Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug

Yamal Crater

In 2014, the crew of the Nadym air squadron, working on a gas field, discovered a giant pit in the ground in the tundra, 400 km from Salekhard. It appeared unexpectedly and literally out of nowhere: a surreal round hole with a diameter of about 20 m and a depth of more than 50 m.

Perfectly smooth walls with black and white stripes of ice led down, where water sloshed around, there was a wall a few metres high around the crater, and pieces of rock that seemed to have exploded were scattered for hundreds of metres. It is not surprising that this incredible picture led to the most outlandish assumptions: from the test of a secret weapon to some kind of supernatural phenomena.

Address: Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous District
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Ученые нашли причину образования кратера. После потепления 2012 года температура мерзлых пород кратковременно увеличилась, и произошел выброс углекислого газа. Сначала образовался так называемый «бугор вспучивания» высотой 10–15 метров. Их немало в тундре на участках подтаявшей мерзлоты, но чаще если в процессах не участвует газ, бугры просто трескаются и изливают скопившуюся внутри воду.

Scientists figured out how the crater really originated. After the spring thaw of 2012, the temperature of the frozen rocks increased for a short time and there was a release of carbon dioxide. First, a so-called 'swelling mound' with a height of 10–15 m formed. There are plenty of them in areas of thawed permafrost in the tundra, but more often, if gasses are not involved in the processes, the mounds simply crack and the water accumulated inside pours out. In the case of the Yamal crater, there was a gas-saturated cavity under the permafrost, and the carbon dioxide within created the effect of an exploding champagne bottle. First, powerful jets of gas erupted, scattering pieces of frozen stone. As it reached the surface, the gas suddenly cooled and fell in the form of dry ice. Then the water that was under the gas boiled, blew off the ice cover, foamed and overflowed. After that, the crater slowly spewed out clay saturated with gas.

Permafrost thaws under the sun's rays, which is why the size of the upper walls of the crater is constantly changing. Scientists have identified the contour of the outer boundaries of the rampart around the crater: its width at the base reaches 20 m. The diameter of the entire crater together with the rampart is 60 m; inside the rampart, it is up to 30 m.

The depth has not been measured exactly, but based on the videos made with a video camera lowered into the crater, it is assumed to reach 70 m. The crater immediately began to become gradually filled with water, and by 2016, it had turned into a lake.

The cosmic associations that arise at the sight of a sudden sinkhole are perfectly appropriate.

The Yamal crater was the first cryovolcano discovered on Earth, but the phenomenon of cryovolcanism had already been observed on other planets, large and small. Cryovolcanoes were found on Pluto, Ceres, and on Saturn's moons.

The crater is located between the coast of the Kara Sea and the Morda-Yakha River valley, 30 km south of the Bovanenkovo gas field and 4 km west of the Bovanenkovo-Ukhta gas pipeline. You can get there by helicopter or by plane.