Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June 30, 1908

One of the most remarkable events in history happened on this date. And it's mostly forgotten.

At 7:14 a.m. a MASSIVE explosion occurred near the Tunguska river in Russia. I'm not exaggerating. The force was somewhere between 5-30 megatons. Think about that: an explosion between 150 to 1000 TIMES the power of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb. And it happened 37 years before the nuclear age began.

And, purely by chance, it happened in a fairly uninhabited part of the Earth.

To this day it's exact cause is unknown, and it's simply called "The Tunguska Event". It's generally believed to have been a meteorite or comet that exploded before hitting the ground.

The shock wave it sent through the ground was a 5.0 on the Richter scale. Every tree in an 8 km (5 mile) radius from the center was killed, and the force of the explosion covered a total of 830 square miles (2,130 square km). An estimated 80 million trees were knocked over by the force- all of them pointing away from the center. A few were left standing, scorched black, with all their branches stripped off. People were knocked off their feet, and windows shattered, hundreds of miles away. The pressure wave was measured as far away as England. For the next several months there was a change in the density of the planet's upper atmosphere.

An eyewitness 40 miles south of the explosion, reported that "At breakfast time I was sitting by the house at Vanavara Trading Post, facing north. I suddenly saw that directly to the north, over Onkoul's Tunguska Road, the sky split in two and fire appeared high and wide over the forest. The split in the sky grew larger, and the entire northern side was covered with fire. At that moment I became so hot that I couldn't bear it, as if my shirt was on fire; from the northern side, where the fire was, came strong heat. I wanted to tear off my shirt and throw it down, but then the sky shut closed, and a strong thump sounded, and I was thrown a few yards. I lost my senses for a moment, but then my wife ran out and led me to the house. After that such noise came, as if rocks were falling or cannons were firing, the earth shook, and when I was on the ground, I pressed my head down, fearing rocks would smash it. When the sky opened up, hot wind raced between the houses, like from cannons, which left traces in the ground like pathways, and it damaged crops. Later we saw that many windows were shattered, and in the barn the iron lock had snapped."

There have been other impacts in recorded history, but none this powerful. And, over 100 years later, the scars are still there.



1921: 13 years after the event.





2008: 100 years after the event.

21 comments:

The Mother said...

Once more, you have provided this history buff with something else I didn't know.

Fascinating stuff. Someone is gonna have to put that in a thriller. Hmm...

kate said...

As a history major/history nerd, I love these posts! I had never heard of this before...

Rusty Hoe said...

Every time I hear of Tunguska I think of the X-files, who wrote it into one one their story arcs. Who says TV can't teach you something. Thanks Mulder and Scully and now of course, Dr Grumpy :)

Anonymous said...

Wow! Good thing this is rare, maybe not...

me said...

The Tunguska 'event' has always fascinated me!!

The Good Cook said...

Oh thanks! I'm going to test my geologist husband tonight at dinner.. as in, "so honey, did you know that today is he anniversary of the Tunguska Event?"..

I love teasing him with stuff that he thinks I just couldn't possibly know about...

M.Brayfield said...

This History geek loves your history posts. I knew about it, but forgot the exact date.

And of course there's always the far-out theory that it was an alien spaceship's exploding engines.

Yeah, comet/meteor, probably

Have Myelin? said...

yeah! cool photos! really shows the impact doesn't it?

i'm betting meteor/asteroid. glad i wasn't there. lol.

Mike Y. said...

As an astronomer I remember Tunguska, and I make sure all my students do as well.

Cal said...

Wow, that is massive, I wonder what did it...
What about the Halifax explosion? That was quite big too I hear.

The Shrone said...

I've watched some documentaries about it. Since the location was remote and boggy, investigation was not immediate. I recall one scientist conducting experiments to recreate the blast pattern of the trees, and was able to achieve something close. To put it in perspective, it was mentioned what kind of damage would have happened if the phenomenon had occurred over a major city. Truly astounding!

HyperCryptical said...

Nature is astounding, wonderful and also destructive.

We (as humans) think we understand all - but we understand nothing.

That said ... still pleased I wasn't there!

Kim Kasch said...

Oh I love Mulder and Scully too :)

Nurse J said...

care to postulate on what might have caused it? wasn't there also some dude named tesla that may have been involved? so, for sure it wasn't nuclear? there is no residual radiation at the site?

Anonymous said...

people are searching lakes in the area for remnants of the asteroid/comet, and have located promising magnetic anomalies. sodom and gomorrah never had a chance. shit happens.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Nurse J- I'll go with the meteor/comma theories.

The Tesla idea was based on his construction of the Wardenclyffe Tower in New York. Said tower wasn't even completed, or operational at the time of the event.

ERP said...

Hmmmmmm. I could make a snarky remark about the hope that the next one occurs over Rush Limbaugh's or Sarah Palin's estates but will avoid the temptation.

Seriously, this may happen again and who knows where it will. Chances are it will be closer to population.

Anonymous said...

Me... I'm holding out for Al Franken's
house or DC. Either one would be fine.

Chip said...

It always devolves into calling down God's judgment on the people who's points of view we find offensive. Doomed we are.

Anonymous said...

For some reason, these kind of things are my worst fear, I'm always having nightmares about some big explosion....I wonder if their's a phobia name for it?? But then again I don't obsess over it...Thanks for the history lesson, I'm gonna go read up more on it so I can make my fear worse lol...

Anonymous said...

Atomosophobia = fear of atomic explosions

Nucleomituphobia = fear of nuclear weapons (may cause explosions)

Could not find anything on any random explosions

WV: pedlen - as in 'pedlen' my opinion?

 
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