Russian Melt Reveals Ancient Environment

Published reports indicate the permafrost that typically rests frozen underneath the Siberian countryside is thawing. Where the underlying rocks and soil are warming up, the formerly icy earth has become a watery mix of mud and methane gas, displacing the surrounding dirt and then frequently collapsing, which causes the formation of huge surface depressions. But these are no ordinary holes. Scientists have discovered remnants of ancient flora and fauna within the dissolving ice of these large ground cavities, including Siberia’s Batgaika Crater.

Known as “Hellmouth” to some, the local Yakutian culture calls the Batgaika Crater “the doorway to hell.” But for others, the roughly half-mile wide and 300 foot deep land depression, first discovered in the 1960s, is a gateway to the past. Located in a remote area of the Sakha Republic, from the air, the still growing crater looks like an immense ditch. But experts have recovered “the remains of ancient mammoth, musk ox and even a 4,400-year-old horse” from the big thaw. What’s more, the remains of tree stumps and other wood suggest the region was once a forest, while primordial pollen points to the existence of flowers on an arctic plain.

Perhaps most compelling is the comprehensive climate profile obtained from the deposits at Batgaika. Scholars have been able to view 200,000 years of climate history intact; the permafrost has preserved the accumulation of sediment and other substances. At the University of Sussex, professor of permafrost science, Julian Murtin, was quoted saying the strata have provided a “continuous record of geological history, which is fairly unusual.” Murtin also indicates the layers show signs of prior climate warming episodes.

Residents of nearby villages regularly report hearing strange underground noises coming from the crater at Batgaika, which are said to be evil and related to the devil. As a result, villagers applied the “doorway to hell” reference. Experts agree the odd sounds are merely the movement of soil and water. Nevertheless, though it may not be Jurassic Park, Batgaika has provided an entryway to a prehistoric world.

Video: The gigantic ‘gateway to the underworld’ – Daily News/YouTube

Photos:  Exposition of Russian Regions, Olympic Park (11) (baby mammoth) – American Rugbier/Creative Commons (CC); map of Sakha Republic – CC; usage of these photos does not constitute endorsement by the authors/sources.

Paul Wolfle has a B.A. in Geography from Hofstra University (m. Art History); and an ARM (Risk Management) insurance certification.

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