Those Big Holes in Yamal

September 3, 2014 • Philip BurgessBlog, Reindeer Herders

Herder in front of Yamal Methane HoleOne of the stories of the summer was the sudden appearance of large holes in the Yamal Peninsula, the largest single area of reindeer husbandry and also the site of mega gas extraction, making the region critically important for the Russian state. The fact that Yamal translates as ‘the end of the land’, was fodder for conspiracy theorists and alien believers.

Some alarming articles appeared suggesting that this may well be a sign of the end of days. However, more serious articles (e.g. a Nature piece you can read here and a piece on the Alaska Dispatch News here) attributed the holes to a build up of methane from thawing permafrost  according to a Russian team investigating the sites, offering the abnormally warm summers of  2012 and 2013 on Yamal as a possible explanation. Of course this is of interest to the Reindeer Portal as some of the holes were discovered by reindeer herders, some of whom took pictures of themselves by these other worldly looking holes.

Either way, the appearance of these holes are a concern for us all and will be watched closely by herders and scientists alike in the future. A great series of photos from the sites are on the Siberian Times here and a video which you can see below.

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