1908, something exploded in an isolated area of Siberia. What was it?
was sitting on the porch of the house at the trading station, looking north. Suddenly,
in the north... the sky was split in two, and high above the forest the whole
northern part of the sky appeared covered with fire. I felt a great heat, as if
my shirt had caught fire. At that moment, there was a bang in the sky, and a mighty
crash. I was thrown twenty feet from the porch. The earth trembled."
from some asteroid impact movie? An excerpt from a science fiction novel? A witness
to the test of a nuclear explosion? The witness is real, but the event was not
the test of an atomic or nuclear device. And it certainly wasn't fiction.
incredible event, related by this Russian witness, took place on the morning of
June 30, 1908 in a remote area of Siberia called Tunguska.
exactly what happened there is still unknown. There are several theories as to
what caused the great explosion in the sparsely populated forest at 62 degrees
north latitude, but there is no definitive proof for any of them. Nearly 100 years
later, the debate about the Tunguska event continues.
happened, the resulting devastation was enormous. A fireball as bright as the
sun was seen streaking across the sky. Observers 300 miles away heard deafening
bangs. Trees were flattened in a radial pattern over an area of 850 square miles.
Seismic vibrations were recorded by instruments as far away as 600 miles. Fires
burned for weeks. Forty miles from ground zero, people were thrown to the ground
and knocked unconscious. One man was hurled into a tree and killed. Scientists
examining the area calculated that the explosion was equivalent to 40 megatons
of TNT - 2,000 times the force of the atomic bomb released on Hiroshima in 1945.
Yet there was no crater.
more enigmatic effects were recorded:
in the Earth's magnetic field
a local geomagnetic storm
a reversal of
an electromagnetic pulse, similar to what would be created
by a nuclear explosion
aurora displays before and after the event
bright nights seen before and after the event
genetic mutations in plants
accelerated growth of plants afterward
and deaths of exposed people.
theories put forth to account for the Tunguska event range from the scientifically
plausible to the ridiculous to the intriguing. They included:
fragmentary asteroid or meteorite that exploded in the atmosphere.
of a comet that likewise exploded in the atmosphere.
An unusual tectonic event.
A tiny black hole that entered the Earth's atmosphere from outer space and
A chunk of antimatter that reacted with the matter of our planet.
A crashed UFO, the propulsion drive of which exploded.
A deliberate attack
The result of a test of Nikola Tesla's wireless power
Again, there's no definitive proof for any of these ideas, but
let's consider each.
- This and the comet theory are favored by scientists, of course - mainly because
they can't conceive of any other explanation.
have to agree that it's the most likely. But because there is no crater and little
debris, there's only circumstantial evidence. Before Tunguska, scientists rarely
considered that an asteroid would explode in the atmosphere before striking the
ground. Yet, because there is no crater, they reason, that must be what happened.
So where are all the fragments of the asteroid that they estimate must have weighed
some 100,000 tons? Vaporized, they say - pulverized into dust and tiny gravel.
The only fragments found thus far have been tiny glass nodules embedded in the
fallen trees, which are consistent in makeup with stony asteroid fragments that
have been super-heated.
- This is the prevailing theory today - that it was a 100,000-ton fragment of
Encke's Comet. Since there is little debris, the explosion might be consistent
with a comet, which generally is a loose mixture of stone and ice. Upon explosion,
very little debris would remain as evidence. Ironically, it is the very lack of
evidence that boosts the credibility of the comet theory.
unusual tectonic event - Andrei Yu. Ol'khovatov, a Russian scientist, has recently
come up with the interesting, plausible theory that Tunguska was "a geophysical
event, associated with tectonic processes" - a powerful earthquake, the enormous
pressures of which also resulted in the recorded atmospheric effects.
hole - This idea isn't taken very seriously by mainstream scientists, simply because
it's not known whether such small black holes even exist. And if they did, what
the result would be upon one entering our atmosphere is completely unknown.
