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A mysterious, gigantic crater that has appeared at a place in Siberia that literally means “end of the world” has captured the attention of scientists, who will try to determine its origin.
The enormous hole, located in northern Russia’s Yamal Peninsula is said to be up to 262 feet wide.
“A scientific team has been sent to investigate the hole and is due to arrive at the scene on Wednesday,” reported the Siberian Times.
Two experts from the Center for the Study of the Arctic and one from Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences plan on sampling the soil, air and water from the location, as they're accompanied by a specialist from Russia's Emergencies Ministry.
"We can definitely say that it is not a meteorite," a spokesman for the ministry's Yamal branch told the Times, adding it was too early to say what caused the hole.
The paper notes a variety of theories as to its origin have been proffered, including a sinkhole caused by collapsing rock beneath the hole, the effects of so-called global warming, and even the arrival of a UFO.
"Some observers believe water or dry soil is seen falling into the cavity," the Times reports. "There is agreement that soil around the hole was thrown out of the crater, large enough for several Mi-8 helicopters to fly into it – not that they have."
Anna Kurchatova of the Sub-Arctic Scientific Research Center suggests the hole is the result of a water, salt and gas mixture igniting an underground explosion, the result of global warming. She thinks gas possibly accumulated in ice mixed with sand beneath the surface, and this was mixed with salt, as the area was reportedly a sea in ancient times.
Kurchatova postulated an "alarming" melt in the permafrost released gas causing an effect like the popping of a Champagne bottle cork.
The Yamal Peninsula is a strategic oil and gas producing region of Russia.
It's also famous for its reindeer herds and migratory birds, and the remains of ancient woolly mammoths have been unearthed there.
The discovery of the crater is getting worldwide publicity, with a wide variety of comments, including:
- "I think its a meteorite crater. Myself and collegues watched a mysterious large white dot in the sky (during the day yesterday). We couldn't work out what it was. I'm willing to bet it caused the crater. Interesting!" (Jane, Belfast, Northern Ireland)
- "It looks like a sinkhole, plain and simple." (Jon, Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
- "Wow. What ISN'T global warming responsible for? I'm blaming my hemorrhoids on it. (Elmer Evans, Anaheim, California)
- "Why couldn't this have occurred under the White House? Oh man ...what terrible luck!" (Power Engineer, Houston, Texas)