Russian scientists got their first look inside the mysterious crater in Yamal, Siberia on Wednesday, July 16, while the Siberian Times took a helicopter ride to get another look down into the hole.
Based off of the original video of the crater, it was estimated that the crater could have been up to 80 meters wide. However, Andrey Plekhanov of the State Scientific Centre of Arctic Research told The Siberian Times that the hole is about 30 meters wide and the outer portion that includes the soil emission is around 60 meters in diameter. The researchers were also able to get their first look at the icy lake that exists at the bottom of the 70-meters-deep hole. Soil, air, and water samples have been taken in order to help determine the cause.
Preliminary results indicate that the hole was formed within the last two years and satellite data is being examined to try and identify exactly when it first appeared. Plekhanov told the Siberian Times that it was an ejection from within the permafrost, but it was not an explosion as there was not a release of heat.
Some had initially speculated that natural gas had been trapped underground in ice, as the area had been locked in permafrost for thousands of years. However, as the ground thawed and the gas became warmer, the increased pressure may have ejected outward and caused the hole. The summers of 2012 and 2013 were especially warm in the region, but the researchers still have more work to do before naming a specific cause.
While the world waits for the samples to be processed and analyzed, please enjoy this video that gives a closer look at this mysterious formation: