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Giant mystery hole opens up in Siberian permafrost

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A giant sink-hole looking crater has mysteriously opened up in Siberia. Geologists aren’t sure what caused it. The hole could perhaps be related to local natural gas production. Others speculate it could be a result of melting ice or a methane burp triggered by warming. Whatever caused it, this thing is huge. Video and links below the fold.

NPR — The crater is in an area that “is one of the most geologically young places on Earth,” reports the From Quarks to Quasars blog. “It also happens to be extremely rich in gas. In fact, it contains the largest natural gas reservoir in all of Russia. … In places with such large concentrations of gas, it’s not unusual for underground explosions to rocket off. They occur only when under-soil ice melts and releases a substantial amount of gas.”

HuffPo — Dr. Chris Fogwill, a polar scientist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, said the hole may be what’s left of a pingo, a heap of Earth-covered ice that is found in the Arctic and subarctic. If the pingo was large enough, and melted, it potentially could have created a giant hole.

“Certainly from the images I’ve seen it looks like a periglacial feature, perhaps a collapsed pingo,” Fogwill told The Sydney Morning Herald. “This is obviously a very extreme version of that, and if there’s been any interaction with the gas in the area, that is a question that could only be answered by going there.”

A team of scientists has been dispatched to the region. Maybe we’ll know more soon.

Update: Kudos to busterggi in comments for remembering this hilarious hoax about Russian drillers accidentally drilling into Hell:

Wikipedia — The story eventually made its way to the American Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), which broadcast it on the network, claiming it to be proof of the literal existence of Hell. Åge Rendalen, a Norwegian teacher, heard the story on TBN while visiting the United States. Disgusted with what he perceived to be mass gullibility, Rendalen decided to augment the tale at TBN’s expense.

Rendalen wrote to the network, originally claiming that he disbelieved the tale but, upon his return to Norway, supposedly read a factual account of the story. According to Rendalen, the story claimed not only that the cursed well was real, but that a bat-like apparition (a common pictorial representation of demons, such as in Michelangelo’s The Torment of Saint Anthony) had risen out of it before blazing a trail across the Russian sky. To perpetuate his hoax, Rendalen deliberately mistranslated a trivial Norwegian article about a local building inspector into the story, and submitted both the original Norwegian article and the English translation to TBN. Rendalen also included his real name, phone number and address, as well as those of a pastor friend who knew about the hoax and had agreed to expose it to anyone who called seeking verification.

However, TBN did nothing to verify Rendalen’s claims, and aired the story as proof of the validity of the original story.

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