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Fragments of meteorite from the Tunguska Event in 1908 are 'found' in a Siberian river

By 0 and 0 and 0
03 May 2013


Andrei Zlobin makes prospect-hole in the peat bog not far from Suslov's depression (central region of the Tunguska impact, July 1998). Picture: Cornwell University

The explosion near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River is seen as one of the great mysteries of modern history. It registered five on the Richter scale and destroyed 80 million trees over a vast but very remote area some 2,000 square kilometres in size.

Accounts put the death toll as one person and thousands of reindeer. Scientists have long puzzled over the lack of a crater, with the main theory that the event was caused by an explosion of a meteorite or comet in the earth's atmosphere. 

Now Andrei Zlobin, from the Russian Academy of Sciences, has revealed his discovery in the 1988 of three rocks from a river in the Tunguska region which show the telltale signs of meteorites. 

The find was made in the local Khushmo River, after he failed to discovery any potential samples in digs in the peat. Despite being found 25 years ago, they have not been subjected to modern testing, a process that will now begin, to probe their chemical and isotopic composition.

The three samples - part of a batch of 100 rocks found by Zlobin - were nicknamed 'dental crown', 'whale' and 'boat' by the scientists because of their features. The largest - the 'whale' - weighs just 10.4 grams. 

Tunguska meteorite fragments 'found' in Siberia

The find was made in the local Khushmo River, after he failed to discovery any potential samples in digs in the peat. Despite being found 25 years ago, they have not been subjected to modern testing, a process that will now begin, to probe their chemical and isotopic composition. Picture: Cornwell University

The stones have regmaglypts, shallow surface indentations that are sometimes created when a space rock makes a fiery entry into Earth's atmosphere, according to Zlobin, an expert at the Vernadsky State Geological Museum in Moscow.

He believes the Tunguska explosion did not generate enough heat on the ground to melt the earth's rocks, and that these samples, washed into the river, were 'cooked' high above the surface when the space body exploded. 

Some scientists have already questioned why Zlobin has waited a quarter of a century to reveal his discovery, and why the rocks have not been subjected to modern analysis so far.One theory is that the disruption to science with the break-up of the Soviet Union was a factor in this delay. 

Zlobin's theory of the Tunguska Event appears to be that it was a comet with a similar density to  Halley's Comet, which is is the only short-period comet clearly visible to the naked eye from Earth, which appears once every 75-76 years. The three rocks could have been ripped from the stony bodies packed inside an icy comet as it tore through Earth's atmosphere, exposed to extreme heat stresses.

An earlier sample from the remote region found in the 1930s by the Russian mineralogist Leonid Kulik was a melted glassy rock containing bubbles. The sample was lost before it underwent modern analysis. 

The event on 30 June 1908 was seen by Evenki people and Russian settlers in the hills northwest of Lake Baikal. It was described as a column of bluish light, almost as bright as the Sun, moving across the sky. Some ten minutes later there was a bright flash and a noise like artillery fire. 

Closer to the explosion, people were knocked off their feet, and glass was broken in homes hundreds of kilometres away. Many felt tremors though too far away to see the event. Fluctuations in atmospheric pressure were strong enough to be detected as far away as Britain. 

Chelyabinsk meteorite 2013

Spectacular falling meteorite fragments struck the Chelyabinsk region earlier in 2013, exploding in the atmosphere and crashing to the ground. Picture: The Siberian Times 

On subsequent nights, the skies were 'aglow' evidently due to light passing through high-altitude ice particles formed at extremely low temperatures.

Testimony of S. Semenov, as recorded by Leonid Kulik's expedition in 1930:

'At breakfast time I was sitting by the house at Vanavara Trading Post [65 kilometres/40 miles south of the explosion], facing north...I suddenly saw that directly to the north, over Onkoul's Tunguska Road, the sky split in two and fire appeared high and wide over the forest'. 

'The split in the sky grew larger, and the entire northern side was covered with fire. At that moment I became so hot that I couldn't bear it, as if my shirt was on fire; from the northern side, where the fire was, came strong heat.

'I wanted to tear off my shirt and throw it down, but then the sky shut closed, and a strong thump sounded, and I was thrown a few metres. I lost my senses for a moment, but then my wife ran out and led me to the house. After that such noise came, as if rocks were falling or cannons were firing, the earth shook, and when I was on the ground, I pressed my head down, fearing rocks would smash it.

'When the sky opened up, hot wind raced between the houses, like from cannons, which left traces in the ground like pathways, and it damaged some crops. Later we saw that many windows were shattered, and in the barn a part of the iron lock snapped.'

Tunguska meteorite fragments 'found' in Siberia

Tunguska meteorite fragments 'found' in Siberia

Other stones from Andrei Zlobin's collection from Khushmo River's shoal. Pictures: Cornwell University

Testimony of Chuchan of Shanyagir tribe, as recorded by I.M. Suslov in 1926:

'We had a hut by the river with my brother Chekaren. We were sleeping. Suddenly we both woke up at the same time. Somebody shoved us.

'We heard whistling and felt strong wind. Chekaren said, 'Can you hear all those birds flying overhead?'

'We were both in the hut, couldn't see what was going on outside. Suddenly, I got shoved again, this time so hard I fell into the fire. I got scared. Chekaren got scared too. We started crying out for father, mother, brother, but no one answered. There was noise beyond the hut, we could hear trees falling down.

'Chekaren and I got out of our sleeping bags and wanted to run out, but then the thunder struck. This was the first thunder. The Earth began to move and rock, wind hit our hut and knocked it over.

'My body was pushed down by sticks, but my head was in the clear. Then I saw a wonder: trees were falling, the branches were on fire, it became mighty bright, how can I say this, as if there was a second sun, my eyes were hurting, I even closed them. It was like what the Russians call lightning. And immediately there was a loud thunderclap. This was the second thunder.

'The morning was sunny, there were no clouds, our Sun was shining brightly as usual, and suddenly there came a second one! Chekaren and I had some difficulty getting out from under the remains of our hut. Then we saw that above, but in a different place, there was another flash, and loud thunder came.

'This was the third thunder strike. Wind came again, knocked us off our feet, struck against the fallen trees. We looked at the fallen trees, watched the tree tops get snapped off, watched the fires.

'Suddenly Chekaren yelled 'Look up' and pointed with his hand. I looked there and saw another flash, and it made another thunder. But the noise was less than before. This was the fourth strike, like normal thunder. Now I remember well there was also one more thunder strike, but it was small, and somewhere far away, where the Sun goes to sleep'.

Comments (3)

You will pay dearly for this.
BigRamifications, Western Australia
05/08/2020 15:15
Pascal Charissou, France
02/10/2015 22:37
it would be great to hear Mr Zlobin speaking more in the subject, and understand how soon can we expect to hear about the test results
Anna, Germany
05/05/2013 13:45

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