Approximately 25 years ago, a huge crater suddenly appeared in a remote area of Siberia, outside the small town of Batagai in the Sakha Republic. The local Yakutians call it the “gateway to the underworld,” connecting this life to the next. Now it is a mile (1.6km) long and nearly 400 feet (120 meters) deep and the most amusing thing is that it is still growing, according to geological surveys even up to 60 feet (20 meters) a year.
The crater is named the Batagaika Crater and its location in the middle of a vast boreal forest is no accident. The catastrophic chasm probably wouldn’t exist if not for the surrounding trees, because it’s presumed that the crater was inadvertently created when a swath of forest land was cleared. The Siberian Times reports that happened in the 1960s, while other outlets have reported it as being in the 1980s or 1990s. Regardless, the deforestation caused the land to begin sinking, and the crater was formed.
These sudden rifts appear when permafrost is allowed to rapidly thaw, causing scar zones to sink. Recent warmer temperatures brought on by climate change have continued to melt the permafrost and major flooding also contributed to the growth of the crater. Even though thaw slumps are a pretty typical feature in Arctic environments like Siberia, this crater is a bit different.
Some scientists are convinced the Batagaika crater is an anomaly, and a potentially irreversible sign of worse things to come
“I expect that the Batagaika megaslump will continue to grow until it runs out of ice or becomes buried by slumped sediment. It’s quite likely that other megaslumps will develop in Siberia if the climate continues to warm or get wetter,” Dr. Julian Murton, a geology professor at the University of Sussex explained to Motherboard.