The Tunguska explosion was a catastrophic event that occurred in the summer of 1908 in the remote Tunguska region of Siberia, Russia. At around 7:17 a.m. local time, a massive explosion occurred in the atmosphere, releasing energy equivalent to around 185 Hiroshima bombs. The explosion was so powerful that it knocked over an estimated 80 million trees over an area of 2,150 square kilometers (830 square miles).
It reportedly blew windows out 50 miles away and threw occupants within their houses to the ground. From up to a hundred miles out, witnesses described a giant black mushroom cloud of ash along with a horrific boom. This deafening sound was heard from over 300 miles away, and seismographic equipment across the world recorded strange data coming for northern Russia. Even to this day, over a hundred years later, strange growth patterns of flora and fauna can be found in the explosion region.
The closest observers to the explosion were animal herders who were 25 miles away from the epicenter of the blast. They were blown into the air while they were sleeping in their tents. One man reportedly died, and the others lost consciousness. Upon awaking and recollecting their thoughts, they noticed a thousand of their reindeer were killed and the forest around them was smoldering with fiery embers. Other witnesses from a different location roughly 50 miles south of the explosion epicenter, reported seeing the sky split in two, with the northern half completely covered in flames. They too, got thrown in the air and felt a blast of heat wash over them as if their clothes were on fire.
The Tunguska explosion was so powerful that it was heard over hundreds of kilometers and the flash of light from the explosion was visible from as far away as England. The explosion caused a forest fire that burned for several days, and a cloud of dust and debris was visible in the sky for weeks afterwards.
Many other residents of distant towns had observed the mysterious phenomenon’s final act approach. They saw a great ‘ball of fire’ with a iridescent tail streak across the early morning sky. Many thought it was the apocalypse, or the return of Christ. First reports of the explosion were in the Irkutsk paper dated July 2, 1908, which was published two days after the explosion:
…the peasants saw a body shining very brightly (too bright for the naked eye) with a bluish-white light…. The body was in the form of ‘a pipe’, i.e. cylindrical. The sky was cloudless, except that low down on the horizon, in the direction in which this glowing body was observed, a small dark cloud was noticed. It was hot and dry and when the shining body approached the ground (which was covered with forest at this point) it seemed to be pulverized, and in its place a loud crash, not like thunder, but as if from the fall of large stones or from gunfire was heard. All the buildings shook and at the same time a forked tongue of flames broke through the cloud. All the inhabitants of the village ran out into the street in panic. The old women wept, everyone thought that the end of the world was approaching
There are several theories about what caused the Tunguska explosion, but the most widely accepted explanation is that it was caused by a meteor or comet entering Earth’s atmosphere and exploding. Some scientists believe that the object was a comet, while others believe it was a small asteroid.
Due to worldly affairs and internal political upheavals such as the Russian Revolution and World War I, Russian authorities were unable to initially investigate the phenomenon. It wasn’t until 1921 when the Soviet Academy of Sciences chose a science worker, Leonid Kulik to head a team of investigators who would travel to Siberia with the intent to gather information from the local populace.
When Kulik arrived he collected newspaper articles, and eyewitness accounts to pinpoint the time and location of the Tunguska Explosion. He took photographs and studied the land, but never found any fragments or meteorite rocks. The absence of physical remnants left the Russians completely baffled as it appeared that whatever caused the massive blast had vaporized itself. They strongly felt that only a gigantic rock from outer space could have caused those effects.
Subsequently after the atomic bombs were dropped on Japan during Second World War, photographs and data of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki devastation were compared to the epicenter of the Tunguska explosion. They showed many similarities. A review of eyewitness accounts together with the compared data increased the likelihood that the Tunguska Explosion was a nuclear detonation. Although, in 1908 no nuclear weapons publicly or internationally existed which led some people to speculate that an alien spacecraft was behind it. Other speculations have also arisen such as the explosion was a space-based weapon created by Tesla, a comet hitting the earth’s atmosphere, an alien space craft crashing into the earth’s atmosphere, or the aftereffects of a dimensional rift.
The Tunguska explosion had a significant impact on the scientific community, as it was one of the first events of its kind to be widely studied. It also helped to raise awareness about the potential dangers of asteroids and comets and the need for ongoing research and monitoring of these objects.
Well over a hundred years later, and the Tunguska Explosion remains a mystery. However, with humanity’s improved scientific knowledge and technology, it has been able to conclude that the explosion was equivalent to a 40-megaton nuclear weapon. Time will only be about the cause of this enigmatic event, as it seems it involves aspects of the world mankind has yet to comprehend.