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Unexplained Mysteries - The Great Siberian Fireball

Updated on November 14, 2015
The Great Siberian Fireball
The Great Siberian Fireball

Exploding Comet or Stray UFO?

An occurrence in the remote Russian forests of Tunguska, Siberia, the “Great Siberian Fireball,” rocked planet Earth and destroyed 800 plus miles of trees. Whether the impact was from a meteor or a comet is still up for debate among researchers over 100 years after this devastating event. Was this a spectacular exploding comet or a stray UFO? Leaving no fragments or impact craters has left astronomers uncertain.

On June 30th, 1908, at approximately 7 am, the passengers aboard the Trans-Siberian Express were astonished to witness what would become known as the “Great Siberian Fireball.” Witnesses described a glowing blue fireball accompanied by sounds similar to a sonic explosion. The event was followed by widespread devastation.

As the bright blue fireball roared overhead, the Trans-Siberian Express’ carriages shook violently. The driver thought that the loud noises and vibrating that was coming from the rear were actually the sounds of his train exploding. He was just recovering from this stressful experience when once again he was thrown into turmoil as the ground beneath the tracks began to heave. In fear of derailment, he quickly brought the train to a halt.

Not the only witnesses to the largest known fireball in recorded history, the devastation proceeded. At 7:15 am, the fireball had reached the isolated trading post of Vanavara. There local farmer, S.B. Semenow, was sitting on his porch enjoying the rising midsummer sun while his neighbor, P.P. Kosalopov, was doing some exterior decorating.

Semenow said that a fireball which “covered an enormous part of the sky,” had appeared from a north-westerly direction. As the object passed overhead, both men fell to the ground in agonizing pain. Semenow felt as though the shirt on his back was on fire while Kosalopov clasped his ears in the vain attempt to stop the burning sensation from within.

The powerful force of the explosion produced devastating ground tremors, knocking Semenow off his porch and raining huge chunks of earth onto Kosalopov’s house. Covering their eyes as the object shattered in a series of blinding flashes swiftly followed by a “pillar of fire” reaching so high that it could be seen hundreds of miles away, both men took a few necessary minutes to regain their wits as the sound of thunder rumbled through the air.

The hardest hit by the explosion, the Tungus, a nomadic Mongolian tribe who populated the area surrounding the Siberian Podkamennaya (Lower Stony) Tunguska River, glanced up into the sky and watched as the fireball streaked through the atmosphere. The fireball left behind it a 500 mile trail of smoke and light before finally coming to a rest in a desolate area of bogs and pine-covered hills traversed by the Tunguska River, 60 miles north of Vanavara. The Tungus would have to contend with the forest fires that burned for weeks, destroying 625 square miles of forest in their area alone. Entire herds of reindeer were lost as the scorched remains of the Tungus’ tents scattered across the valley in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai in Russia.

Reports were also told of horses being thrown to the ground, houses shaking and fisherman having been thrown from their boats in Kansk, about 370 miles south of Vanavara. Miraculously, no one was killed in this incident.

Not only affecting the Siberian wilderness in its aftermath, after the fireball’s explosion, many countries in Scandinavia and Europe reported unusually colorful sunsets and sunrises. In the Near East were some reports of nights up to 100 times brighter than normal as well as crimson hues in the sky. The phenomenal lightshows continued until the night of June 30th, although faint traces could still be seen over an extended period of several weeks.

On July 1st, a woman from Huntington, England wrote to the Times in London. Her letter would say that shortly after midnight, “it was possible to read large print indoors…at about 1:30 am the room was quite light, as if it had been day,” in response to such an unusual sight.

The cause of these freak conditions could not easily be explained. According to researchers, this kind of devastation can only occur when meteors collide with Earth. This type of collision ended the dinosaur era and has the capacity to wipe out the entire human population. On another end of the spectrum, Professor Alexander Kazantsev believes the fireball to have been a Martian rocket ship, having been told by eye-witnesses of a UFO that had changed course several times before exploding.

Many renowned scientists have participated in the studies of this event including Leonid Kulik, Yevgeny Krinov, Kirill Florensky, Nikolay Vasiliev and Wilhelm Fast. The event is still referred to as an impact even though the meteor, comet or whatever it may have been burst into the air rather than hitting ground. Upon investigation, no proof of what the mysterious object was or if it had ever reached the ground could be found despite all efforts, although there are plenty of theories.

The energy of the blast has been compared to the United States’ Castle Bravo thermonuclear bomb tested on March 1st, 1954. This bomb was about 1,000 times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, at about one-third the power of the largest nuclear weapon ever detonated, the Tsar Bomba.

This event took out a total of over 80 million trees and broke windows hundreds of miles away, with tremors that would have measured a powerful 5.0 on the Richter scale. With the strength to take out a large metropolitan area, the Tunguska event has inspired discussion of asteroid deflection strategies.


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