The Tunguska Event, 1908: Actually, it Was a UFO

by Timothy Chilman


<I’d still like suggestions as to things to write about, to the email address above.>

On June 30, 1908, a 120 foot-wide chunk of rock entered the atmosphere above central Siberia traveling at around seven miles a second, heating the surrounding air to 44,500°F. It appeared as a huge fireball almost as bright as the sun which moved across the sky. At 7:17a.m. local time, it exploded with a great flash at an altitude of about 28,000 feet. NASA said this was due to the pressure and heat of the object.

Some people say the explosion at Tunguska had as much power as a thousand nuclear weapons, but a better estimate is that it was three times the power of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

Estimates of the power of the blast vary, with some saying it was as much as that of a thousand atom bombs. The best estimate, however, is probably that of Ari Ben-Menahem in 1975. Using seismographs of the Tunguska event and the Zemlya and Lop-Nor nuclear weapon tests, he concluded that the explosive yield was 12.5 megatons, plus or minus 2.5, which is three times that of the bomb which destroyed Hiroshima. Seismic activity was measured as 5 on the Richter scale.

Storage huts in the vicinity were devastated by fire, and metal within was deformed by the heat. An eyewitness reported that a thousand reindeer, the mainstay of the local Evenki people, perished, but no people died as the area was sparsely populated by hunters and trappers. Had the event occurred over a city, hundreds of thousands of people would have died. If the event had taken place four hours and 47 minutes later, St. Petersburg would have been obliterated.

The taiga (coniferous forest) near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River was devastated: an estimated 80 million trees were felled between 20 and 25 miles around (F.J.W. Whipple 1934) and thousands burned in an area of more than 1,300 square miles. Kridec (1960) described the fires in the vicinity as “unnatural.” A shock wave circled the Earth twice. People were knocked from their feet and windows 400 miles distant broke. Seismic stations across Eurasia registered the blast, and it was detected by the recently-invented barograph in the United Kingdom. In the United States, the Mount Wilson Observatory and the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory reported a decrease in atmospheric transparency that lasted for months.

In 1966, Kridec reported: “All the inhabitants of the village ran out into the street in panic. The old women wept, everyone thought that the end of the world was approaching.” Old men thought they were about to die, and donned clean shirts for the occasion. One even took the drastic step of having a bath.

S.B. Semedec was at the Vanara trading post. He said, “Suddenly in the north sky… the sky was split in two, and high above the forest the whole northern part of the sky appeared covered with fire… At that moment there was a bang in the sky and a mighty crash… The crash was followed by a noise like stones falling from the sky, or of guns firing. The earth trembled.”

Kridec (1966) reported that a train engineer said he felt “a kind of strong vibration of the air,” then heard a “roar” which he took to be “an earthquake or some other natural phenomenon,” and which frightened him sufficiently that he halted his train, believing it had left the rails. When he arrived at a station, he requested an inspection to determine the problem.

Kridec also reported that a farmer in the Kezhma area (around 125 miles south of the impact site) said, “At that time I was plowing my land at Narodima. When I sat down to have my breakfast beside my plow, I heard sudden bangs, as if from gun-fire. My horse fell on its knees. From the north side, above the forest, a flame shot up. I thought the enemy was firing, since at that time there was talk of war. Then I saw that the fir forest had been bent over by the wind and I thought of a hurricane. I seized hold of my plow with both hands, so that it would not be carried off. The wind was so strong that it carried off some of the soil from the surface of the ground, and then the hurricane drove a wall of water up the Angara [a seiche perhaps]. I saw it all quite clearly, because my land was on a hillside.”

Two days after the event, the Irkutsk newspaper reported:

Peasants saw a very bright body in the sky.

“…The peasants saw a body shining very brightly (too bright for the naked eye) with a bluish-white light…. The body was in the form of ‘a pipe’, i.e. cylindrical. The sky was cloudless, except that low down on the horizon, in the direction in which this glowing body was observed, a small dark cloud was noticed. It was hot and dry and when the shining body approached the ground (which was covered with forest at this point) it seemed to be pulverized, and in its place a loud crash, not like thunder, but as if from the fall of large stones or from gunfire was heard. All the buildings shook and at the same time a forked tongue of flames broke through the cloud.”

