In Eastern Siberia just outside the urban settlement of Batagai, lies one of the largest and most mysterious craters on Earth. Largely avoided by the locals due to belief it is a cursed gate to the underworld, Batagay crater, also known as Hellmouth, is visited each year by hundreds of scientists on a quest to unravel the meaning and future of the largest permafrost crater on our planet. Over 100 metres deep, scientists claim Batagaika crater is becoming deeper and wider each year due to global warming and will be the crucial source of groundbreaking information about the geographical and biological prehistoric life on Earth. Not one of its kind, Siberia counts at least a dozen of similar craters, some of which have turned to lakes, all of them considered a serious threat to Russian oil and gas industry.
However, since its formation in 1960., superstitious locals have consistently rejected the scientific thesis that this crater is a manmade consequence of climatic disaster, proclaiming the monstrous sounds and ejected material coming from its inside a proof that it is an evil mark on the edge of the Earth. In the age of numerous global warming conspiracy theories and more and more people who question its authenticity, could Siberia truly be facing menacing esoteric presence or is it just a superstitious belief of occultism paranoid locals?
History and Origin
After a large Soviet deforestation project taken in 1960. near the small Siberian river Batagaika, it was noticed that the land that used to be surrounded by the forest suddenly started to sink. This peculiarity was first noticed by the locals who’ve immediately associated it with warnings and signs from above, but it was quickly picked up by the scientific community that has given a completely rational explanation of this phenomenon. Due to climate experts, large forest created the shadow on the land during the sunny months and thus prevented the ground from melting. Located in permafrost, the ground started melting when being hit by the sun after the forest that provided the layer of isolation was cut down, and eventually started to sink. However, this provided climate experts and paleontologist with an unique opportunity to travel back in time by observing the layers that have been exposed by this crater. Described as a portal to Hell by locals who largely believe global warming and climate change science to be a new age scam, Hellmouth has remained one of the most feared natural occurrences in Siberia since its inception to the present day. Further supporting their beliefs are the sounds coming from the crater, which were described as monstrous and other-worldly, but were claimed to simply be the sounds of melting and failing soil by scientists. Furthermore, the crater has consistently threw up some of the material from its inside, which has been found scattered up to 200 metres around the megaslump. Along with the haunting sounds and the ever growing size of the crater, this has cemented the doom-like prophecies of Siberians. This strange trait of Batagaika crater has been noticed by scientific community as well, who haven’t been able to give an explanation to why this is happening, as the ejection of material implies high temperatures, which are obviously far from realistic in Siberian permafrost. This led to more public and mainstream speculation about what is inside the crater, and whether the superstitious locals might actually be right.
Current state and Future of the crater
Growing 15 to 20 metres annually in width, Hellmouth has been swallowing up surrounding trees and forest, and at the width of over 1 kilometer, its growth shows no signs of slowing down. According to scientists, a large percentage of melting ice from the crater is turning into methane gas, a greenhouse gas much more powerful than carbon dioxide. Since Northern hemisphere permafrost contains more than 50% of Earth’s methane gas, numerous Alaskan and Siberian craters are currently emitting gases that will significantly speed up global warming, which will lead to warmer temperatures and further melting of permafrost. This cycle is described as extremely dangerous for our planet, but unstoppable.
However, Batagaika crater has one redeeming quality; It has enabled scientists to see what Siberian landscape looked like 200 000 years ago. In deep layers of crater, remains of wood with high amounts of pollen were found, a strong sign of a tundra landscape featuring spruce and pine that once covered the area. Batagaika crater gave scientists a first glimpse into the climate history of Siberia, an extremely relevant set of information as we are currently living in an age of a rapid global warming. Knowing how the climate changed in the past can give us a strong vision of what we can expect in the future and how we can best prepare for it.
As a preserver of material, permafrost holds numerous remains of animals, plants and bacteria from thousands of years ago. Expectedly, remains of cave lions, wolves, Pleistocene ice age horse and prehistoric steppe bison have all surfaced as the Hellmouth soil continued to thaw. A large flooding that struck the region in the year 2008. has sped up the melting process even more, opening a larger surface of the crater which in turn has started emitting more greenhouse gas than before.
In addition to massive holes in the ground, scientists claim another major consequence of thawing ice in Siberia are methane pockets. An extraordinary and slightly scary occurrence, subterrain bubbles after being punctured contained nothing but high concentration of methane and carbon dioxide. Chilling scenery has yet again been associated with supernatural occurrences in Siberia by the locals, rather than with global warming and climate change. Regardless of their origin, more and more strange natural phenomena is emerging in Siberia each year, which is rapidly becoming a major source of concern and fear for both the locals and global scientific community alike.