A giant sinkhole discovered in Siberia, Russia, has experts baffled as to its cause and has others offering widespread speculation ranging from a meteorite crashing to Earth to the arrival of a UFO.
The sudden appearance of the giant sinkhole in the Yamal Peninsula, an area rich with oil and gas, was spotted from a helicopter 18 miles from Yamal's biggest gas field Bovanenkovo, and it was filmed by engineer Konstantin Nikolaev of Yugra, according to the Siberian Times.
It was estimated to be 262-feet wide with an unknown depth. Here's video shot of the giant sinkhole from a helicopter:
Experts from the Centre for the Study of the Arctic and Crysophere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences were en route to the site in an attempt to figure out a cause, though they ruled out a meteorite and UFO.
"We can definitely say that it is not a meteorite," a spokesman for the Russian Emergencies Ministry told the Siberian Times. "No details yet."
Initial images were thought to be a hoax, but the giant sinkhole is authentic, and it might have been formed around two years ago, the Times reported.
Anna Kurchatova from Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Centre thinks the crater was formed by a water, salt, and gas mixture igniting an underground explosion, the result of global warming. She postulates that gas accumulated in ice mixed with sand beneath the surface, and that this was mixed with salt–some 10,000 years ago this area was a sea.
Global warming, causing an "alarming" melt in the permafrost, released gas causing an effect like the popping of a Champagne bottle cork, she suggests.
Given the gas pipelines in this region such a happening is potentially dangerous.
Dr. Chris Fogwill, an Australian polar scientist from the University of New South Wales, told The Sydney Morning Herald it looks like a periglacial feature, perhaps a collapsed pingo.
A pingo is a block of ice that's grown into a small hill in the frozen arctic ground. The ice can eventually push through the earth and when it melts away it leaves an exposed crater. Dr. Fogwill says the permafrost [frozen earth] can be hundreds of meters thick, allowing for large ice features.
"It's just a remarkable land form.
"This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there's been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there," Dr. Fogwill said.
The expedition team headed to Yamal, which means "end of the world" to the indigenous people of the Yamal Peninsula in northwest Siberia, plans on collecting samples of soil, air, and water from the scene, and hope to have an answer soon.
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