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The Tunguska Event: Eyewitness Account

S. Kulesh, north of Kirensk

from the Irkutsk newspaper Sibir’, 2 July (Old Style) 1908[1]:

On the morning of 17 June[2], just after 9 a.m., some sort of unusual natural phenomenon was observed in our area. In the settlement of N[izhne]-Karelinsk (about 200 versts[3] to the north of Kirensk) the peasants saw in the northwest, quite high above the horizon, some sort of body glowing with an extraordinarily intense (such that you couldn’t look at it) blue-white light, moving downwards from above over the course of 10 minutes. The body took the form of a “pipe”[4], i.e., cylindrical. The sky was cloudless, only low on the horizon on the same side on which the luminous body was observed, there was noted a small dark cloud. It was hot, dry. Nearing the ground (the forest), it was as if the shining body spread out, in its place there formed an enormous puff of black smoke and there was heard an extraordinarily powerful rumble (not thunder), as if from large falling stones or cannon fire. All the structures shook. At the same time a flame of undetermined form began to break out of the cloud.

All the inhabitants of the settlement ran into the street in a panicky fear, old women cried, everyone thought that the end of the world had come ...

The writer of these lines was at that time in the forest, about 6 versts to the north of Kirensk and heard to the northwest something like cannon fire, which repeated (with interruptions) no fewer than 10 times over the course of 15 minutes. In several homes in Kirensk, the glass tinkled in the walls facing the northwest. These sounds, as has now become clear, were heard in n[orthern] Pokamennii, Chechuisk, Zavakomnii, and even in Mutinskii station, about 180 versts north of Kirensk.

In Kirensk at that time, several people observed in the northwest something like a fiery-red sphere, moving, according to the testimony of some, horizontally, but according to the testimony of others, at a steep incline.

Near Chechuisk, a peasant, driving through the fields, observed the same thing in the northwest.

Near Kirensk, in the village of Voronina, the peasants saw a fiery sphere falling to the southeast of them (i.e., to the side opposite the one where N[izhne]-Karelinsk is situated).

The phenomenon has aroused a mass of interpretations. Some say that it was an enormous meteorite, others, that it was ball lightning (or a whole series of them).

At 2 in the afternoon of the same day there was between Kirensk and N[izhne]-Karelinsk ([on the side] nearer to Kirensk) a normal thunderstorm with pouring rain and hail.

— translated by Bill DeSmedt

copyright (c) 2004 by amber productions, inc.


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[1] The 2nd of July by the “Old Style” (Julian) calendar then in use in czarist Russia corresponds to the 15th of July in the modern (Gregorian) calendar. [Return to text.]

[2] The 17th of June “OS” (Old Style) corresponds to the 30th of June in the Gregorian calendar. [Return to text.]

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

[4] “trubka” in Russian, meaning “pipe” or “tube.” [Return to text.]


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copyright (c) 2004 by amber productions, inc.