globe witnessed the aftermath of the Tunguska Phenomenon. After all, night had disappeared to the west of the explosion (or whatever it was…) throughout Western Siberia and Europe. The darkness was gone for 72 hours, an unprecedented event. For several nights all over northern Europe, the sky glowed enough to light the streets of London.
Irkutsk Observatory reported the disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic fields 900 kilometers southeast of the epicenter. The local geomagnetic disturbance was similar to some effects following middle-and high-altitude nuclear explosions in the atmosphere, but unlike the latter, it exhibited a kind of delay: it occurred after the explosion. Other anomalies caused by the explosion included strange mesospheric clouds, bright "volcanic" twilights, disturbances of atmospheric polarization, and intense solar halos.
The trees were felled in an outward motion, in a radial pattern. In the center, there was an area of trees that remained standing, although all their bark and branches had been destroyed. It is noteworthy to mention that the taiga recovered quite rapidly and there were clear signs of accelerated growth.
Ecological consequences of the Tunguska explosion include genetic impact; remarkably quick revival of the taiga, and accelerated growth of young trees.
We do not know much about the genetic aftermath of the Tunguska Explosion. There is a serious discussion of the genetic consequences by N.V. Vasilyev, MD (member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences) in the RIAP BULLETIN (January-March 1995). He mentions a rare mutation in Rh-antigen that has reportedly arisen among the natives of the region (the Evenks) in the 1910s. The mutation originated in Strelka-Chunya, one of the settlements closest to the site of the Tunguska explosion. There are also morphometric peculiarities of certain ant species found in the area of the epicenter.
Available through Filament Book Club