Having an official task to draw up a geological map of the region, a young geologist ended up running into something so unique, outstanding and mysterious that it would still puzzle scientists more than six decades later – the Patomskiy Crater. A host of theories have been put forward in the intervening years: that the crater was created by an ancient civilization, or by prisoners at a top secret Stalin labor camp, or by volcanic activity, or by a meteorite, or by an underground hydrogen explosion, or by a UFO. And even more tantalizing: by two UFOs. Stories have been handed down by native people – who knew about the ‘cursed crater’ long before Kolpakov revealed it to the outside world. Among these accounts, were warnings that this ‘Devil’s Place’ was dangerous to humans. Questions remain unanswered about a phenomenon that has been called ‘The Most Mysterious Place in Russia.’ For example, why don’t trees grow on the side of the cone-like structure? Radiation levels are low now, but there is evidence they were once very high: why? In August 1949, when Kolpakov reached the very north of Irkutsk region, local Yakut people told him a story about an ‘evil’ place, hidden in the woods. They called it the Fire Eagle Nest, and according to them even the deer didn’t dare to go close to it. Locals told a lot of legends about it, warning people would suddenly start feeling unwell or even disappear, some to be found dead later, some never to be found. As recently as 2005, indeed, the head of a mission to the crater died suddenly within several kilometers of it. Legends didn’t scare Kolpakov back in 1949 but what he witnessed in a distance when he climbed up the hill was shocking.
What pushed up this massive mountain of rocks from the earth? ‘When I first saw the crater I thought that I’d gone crazy because of the heat,’ he noted. ‘And indeed a perfectly shaped mount of a size of a 25-storey building with a chopped off top sitting in the middle of the woods was quite an unexpected discovery. Since the discovery of this mysterious place, later named Patomskiy crater, scientists came up with widely differing theories of its origin: among them, an unknown underground explosion to the fall from space of a mysterious super dense substance unknown to man. Or even the UFO. But not a single one of these theories could fully explain the anomalies of the crater and the processes that still go on inside it. Later, other scientists, namely the geologist Alexander Portnov, came to the same conclusion, arguing that it could easily be former by a piece of space rock that sliced off the famous Tunguska meteoroid that exploded over Krasnoyarsk region, to the west of Patomskiy Crater, in 1908. Another early explanation was that the crater had volcanic origin. The shape superficially suggested this. Amateurs looking at it might see this as a probable theory. They may yet be right. “My NTV quote was a while ago, and since that time we’ve made a number of experiments and analyses that showed that most likely it is a volcano. Yes, the only one like this on this territory,” he said. “It is not a typical lava volcano, but just at some point gas exploded there.” Of course, there are many strange things still about the crater. There is no unified, definite consensus yet about it. Together with geomorphologists we have decided that it is the most likely version.
The strange thing that doesn’t fit the theory, however, is that if it was a gas explosion, it would not have raised the temperature. And there for a while the process of surface heating was certainly going on, there was an increased temperature level. ‘So the hypothesis is quite approximate still, but I do think that geomorphologists opinion is the most correct of all, that it is a gas volcano. “It also shows the typical ways of rising for the gas volcano – when gas keeps gathering inside the chamber, then there is an explosion that rises the ground, and gas starts gathering again. Then another explosion, and again the ground rises.” Alexander Pospeev, a doctor of geological and mineralogical sciences, insists the explanation is more prosaic, and less extra-terrestrial. “Even now, the origin of the crater is not discovered, but we can say for sure that it has the earthly origin,” he stated. “It could be caused by the underground release of some fluids such as hydrogen. Maybe some other fluid, that’s what we do not know exactly. But studies have now shown that there is no object like the fragments of an asteroid or some metal object under the crater, as has been suggested.”