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The Tunguska Event: Eyewitness Account

Agronomist Kokoulin, Nizhne-Ilimsk

Letter to A. V. Voznesenskii, 25 July 1908:

On the 17th of June,[1] at approximately 7:15 in the morning, the workers building a bell tower saw a fiery block, flying, it seems, from the southeast to the northwest. At first, two bangs resounded (not unlike gunfire), then an extremely strong bang accompanied by shaking. More bangs were heard. They noticed a shaking of the earth. One girl (the priest’s maid-servant) fell off a bench. The populace became frightened. They saw that fiery sphere [there is an unclear word in the original, something like “meteor”] in Karapchanskii, and heard the bangs. The day was clear, and for that reason the thunder put the public in a state of bewilderment. In Nizhne-Ilimsk two Tunguses[2] recounted that the meteor had, in falling, formed a lake which boiled for two full days. The Tunguses were prepared to show people that lake, but no one believed their story.

Supplementary report to A. V. Voznesenskii, 14 September 1908:

Succeeded in more exactly delineating the region over which the sounds accompanying the phenomenon were spread. It turns out that the din was audible near Verkholensk (in the village of Chelpanovaya) on the one side, and in Mukhtuye on the other — i.e., for a distance of nearly 1,300 versts[3] along the Lena [river]. On the side away from the Lena, the phenomenon was more or less basically observed in Nizhne-Ilimsk. The eyewitnesses say that at the place where the body fell (or, what is perhaps more precise, at the place where it went behind the horizon) there arose puffs of black smoke like a column. The Tunguses who wander beyond the Nizhne-Karelinsk settlement (to the west-northwest of Kirensk) say that the thunder was horrible, but the reindeer did not show even the slightest agitation, as they would during a normal thunderstorm. No earthquake in the usual sense was observed; only a quivering of structures from the din was noticed well (here and there all too well). The meteor moved from the east-southeast to the west-northwest.

— translated by Bill DeSmedt

copyright (c) 2004 by amber productions, inc.


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[1] The 17th of June by the “Old Style” (Julian) calendar then in use in czarist Russia corresponds to the 30th of June in the Gregorian calendar. [Return to text.]

[2] I.e., Evenki, the native peoples of the Tunguska region.[Return to text.]

[3] One verst equals 3,500 feet. [Return to text.]


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copyright (c) 2004 by amber productions, inc.