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.
Is Lake Cheko an impact crater? Hardly so. This idea was put forward as long ago as 2007 (see: Gasperini, L., et al. “A possible impact crater for the 1908 Tunguska Event.” Terra Nova, 2007, Vol. 19, 245–251). But here is an article, in which this question is discussed in detail and the authors’ answer is definite “no”: http://www.univie.ac.at/geochemistry/koeberl/publikation_list/312-Lake-Cheko-not-impact-crater-Terra-Nova-2008.pdf (G. S. Collins et al. “Evidence that Lake Cheko is not an impact crater”). Also, I must add that the problem of the Tunguska explosion is rather complicated. For more information about this problem I would recommend the following books: “The Tungus Event or The Great Siberian Meteorite,” by John Engledew (Algora Publishing, ISSN 9780875867809), “The Tunguska Mystery,” by Vladimir Rubtsov (Springer N.Y., ISSN 9780387765730) and, with some reservations, “The Mystery of the Tunguska Fireball,” by Surendra Verma (Totem Books, ISSN 9781840467284). After reading these books I doubt that the “impactor” will soon be excavated from the lake bottom.