For two days after, newspapers could be read at night in London, 6,213 miles away. Noctilucent clouds are formed of ice particles at extremely high altitudes in very low temperatures. The same phenomenon arose days after the launch of the space shuttle, Endeavor, on August 8, 2007, and after other launches in 1997 and 2003.

The Russian government made no immediate attempt to investigate the event, as nobody had been harmed and as the first Russian revolution had taken place only three years earlier, the authorities had other things on their minds. In 1921, the Russian Academy of Sciences appointed Leonid Kulik, the chief curator of the meteorite collection of the St. Petersburg museum, to lead an investigatory expedition. Harsh conditions forced the expedition to be aborted. Another three expeditions were led by Kulik, with the next being in 1927. Don Yeomans, manager of the Near-Earth Object Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that locals were, initially, reluctant to speak to Kulik about the event: “They believed the blast was a visitation by the god Ogdy, who had cursed the area by smashing trees and killing animals.”

The expedition found the going difficult in the face of cold temperatures and insufficient funds for supplies and equipment, but eyewitnesses were questioned and newspaper articles collected.

A photograph of trees knocked over by the blast at Tunguska, taken on one of the expeditions led by Leonid Kulik

Those 80 million trees were in a radial pattern. At ground zero, trees were upright, but stripped of limbs and bark. Yeomans said they were “like a forest of telephone poles.” The same phenomenon was noted 37 years later at Hiroshima.

Kulik was amazed that there was no impact crater. Yeoman said there was no crater and no fragments of an extra-terrestrial object because the object was consumed by the explosion, however a crater has been tentatively identified. A team of Italian researchers used acoustic equipment to investigate the bottom of Lake Cheko, around five miles north of the suspected epicenter of the explosion. The study was led by Luca Gasperini, a geologist of the Marine Science Institute of Bologne, who said, “The funnel-like shape of the basin and samples from its sedimentary deposits suggest that the lake fills an impact crater.” He said that his team’s findings indicate that a 33 foot-wide fragment of the object kept traveling in the same direction after the explosion. The team’s work was published in the August 2007 edition of the journal, Terra Nova.

This theory can be criticized. A previous expedition by Russian scientists concluded that Lake Cheko formed prior to 1908 based on sediments at the bottom of the lake. Gasperini’s team counters that these older deposits were already present at the time of the impact. William Hartmann, senior scientist of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, said the Italian team’s findings were “exciting” and warranted further study, but that if one large fragment hit the ground, there would also be thousands of smaller fragments, which many searches have failed to find.

The asteroid, 253 Mathilde

It has been suggested that there was little debris from the object because it was an asteroid like 253 Mathilde, which was photographed by the Near-Shoemaker space probe in 1997. Mathilde is a pile of rubble whose density is close to that of water, so it would explode and fragment in the atmosphere, leaving only the shock wave to reach the ground. NASA asteroid expert, David Morrison, said the object was not a “dirty snowball” because such a thing would have exploded tens of miles above the surface of the Earth, and U.S. satellites have been observing such explosions for decades. Morrison believes the theory of a comet “persists out of inertia.” It is possible that the lack of debris is because the explosion was nuclear.

So, what hit Tunguska? As well as a piece of rock, it has been suggested that it was a mini-black hole (Jackson and Ryan 1973), although there is no sign of its emergence at the other end of the Earth. Anti-matter has also been suggested (Cowan, Alturi, and Libby 1965), however such an explosion would result in an increase in atmospheric radiocarbon, but analysis of a tree near to ground zero found no such thing. Gratifyingly, it is possible that a UFO was involved.

Russian scientist, Yuri Lavbin, is the president of the Tunguska Spatial Phenomenon Foundation in Krasnoyarsk. The Foundation consists of 15 enthusiasts who include mineralogists, physicists, chemists, and geologists. He has researched the Tunguska event for 12 years. The Foundation has paid regular visits to the area since 1994.

