It is thought that the explosion that created the 165ft deep hole in the tundra was caused by a build-up of methane gas that eventually combusted.
It was discovered by a TV crew flying above the Yamal peninsula in Russia, who even spotted blocks of frozen soil and ice ‘hundreds of metres’ from the site of the ‘colossal force’, according to scientists who have examined the blast site.
Basically, the thawing permafrost – caused by a ridiculously hot summer – caused the pressure to build up, eventually giving way to a huge explosion.
This is the 17th crater of this kind to be found in the last six years, and – obviously – there are a load of bizarre theories about the origin of the hole, including Kremlin missile testing and, of course, aliens.
However, the actual truth is more unsettling, because it’s probably due to climate change.
The ground has been frozen for thousands of years, but is thawing out and releasing the methane that is trapped in the soil.
After Vesti Yamal TV discovered the deep crater, scientists travelled out there to examine it. They reckon it’s the biggest hole they’ve seen like this.
One of those scientists, Dr Evgeny Chuvilin, a leading researcher at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, said that the crater was ‘striking in its size and grandeur’.
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Professor Vasily Bogoyavlensky, from the Russian Oil and Gas Research Institute in Moscow, added: “This object is unique.
“It holds a lot of additional scientific information, which I am not yet ready to disclose.
“This is a subject for scientific publications.”
He explained that the explosions happen when ‘gas-saturated cavities are formed in the permafrost,’ which means that a void is ‘filled with gas with high pressure’ until ‘the covering layer distends, the thickness of which is five to ten metres [16-32ft] approximately’.
Some explosions like this occur in swelling ‘pingos’ – or mounds – in the tundra after gas builds up under a sheet of ice.
The professor has also previously said that natural gas drilling could play a role in the eruptions. He argues that more damage and disasters could be caused if such an event were to happen near gas pipelines, residential areas or production facilities.
He said: “In a number of areas, pingos – as we see both from satellite data and with our own eyes during helicopter inspections – literally prop up gas pipes.
“In some places they jack up the gas pipes… they seem to begin to slightly bend these pipes.”
However, the study of these holes and the explosions that form them is still at a very early stage.