Fund News

Fifth Expedition to the Patom Crater Gives Striking Results


The fifth expedition to the Patom crater in the Irkutsk Region which ended last week marked a significant turn in research of this mysterious phenomenon. The FPLB is interested in promoting science in the Baikal Region and have assisted the scientists in all possible ways. The production crew of the Mysterious Russia documentary cycle of the NTV Channel with interest watched the scientists’ progress while collecting material for a new documentary about the Baikal Region.

The participants of the scientific expedition performed a wide range of research in this hard-to- reach area which revealed evidence confirming the new hypothesis of the Patom crater formation – a cryovolcanic. “At the crater scientists found no evidence to prove either the cosmic or the volcanic hypotheses”, said Dmitry Gladkochub, a prominent volcanologist, Deputy Chairman of the Irkutsk Scientific Center of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Doctor of Geology and Mineralogy. “This is a cryolite area with ice-formed rock fossils. Concentrated underground water could have been freezing over for many years. The processes related to seasonal melting and ice freezing could have resulted in a powerful hydraulic impact breaking the ground and creating a structure similar to the crater. All the energy accumulated by water moved up. This is nothing more than a cryovolcano formed in permafrost conditions”, said the scientist.
Mr Sergey Yazev, Director of the Astronomical Observatory at Irkutsk State University, a participant in the expedition, said that the latest findings “look convincing”. The hypothesis of cryogenic origin was proposed by Vadim Kolpakov who first discovered the crater but he believed that the processes which formed the crater resulted from a meteoritic fall. According to Sergey Yazev, no evidence has been found to confirm the cosmic origin of the crater.

Experts believe that a couple of years, several additional expeditions and thorough research of available materials will be required to confirm the theory of the Patom crater being a cryovolcano. The Fund for Protection of Lake Baikal intends to further assist in research.

Mr Gladkochub also informed that the institutes of the Irkutsk Scientific Center sent a request to the State Duma to turn the Patom crater area into a conservation area. The research of feasibility of the creation of such area is planned for next year. The Patom crater is subsequently planned to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage.

The Patom crater (also known as Dzhebuldinsky, Yavaldinsky, Kolpakov’s cone) is a cone of crushed limestone masses on the slope of a mountain in the Patom highland in the Irkutsk Region around 300 kilometers from the Bodaybo district center which is a difficult-to-reach area. The crater was formed 500 years ago during the Little Ice Age. It was discovered by Vadim Kolpakov in 1949. The height of the crater is around 40 m, and its ridge diameter is 76 m. The cone has a flat top in the shape of a circular shaft. The hill inside the crater is up to 12 meters high. The total volume of the cone is estimated at 230,000 to 250,000 meters and its weight – around a million tons. The Patom crater is the only crater in Eastern Siberia. Local residents call it a nest of a fire eagle.
Cryovolcanism is a type of volcanism on planets and other celestial objects in conditions of very low ambient temperatures. Cryovolcanoes erupt water, methane compounds and ammonia in liquid and gaseous state.
For the first time outside the Earth, cryovolcanoes were discovered by Voyager-2 on Triton, the largest moon of planet Neptune. Cryovolcanism was also found on Enceladus, a small moon of Saturn, and on Charon, a moon of Pluto. There is some evidence of cryovolcanoes on other ice satellites of gas planets such as Ganymede and Europe.