The term “Gateway to Hell” probably means nothing to you, yet it is one of the most surprising geological formations in the world. Explanations around a phenomenon still very little known.
Siberia is a region characterized by snowy landscapes and freezing temperatures. In fact, much of its surface is covered in what geologists call permafrost. This is the permanent layer of ice in which the past was frozen millions of years ago. Over the years, with the acceleration of global warming, part of it has melted, exposing hitherto unknown areas, such as the one we are showing you today: the “Gateway to Hell”.
First spotted in 1990 by hikers exploring the remote Yakutsk region of eastern Russia, the Batagaika Crater was then a virtually unknown geological feature that emanated a series of strange noises, which explains its nickname. Since then, only a handful of similar holes have been found on Earth, and nearly all of them are located in Siberia . Note that the term “crater” is misleading since the structure was not formed following an impact or an underground collapse. In reality, it is a depression of the thermokarst type growing by erosion.
Permafrost is known to preserve in its deepest layers traces of life in the past . It can thus be considered as a kind of permanent refrigerator which, thanks to the cold, manages to preserve everything that is in the ice. This is why scientists believe that the Gate of the Underworld is a very interesting window into the last 200,000 years of life on Earth and in the region.
And for good reason, we now know that bison, mammoths, horses, elk and reindeer crossed it 4,400 years ago, at a time when it was warmer than today. Researchers learn a lot about the different layers of sediment that have been deposited there over time, whether it’s about the climatic history or the species that lived at the time. In 2019, for example, an 18,000-year-old wolfdog was found perfectly preserved. Ditto in 2020 with a woolly rhinoceros dated at least 20,000 years old.