Originally published 2017-March 3. Updated 2020-August 1.
If the land around you was sinking and falling at this rate, you’d be worried too!
Villagers of Batagay in Yakutia (Sakha Republic, Siberia) reportedly believe that a mouth to hell is nearby. News stories tell of the sinking and mass wasting (“megaslump”) of the nearby land area that continues to grow and change the landscape, creating new hazards.
The Batagaika crater is the result of melting permafrost land. In the Quaternary Ice Age, the ground was permanently frozen. In the 1960s, a forested area was cleared, allowing sunlight to reach the ground surface and warm it. Without heavy vegetation, the cooling effects of transpiration were lost as well. As the ice in the soil melts, the ground compacts, slumps, and subsides. With increasing average earth temperatures, we may be seeing an increase in melting permafrost worldwide. Thanks to the internet, we can all see and share the odd and frightening phenomena that can result from it.
This sunken area has been measured since the 1980s. It is currently 1 km long and 86 m deep, exposing layers of soil 120,000 to 200,000 years old, possibly up to 650,000 years old according to preliminary dating of the lowest layer in the permafrost face – the oldest uncovered in Eurasia. The slumping movement has not stabilized and it can’t be halted. The process is self-feeding. The slump grows 20-30 m per year. [Source – BBC Reel]
According to the Siberian Times (not the most reputable source), the locals fear the crater and they hear booms emanating from it. The Yakut people of the area retain some supernatural beliefs of a spirit world around them and practice Shamanism. For a culture so connected to the environment, reliant on hunting, trapping, and fishing for their subsistence, this must be a genuinely scary happening they have not witnessed in their history.
Researcher Julian Murton who has studied the “largest known retrogressive thaw slump in the world” on location did not find any tunnel or hole at the bottom.
“At the bottom of the slump is rock … I haven’t seen any gateway to hell.”
Instead, Murton and others see the crater as a gateway to the past .
Looking at the layers exposed by the slump can give indications of how our world once looked – of past climates. At the same time, the acceleration of the growth gives an immediate insight into the impact of climate change on the increasingly fragile permafrost.
In 2018, an expedition from North-Eastern Federal University, and Kindai University in Japan recovered a baby horse exquisitely preserved at Batagay. The foal was dated at approximately 42,000 years old. Along with preserved hair and internal organs intact, scientists were able to extract liquid blood from the body.
Other news stories about the crater:
Siberia’s ‘Doorway To The Underworld’ Is Rapidly Growing In Size – Forbes
Looking into Earth’s past — The Batagaika crater in Siberia – Digital Journal