Mystery Of Strange Siberian 'Holes' Solved -- Scientists Rappel Down Into Darkness

The mystery of the strange Siberian holes that started "appearing" last summer may finally have been solved.

As previously reported by the Inquisitr, last July, an initial hole -- or crater -- mysteriously appeared in the Yamal Peninsula of Northern Siberia. Only a few weeks later, two more strange holes, one again in Yamal and a third in the Taymyr Peninsula, were discovered, and their existence had scientists confounded. At first, locals assumed the holes were the results of meteorite impacts, but further examination determined that not to be the cause.

The initial Yamal hole in Siberia was found to be almost 60 meters wide and of an unknown depth. It was inspected aerially, according to the Siberian Times, and scientists insisted that it was caused by something "natural." An expedition was sent to inspect the crater from the ground. Soil, gas, and air samples were taken, and the "ring" of fresh dirt surrounding the crater was inspected as well.

After the two other mysterious Siberian holes were investigated, they too were found to be surrounded by a fresh layer of dirt, as if something had "exploded" out of the ground.

Scientists finally came to a mutual consensus that the Siberian holes had formed near massive methane reserves below ground. The region in Siberia has been hit hard by climate change, enduring warmer temperatures than the area has seen in 120,000 years, according to IFL Science. The result of the high temperatures, scientists thought, was that the methane in the underground reserves became heated. Pressure built until the methane shot up and out of the ground, causing the craters. This phenomenon, called a pingo, has been documented before, but never on such a large scale.

Siberian Hole 3

However, up to now, all of this was just a theory, as the holes in Siberia had been deemed to dangerous and unstable to investigate firsthand. However, the Siberian winter has finally frozen the ground to such a point that investigators were finally able to rappel down into the deep dark.

Scientists scaled down the side of the first Yamal crater. The temperature was 12 degrees Fahrenheit as they descended down 65 feet into the funnel of the crater, where a frozen lake has formed at the bottom. Scientists think the lake beneath the frozen ice is another 35 feet deep. The team, led by Vladimir Pushkarev, director of the Russian Center for Arctic Exploration, conducted an investigation at the bottom of the Yamal hole, and their tentative findings lend some credence to their original supposition.

Siberian Hole

Pushkarev explained his thoughts to the Siberian Times.

"The main element—and this is our working theory to explain the Yamal crater—was a release of gas hydrates. It turned out that there are gas hydrates both in the deep layer, which on [the] peninsula is several hundred meters down, and on the layer close to the surface. There might be another factor, or factors, that could have provoked the air clap. Each of the factors added up and gas exploded, leading to appearance of the crater. The crater is located on the intersection of two tectonic faults. Yamal peninsula is seismically quiet, yet the area of the crater we looked into has quite an active tectonic life. That means that the temperature there was higher than usual."

Pushkarev said that once all the data was in from the first Siberian hole, the team would then investigate the other two.

[Images via The Russian Center for Arctic Exploration]