- This idea is also readily dismissed, since it is unlikely that antimatter would
be able to transverse space and reach our planet without already encountering
some matter and annihilating.
UFO - There's no evidence whatever of this idea, of course. No fragments of the
spacecraft or piece of an alien's intergalactic map. If it were the explosion
of the UFO's propulsion system - nuclear or whatever - it might have vaporized
all traces of the ship, but come on....
attack - If they were going to attack, why would they choose an unpopulated region,
unless their intelligence was bad? Or unless it was meant as just a warning. And
it it was just a warning, where was the follow-up or contact?
Tesla's experiment - Granted, this idea is far more unlikely than an asteroid
or comet strike, but I find it quite a bit more interesting. A lot of myth has
grown around the mysterious, dark and temperamental figure of Tesla. Although
known as the discoverer of the principals of alternating current and other inventions,
he is also credited in some quarters with far more notorious inventions, including
a death ray. Some say the controversial HAARP array in Alaska is a continuation
of Tesla's experiments that used electricity to create super weapons. The Tunguska
event, they say, was the result of a test of such a weapon - a test that didn't
go exactly as planned.
Nichelson has a very interesting web site entitled, "Tesla Wireless and the
Tunguska Explosion" that advocates this theory, with some very compelling
information about the background and secret experiments of the Serbian-born American
inventor. "Tesla's writings have many references to the use of his wireless
power transmission technology as a directed energy weapon," says Nichelson.
"The Tunguska explosion of 1908 may have been a test firing of Tesla's energy
details many of the experiments with electricity conducted by Tesla in many areas
of the United States. He relates one such experiment at his Colorado Springs laboratory
where he erected a 200-foot pole topped by a large copper sphere that discharged
lighting bolts up to 135 feet long.
along the streets were amazed to see sparks jumping between their feet and the
ground," Nichelson writes. "Flames of electricity would spring from
a tap when anyone turned them on for a drink of water. Light bulbs within 100
feet of the experimental tower glowed when they were turned off."
then chronicles the evolution of Tesla's method of the wireless transmission of
electrical energy, and how it led up to the secret test in 1908. Apparently, Tesla
had proved that directed electrical energy could be used as a beneficial or destructive
force. "Beset by financial problems and spurned by the scientific establishment,
Tesla was in a desperate situation by mid-decade... and, according to Tesla's
biographers, he suffered an emotional collapse. In order to make a final effort
to have his grand scheme recognized, he may have tried one high-power test of
his transmitter to show off its destructive potential. This would have been in
fact, perhaps Tesla was confessing in 1915 when he wrote: "It is perfectly
practical to transmit electrical energy without wires and produce destructive
effects at a distance. I have already constructed a wireless transmitter which
makes this possible. But when unavoidable [it] may be used to destroy property
and life. The art is already so far developed that the great destructive effects
can be produced at any point on the globe, defined beforehand with great accuracy."
Tesla experiment might also account for the enigmatic aspects of the Tunguska
event, according to Nichelson: the lack of a crater; the disturbances in the planet's
magnetic field; the odd glow in the sky seen before and after the event; the radiation-like
burns; and the electromagnetic pulse.
test, however, may not have been a complete success, says Nichelson. Tesla may
have been aiming for the completely uninhabited region of the north pole. He may
have overshot his target.
continue to research the Tunguska event and debate its causes. As recently as
1996, they gathered in Bologna, Italy for the Tunguska International Workshop.
More than 65 participants attended the conference, mostly Russians and Americans,
but no consensus was reached. The scientists remained divided between those who
favor the meteorite hypothesis and those who favor the comet hypothesis.
is it important to study Tunguska? Because it may have been the most recent occurrence
of a major meteor or comet impact on our planet. If it had struck over a major
city instead of an isolated forest, hundreds of thousands of people would have
no one at the conference, it seemed, was seriously interested in the Tesla theory,
nor in the suggestion raised that the explosion was actually caused by an errant,
2,000-year-old Japanese nuclear spacecraft returning home... but missing the runway.