[meteorite-list] NP Article, 05-1933 Tunguska
From: MARK BOSTICK <thebigcollector_at_meteoritecentral.com>
Date: Thu Apr 22 10:23:45 2004
Title: The Helena Independent
City: Helena, Mt
Date: Friday, May 26, 1933
The Haskin Letter By Frederic J Haskin Author of The American Goverment
Washington, D. C. May 21 - Imaginative people often wondered what would
happen if some planet, whirling through space at incredible speed, should
come in collision with the earth. Some idea of what might happen may be
obtained from a record of what did happen when a mere fragment from outer
space did strike the earth.
The largest meteorite known to have struch the earth in modern times
fell in Siberia 25 years ago. Some millions of people were well aware that
something had happened, for the impact was so great that the seismographs of
half the world trembled. Russian scientists have made several expeditions
to the scene and a new one now is being arranged which, this summer, it is
hoped, will find out all there is to be known about this missle from space.
Although the year of the meteorite was long before the Soviet regime,
Soviet scientists have gathered evidence of what happened at the time. It
was at 7 o'clock on the evening of June 30, 1908, when the meteorite struck
the earth not far beyond the Siberian river. Podkammenaya Tungus at 64
north latitude, 102 east longitude. Although, at that high latitude, the
sun still shone brightly, the glow from the flaming meteorite cast an
illumination of startling brilliance which, the records say, was visible for
500 miles. The fall was accompanied with a roar like thunder which was
heard within a radius of about 1,200 miles.
The Tungus river system flows in lonely country. There are not many
towns in the region and presumably, anyone at all near the place was killed.
The air wave which was blown off at the time of the collision was so great
that men and even horses were knocked over 500 miles away. Meteoroligical
stations nearly 800 miles away registered the gust of wind. Records of
seismographs over practically the entire northern hemisphere show that the
shock of the impact was felt, causing pronounced earth tremors.
After the meteorite had struck the atmosphere was filled with a vast
cloud of silvery dust. This spread over western Siberia and was visible in
earthern Europe. It caught the glow of the sunset and remained luminous for
hours. Reference to newspapers of the period reveals that such remarkable
happenings were recorded. So great was the distance from the place where
the meteorite fell to populous regions that little was known about the true
cause of the disturbance until long afterwards.
Surroundings Are Damaged
As though the meteorite has been directed by the guiding Hand, careful
of the safety of the people of the earth, it fell in what is perhaps the
most desolate region of the world. Siberia as a whole is sufficiently
desolate, but the Tungus region is the most desolate in Siberia. The
Yeninsel river runs northward into the Arctic sea. It has three branches
costituting the Tungus river system extending eastward. The Lower Tungus is
farthest north, then comes the Stony Tungus and to the south, the Upper
Tungus. All are huge rivers flowing over a region which is partly heavily
forested and partly frozen tundra.
It was not until 1921 that the first expedition was fitted out to
investiage the place where the meteorite fell. Doubtless there would have
been eariler attempts had it not been for the World war. It is not clear
that the exact location was found by the first expedition but in 1927 an
expedition sent out by the Irkutsk observatory was led by guides to the
When the party came into the region, although still far away from the
vital spot, evidences of the damage done by the huge progectile from space
became apparent. The wind force of the splash of air, sent off by the
striking of the meteorite, had felled trees for miles around. The trees had
been huried tot he ground with their tops all pointing away from the spot
where the sky missle fell. In a great circle, forming a circumference scores
of miles around, the uprooted trees lay prone. Even the roots which
ordinarily would would stick up out of the ground on one side, had been
leveled as though by a gigantic seythe. also, the upper sides of the fallen
trees were all scorched as though intense heat had passed over them. Even
some miles beyond the great ring of fallen trees, trees still standing bore
evidence of having been scorched at the top. The theory is that a wave of
burning gas swept over the forest and then was dissipated in the atmosphere.
It is not yet known how deeply the meteorite penetraded into the earth
but there is evidence that there was a disturbance of under ground waters.
Now the site of that fall is a wide marsh. So little is known about the
region that it can not definitely he said that a marsh did not exist there
before. At any rate, it is marsh now and may have been produced by the
welling up of underground waters due to the tremendous pressure of the blow.
Difficulties of Exploration
The marshy nature of the land has increased the difficulties of
exploration. In preparation for a new and it is hoped, conclusion
investigation, aerial photographs have been taken of the region. An effort
will be made at excavation, although it is likely that the penetration was
so great that discovery of the meteorite would be a major mining operation.
However, in the region there are a number of small craters which are
believed to have been made by the striking of small fragments of the main
meteorite. These probably are not so deeply imbedded in the earth, having
lesser weight and force. Scientists are eager to learn what they are made
of and what effect they have had on the subsoil geology.
Meteorites have been falling to earth since man first began to observe.
Hundreds fall every year but most are small stones. In 1879 there was a
meteoric shower in Iowa but the largest meteorite weighed only 400 pounds.
In 1912 what is called a detonating meteorite fell at Holbrook, Ariz. This
is the type which explodes with a roar which can be heard for miles.
Fourteen thousand pieces of the Holbrook meteorite have been found.
Meteorites, according to astronomers, are moving at the rate of 26
miles a second when they reach the earth so the blow struck is a stiff one.
All the indications are that the Tungus meteorite was the largest ever known
to have fallen. The indications suggest that, instead of weighing 400
pounds, it may have weighed four tons or even more. The sweeping down of
the surrounding forest suggests that it may have detonated and blown its
substance to fragments.
At any rate the visual evidence of the region gives an idea of what
would happen should such a projectile fall in the midst of a large city.
The destruction would be almost beyond the imagination. In addition to the
immediate damage of the shock. It seems probable that gases would be given
off which would end life. The new Russian expedition's findings are awaited
by the scientific would with the keenest interest.
Received on Tue 04 Mar 2003 06:14:54 PM PST