July 19, 2014
Yamal Crater: First Photos From Inside Mysterious Russian Sinkhole

Scientists have reached the mysterious crater that appeared in Russia's northern Yamal region, and the first images of the interior of the sinkhole at "the end of the world" are shedding new light on what cause the mysterious formation to appear.

As The Inquisitr previously reported, the mystery crater was discovered on Friday, July 11. Located on the Yamal peninsula in Russia, a far northern region whose name translates to "end of the world," many speculated the crater could be the result of an asteroid impact, or even an extreme version of a glacial formation known as a pingo.

Russian scientists traveled to the Yamal crater on Wednesday, as the Mail Online reports, and found that the cause of the unusual sinkhole may be more terrestrial in origin. They found that the crater, which is situated about 30 kilometers from Russia's Bovanenkovo natural gas field, is oval shaped, and smaller than original estimates, which placed the diameter of the crater at nearly 100 meters. The Yamal crater is actually around 60 meters in diameter.

Scientists also found that the Yamal crater was nearly 70 meters deep, with an icy lake situated at the bottom. They observed signs of burning visible around the edges of the crater, although they believe the causes are internal, rather than from an external impact. There is ice inside the Yamal crater, "which gradually thaws under the sun," according to Senior Researcher Andrey Plekhanov, who added that "there is melted water flowing down from its sides, you can see water traces on the pictures. The crater is filled with ice by about eighty per cent."

At this point, the scientists are sure that "under the influence of internal processes there was an ejection in the permafrost," according to the Siberia Times. Plekhanov stressed that "it was not an explosion, but an ejection, so there was no heat released as it happened." The research team is working with Russian satellite photographs to determine exactly when the Yamal crater formed.

Anna Kurchatova, of the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center, posits that the crater was formed by mixture of water, salt, and trapped natural gasses. Higher than average temperatures on Yamal over the last few years, she says, could be responsible for melting ice under the soil, releasing gas in an effect not unlike the popping of a champagne bottle cork.

While Plekhanov says more research is needed to determine the nature of the Russian crater, he admits that he has "never seen anything like this, even though I have been to Yamal many times."

[Image via Siberia Times]