If you ask most people about what’s in Siberia, they’ll probably reply that it’s snow. Well, snow isn’t the only interesting thing found in Siberia. Here are some fun facts about the lands with the harshest and most contrasting weather conditions that might truly surprise you.
The woolly mammoth
Back in the days monstrous furry creatures with the size of a present day elephant used to roam the Earth. Woolly mammoths, as scientists call them, lived on our planet nearly 400,000 years ago. Numerous remains of woolly mammoths have been found on Siberian soil over the course of the past couple of centuries. Most of them are just a handful of bones, but several well-preserved carcasses were also discovered. They are mainly from young mammoths, but an elder one, dubbed the Berezovka mammoth, is among the best documented excavations of these extinct creatures. According to the published findings, the animal had grass streaks stuck between its teeth when it was found!
The permanent ice
Permafrost is a notable feature of most Siberian mountains. The continuous permafrost lasts all year round and covers around 255 square kilometers (or 98 square miles) of all of Siberia. Nevertheless, over the past few decades it became clear that the ice is getting thinner and thinner. Siberian permafrost is believed to thaw in the near future if global warming increases, which in return will release gigantic amounts of dangerous hydrocarbons like methane.
The desert in the middle of Siberia
Photograph: Alexander Savchenko
Albeit being famous for its freezing temperatures, Siberia can be quite welcoming during the summer with temperatures often exceeding 15 degrees Celsius. What’s even more striking is that there is an actual desert inside Siberia – Chara Sands. It’s completely covered by sandy dunes from January till December and it ends abruptly at the verge of its mountainous surroundings. The Chara Sands is a unique place not only because it’s landlocked by mountains, but because its lands remain a desert throughout the entire year. On top of that, it’s the only desert on the entire globe that offers panoramic views of snow-covered mountain summits.
The Siberian “rat”
We’ve all heard about the majestic Siberian husky – a gorgeous blue-eyed furball that is well-known for its resilient and whimsical temperament and is used as a sled dog. Funnily enough, despite the fact that the husky is significantly larger than most pet canine breeds, when it was first introduced to the Nome region in Alaska, the locals labeled it as “The Siberian Rat” because it seemed tiny next to their Alaskan Malamutes.
The Tunguska event
Also known as the Tunguska Meteor, this is the largest and in the same time most puzzling impact event that ever occurred on Earth. It was an explosion that took place in the Siberian region Krasnoyarsk Krai in June 1908. The explosion flattened the nearby taiga’s flora and fauna, wiping out 2,000 square kilometers of land. What’s puzzling about it is that no evidence (such as leftover space object particles or a crater formed by the impact) was ever found in the region. It’s believed that the event was caused by an object such as an asteroid, a comet or a meteor, which exploded right before hitting the surface.
The Denisovan humans
For decades we were certain that scientists had discovered every possible species of human beings that roamed our lands. However, a recent discovery in Siberia proposed a brand new type of humans – the Denisovans. The very first DNA sample was derived from the Denisov cave in Siberia in 2010 and was extracted from a fragment of a finer bone that belonged to a young girl. Since then new bones have been found in the area, giving scientists more research material. What differs Denisovan humans from Neanderthals and present-day humans are the sequence and structure of the nucleotide molecules in the mitochondrial DNA.