Lavbin’s team concluded that the object moved from west to east, and not from the southeast, as is traditionally believed. This is more in tune with the stories of witnesses. They used satellite photographs to identify search areas.

Yuri Lavbin believes the explosion at Tunguska resulted from a collision between a comet and a UFO.

Lavbin posits that the explosion was caused by the collision of a comet and a UFO six miles above the surface of the Earth. He says that an expedition to the Podkamannaya Tunguska river in July 2004 found two strange, black, cube-shaped stones which were five feet wide and had been hidden by trees. Lavbin says these “are manifestly not of natural origin” and chemical analysis supported him. They are, he said, composed of a material similar to the alloy used to make space rockets, long before such substances existed. According to Lavbin, these were part of the UFO.

Anna Skripnik of the meteorites committee of the Academy of Sciences said that in Siberia, where oil is extracted, it is often possible to find heaps of fragments of various machines. Dutch space historian, Geert Sassen, said, “They might have found some parts of the fifth Vostok test flight.” This crashed near Tunguska., the popular science news website, reported that the cubes contained iron silicate and an unknown material, which latter rules out these explanations.

Lavbin’s team also found a massive, white stone “the size of a peasant’s hut” atop a crag in the center of the devastated forest. Locals refer to it as the “reindeer stone” and it was frequently mentioned by eyewitnesses. It is composed of crystalline matter atypical to the region. This, Lavbin said, was part of the core of the comet. A 110-pound piece was sent to Krasnoyarsk for analysis.

Quartz slabs bearing strange markings were also discovered. Lavin said that no technology exists which could make such images on crystal, and that ferrum silicate found at the site could not be produced on Earth.

Science fiction writer, Aleksandr Kazantsev, was the first to suggest a UFO hit a comet, but Soviet scientists rejected the proposition and he was forbidden from conducting further research. After 17 years of research, prominent Soviet scientist, Alexei Zolotov, said the event was caused by the nuclear explosion of a UFO, as reported by TASS in mid-October, 1976.

Valery Uvarov, head of the Department of UFO Research at the National Security Academy in St. Petersburg, is answerable to two people who are answerable to President Putin. He said in an interview with UFO magazine that the Tunguska explosion was caused by the collision of a meteor and a “missile.”

Lavbin believes this to be the case. He said, “I am fully confident and I can make an official statement that we were saved by some forces of a superior civilization. They exploded this enormous meteorite that headed toward us with enormous speed.”

Many witnesses reported that the object in the sky had a very low speed and changed course, which would eliminate the possibility of a comet. Science writer, T.R. Le Maire, said that the body came from the south but changed course to head east, before changing again to head west (Le Maire 1980). Professor F. Zigel also said the “meteorite” changed course.

Potapovich, who acted as a guide for Kulik, said that his brother’s hut was flattened by the explosion, which caused most of his reindeer to flee. He then suffered a long illness (Kridec 1966). It has been reported that other people and animals in the area were also struck down by a strange sickness – possibly radiation sickness. Trees of the second generation after the explosion exhibited higher growth rates than normal – possibly mutation.

In the 1950s and 1960s, expeditions to Tunguska found microscopic, glass spheres in the soil which contained high proportions of nickel and iridium, which occur at high concentrations in meteorites. In 1962, silicate globules and microscopic pellets of magnetite were found at Tunguska, and these were believed to be extra-terrestrial in origin. More recently, researchers claimed to have found higher levels of cosmic dust particles in Greenland ice cores which were dated to 1908.

Tunguska today

The fact that the object in the sky changed course and the height of the explosion indicate that it was not a meteorite, but there is enough evidence to show that it was not of terrestrial origin. The radial pattern of felled trees, the lack of meteor fragments, the sickness of people and animals in the area, and the abnormal growth of later trees suggest the explosion was nuclear. The cube-shaped stones of unnatural origin and the marked quartz slabs indicate alien technology. There was a UFO at Tunguska in 1908, boys and girls.


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