The hole at the end of the earth

COLIN COSIER AND SIMON MORRIS
Last updated 07:33 17/07/2014
Sydney Morning Herald

A giant Siberian crater is probably not a caused by a meteor and probably not a hoax. So what is is?

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A giant, mysterious crater in northern Siberia is probably a melted ice formation rather than a hole from a meteor, says an Australian polar scientist.

The Siberian Times reported the giant hole in the Yamal Peninsula - which reportedly translates to "end of the world" - is up to 80 metres wide and has an unknown depth.

A team of Russian scientists have been dispatched to investigate the crater but University of New South Wales polar scientist Dr Chris Fogwill says it's likely to be a geological phenomenon called a pingo.

"Certainly from the images I've seen it looks like a periglacial feature, perhaps a collapsed pingo," Fogwill said.

A pingo is a block of ice that's grown into a small hill in the frozen arctic ground. The ice can eventually push through the earth and when it melts away it leaves an exposed crater. Fogwill says the permafrost [frozen earth] can be hundreds of metres thick, allowing for large ice features.

"It's just a remarkable land form.

"This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there's been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there," Fogwill said.

The Siberian hole appeared about 30 kilometres from Yamal's biggest gas field, Bovanenkovo, fuelling speculation there had been some sort of underground explosion.

That theory is supported by the fact the earth appears to have been push up from underground.

A Russian engineer reportedly filmed the hole from a helicopter and the vision has since been shared widely online.

Initial reports and comments labelled the video a fake.

But Fogwill says pingos are a natural occurrence and can be so large they can been seen in satellite imagery in the arctic.

And global warming may mean more pingos in the future.

"We're seeing much more activity in permafrost areas than we've seen in the historical past. A lot of this relates to this high degree of warming around these high arctic areas which are experiencing some of the highest rates of warming on earth," Fogwill said.

A team of Russian scientists was reported to be arriving at the site some time on Wednesday (local time).

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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