The Patomskiy Crater Mystery: Siberia’s Unexplained Formation

Nestled deep in the inhospitable wilderness of southeastern Siberia is the Patomskiy Crater, a peculiar geological formation that has captivated and baffled scientists, researchers, and conspiracy theorists for decades. A source of mystery and intrigue, what is the Patom Crater, and what - or who - made it?

8 April 2024

In the heart of Siberia, hidden within its vast wilderness, lies a mystery that has puzzled scientists and adventurers alike for over seventy years. Discovered by the intrepid Russian geologist Vadim Kolpakov, the Patomskiy Crater stands as a bewitching enigma, its origins and nature as perplexing and mesmerising today as they were when it was originally discovered back in 1949.

The bizarre rock formation, named after the local Patom River, sits in the middle of a remote, dense forest in southeastern Siberia’s Irkutsk Oblast region, but its origins remain a mystery.

Was it created as a result of a volcanic eruption or an underground gas explosion? Is it the remnants of a meteor that crashed to Earth, or are its origins more sinister?

Let’s take a trip out to deepest, darkest Siberia in an attempt to shed light on one of the twentieth century’s most perplexing mysteries.

What is the Patomskiy Crater?

Limestone blocks (Credit: Federica Grassi via Getty Images)

The Patomskiy Crater, also referred to as the Patom Crater, Irkutsk crater, the Patomskiy Mound, or the Kolpakov Cone in honour of its discoverer, consists largely of fragmented limestone blocks. It has a base diameter of approximately 160 metres and is around 40 metres high. The crater, a deep circular depression, encloses a 12 metre high mound. According to scientific estimations, the volume of the crater could be as much as 230,000 – 250,000 cubic metres, or 8.1 million – 8.8 million cubic feet.

It may weigh over a million tonnes.

However, one of the most intriguing aspects of the Patomskiy Crater enigma is its age. Usually, rock formations of this nature are thousands, if not millions of years old. By using dendrochronological analysis – the same scientific method used to date tree rings to the specific year they were formed – scientists estimate the Patomskiy Crater is little more than 300 – 350 years old. In geological terms, it’s virtually brand-new.

Locals, whose folklore states it as cursed, call it the Fire Eagle’s Nest, but how did this million-tonne megalith end up in the middle of one of the most inhospitable places on Earth?

A Geological Oddity

The aftermath of the Tunguska Event (Credit: Sovfoto via Getty Images)

Cursed or otherwise, it’s fair to say that the Patomskiy Crater has been the subject of intense speculation and study since its discovery. The theories regarding its origin range from solid scientific hypotheses to the fringes of science fiction.

Volcanic Activity

One of the more prominent theories suggests that the Kolpakov Cone might have formed due to a rare type of volcanic eruption, similar to that of Krakatoa in 1883, one of the most violent and destructive in recorded history.

Unlike typical eruptions, this may have involved a phreatic explosion – a steam-driven explosion that occurs when water interacts with magma. This theory is supported by the fact that the region lies in a volcanic field, though no evidence of recent volcanic activity has been found in the immediate vicinity of the crater. Kopalov’s initial instinct was that it was a result of volcanic activity.

Meteorite Impact

Another plausible explanation is that the Patomskiy Crater was created by the impact of a meteorite. The shape and structure of the crater, including the central depression and raised rim, are characteristic of impact sites. However, the lack of typical meteoritic material at the site challenges this theory.

It’s been suggested that the crater may have been formed by a piece that broke from the famous Tunguska meteorite that crashed into Earth in June 1908 in Krasnoyarsk Krai, a little over 700 miles northwest of the Patomskiy Crater. The main issue with this theory is that the Patomskiy Mound was formed around two centuries before the Tunguska event occurred.

Gas Explosion

Some scientists propose that the crater may have resulted from a massive underground gas explosion. Siberia is known for its significant natural gas reserves, and such an explosion could potentially create a formation resembling the Patomskiy Crater. This theory considers the possibility of gas accumulating in a natural underground cavity before igniting and exploding, although like the volcano and meteorite theories, clear evidence for this remains tantalisingly out of reach.

Out of this World

Was the Patomskiy Crater made by a UFO? (Credit: gremlin via Getty Images)

Like all unexplained natural mysteries – the enigma of ball lightning and the mystery of the mima mounds being perfect examples – there are always theories that push the boundaries.

Cold War Military Experiments

Given the timing of its discovery and the Cold War’s veil of secrecy, some speculate that the crater could be the result of a clandestine military experiment conducted by the Soviet Union including secret nuclear testing or even an underground uranium mine. While this theory feeds into the era’s atmosphere of suspicion and technological rivalry, there’s currently no evidence to support such claims and the generally-accepted age of the crater would counter this hypothesis.

Extraterrestrial Activity

The most speculative theories about the Patom Crater involve extraterrestrial intervention. Some UFO enthusiasts and conspiracy buffs believe the crater’s unique features could only have been created by a spacecraft either landing or crashing, suggesting it as evidence of alien visitation.

Rare Geological Phenomenon

A more recent theory suggests that the crater could be the result of a natural but extremely rare geological process that science cannot – yet – fully explain, potentially involving a combination of factors including erosion, peculiar soil composition, and very specific environmental conditions.

While the scientific community continues to study the Patomskiy Crater, the lack of definitive evidence proving its origins one way or another leaves room for ongoing debate and investigation. The crater’s remote location and the difficulty of conducting extensive research in the area mean that it may be some time before a conclusive explanation is found, allowing the more speculative theories to persist alongside scientific inquiry.

The Patomskiy Crater: A Very Russian Riddle

Volcanic crater (Credit: Rully Anwar via Getty Images)

Enveloped in a shroud of mystery, the Patomskiy Mound remains a beacon for scientific inquiry and adventurous speculation. Despite myriad theories ranging from the plausible to the fantastical, the Patomskiy Crater underscores the unknowns that can still exist on our own planet, and offers a stark reminder that the natural world harbours secrets that, for the time being, remain locked.


You May Also Like

Explore More