The Tunguska Event?

On June 30, 1908, something exploded over what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia. Bluish light stung the sky and loud sounds filled the air. A shock wave knocked people askew and shattered windows for hundreds of miles. What was the Tunguska Event?

What was the Tunguska Event?

While the Tunguska Event is a source of intense curiosity today, it was barely noticed back in 1908. In fact, the first expedition to investigate it didn’t take place for more than a decade.

In 1921, Russian mineralogist Leonid Kulik traveled to the area and interviewed witnesses. He determined a giant meteorite impact had caused the explosion. He returned to the region in 1927 and hired guides to take him to the impact site. What he saw shocked him to his core.

Kulik found miles of scorched and uprooted trees (830 square miles according to recent estimates). Since the trees had been knocked away from the explosion, he was able to locate ground zero. However, he was unable to fully determine the cause of the event.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

There are a number of explanations for the Tunguska Event. They range from the bizarre (Nikola Tesla firing an electrical wave from Wardenclyffe Tower) to the fairly plausible (an underground explosion of natural gas).

The most widely accepted theory today is that a meteor or comet exploded 3-6 miles above Tunguska, releasing 10-15 megatons of energy in the process. However, scientists have been unable to decide what type of cosmic object was responsible. Recently, a team of Italian scientists reported the discovery of meteorite chunks in nearby Lake Cheko.

“Seismic reflection and magnetic data revealed a P wave velocity/magnetic anomaly close to the lake center, about 10 m below the lake floor; this anomaly is compatible with the presence of a buried stony object and supports the impact crater origin for Lake Cheko.” ~ Magnetic and seismic reflection study of Lake Cheko, a possible impact crater for the 1908 Tunguska Event

So, does this solve the mystery of the Tunguska Event? Was it caused by an exploding meteor? Possibly. But in 2010, a team of Russian scientists used ground-penetrating radar to investigate a crater in the area. They found evidence that it had been created by a huge piece of ice, indicating an exploding comet. Thus, the Tunguska Event remains a mystery…at least for now.

Thomas Edison…Kills an Elephant?

One of our favorite topics here at Guerrilla Explorer is what we like to call “Dark History,” or the ugly bits of the past that get papered over by modern scholars eager to tell hero’s tales. Case in point…the man who killed Topsy the elephant via electrocution…none other than Thomas Edison himself.

Thomas Edison: Inventer or Patent Abuser?

According to the history books, Edison, aka The Wizard of Menlo Park, was a prolific inventor responsible for creating many wonderful things, including the light bulb. Except Edison didn’t create the light bulb. He just took Sir Joseph Swan’s working design and made a few small modifications. Then he patented it in America and proceeded to publicize himself as the true inventor. Indeed, Edison’s abuse of the patent system is reason he’s credited as the 4th most prolific inventor in history.

The Electrocution of Topsy the Elephant?

But today we’re focusing on something else, namely the War of Currents. The War of Currents was a long-pitched ferocious battle to determine the future of electric power distribution in the United States. It pitted Edison’s direct current (DC) against the alternating current (AC) promoted by George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla. By January 4, 1903, Edison had essentially lost the war. But he refused to give up. Instead, he resorted to fear-mongering and attempted to show the dangers of AC. How? By electrocuting an elephant named Topsy.

Of course, standards were different back then. Still, the death of Topsy showed the lengths the desperate Edison was willing to go to win the War of Currents. It was a brutal demonstration.

Here’s more on Edison’s electrocution of Topsy from Wired:

Edison’s aggressive campaign to discredit the new current took the macabre form of a series of animal electrocutions using AC (a killing process he referred to snidely as getting “Westinghoused”). Stray dogs and cats were the most easily obtained, but he also zapped a few cattle and horses.

Edison got his big chance, though, when the Luna Park Zoo at Coney Island decided that Topsy, a cranky female elephant who had squashed three handlers in three years (including one idiot who tried feeding her a lighted cigarette), had to go.

Park officials originally considered hanging Topsy but the SPCA objected on humanitarian grounds, so someone suggesting having the pachyderm “ride the lightning,” a practice that had been used in the American penal system since 1890 to dispatch the condemned. Edison was happy to oblige…

(See for more on Edison’s electrocution of Topsy)