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The Tunguska Event: Eyewitness Account

T. N. Naumenko, Kezhma

Correspondence with L. A. Kulik, 1935-36:

I don’t remember exactly, it was the 17th or 18th of June 1908[1], around 8 o’clock in the morning that comrade Grabovskii and I were planing boards with a “two-hander.” The day was uncommonly sunny and so clear that we didn’t notice a single cloud on the horizon, no breeze was stirring, absolute silence.

...I was sitting with my back to the Angara river, to the south, while Grabovskii was facing me... And then around 8 in the morning (the sun had already risen rather high) suddenly there was heard a distant, barely audible sound of thunder. It made us look around on all sides involuntarily. The thunder sounded as if it were coming from the Angara, so right away I had to turn abruptly in the direction that I’d had my back to, but in the sky around us not one stormcloud was visible anywhere, all the way to the horizon. Assuming that the thunderstorm was still somewhere far away, we went back to planing boards again. But the sound of thunder began strengthening so rapidly that we didn’t manage to plane more than three or four strokes before we had to throw down our planes and no longer sit, but rise up from the boards, since the sound of thunder already seemed to us to be something unusual, inasmuch as no stormclouds were visible on the horizon.

At the moment when I arose from the boards, amid the rapidly intensifying sound of thunder, there resounded the first, comparatively small crash. It made me quickly turn halfway around to the right, that is, to the southeast, from whence there fell on me the beams of a bright sun, and I had to raise my eyes a little upwards in the direction of the crash of thunder I’d heard, in precisely that direction from which the sunbeams were shining on me. This somewhat hindered my observation of that phenomenon which, all the same, showed itself visible to the eye the moment after the first peal of thunder — namely, when I quickly turned in the direction of the crash, the sunbeams were cut through by a wide, white-hot streamer from the right side of the beams, while from the left in the direction of the north (or, as seen from the Angara, beyond the Kezhma field) there went flying erratically into the taiga an even more white-hot (paler than the sun, but almost the same as the sunbeams) somewhat elongated mass in the form of a cloud, with a diameter far bigger than the moon....without any regularly defined edges.

After the first faint crash, in about two or three seconds, or maybe more (we had no watches, but the interval was on that order), there resounded a second, rather loud thunderclap. If you compared it with a normal thunderclap, then it would be as loud as the ones that happen during a thunderstorm. After that second crash... the mass was no longer visible, but its tail, or more correctly its streamer, now found itself all on the left side of the sunbeams, having cut through them, and having become many times broader than it had been on the right side. And right then, in a shorter interval of time than between the first and the second crashes, there followed a third thunderclap, one so strong it was as if it had several crashes mingled together inside of it, with such a crash that the ground shook, and throughout the taiga there reverberated such an echo, and not even an echo, but some sort of deafening solid roar. It seemed that that roar enveloped the whole taiga of unencompassable Siberia.

It should be mentioned that, after the first and second thunderclaps, the carpenters working on the construction of the barn crossed themselves in total amazement (there were six or seven of them, all local peasants...), and when the third crash resounded, the carpenters fell off the building backwards onto some woodchips (not too far, about a meter and a half), and it was necessary to bring them to their senses and calm them, saying that everything was already over. But they expected a continuation and said that probably the end of the world had already come and there would be a terrible judgment and so forth.[2]

— translated by Bill DeSmedt

copyright (c) 2004 by amber productions, inc.


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[1] As dated by the Old Style (Julian) calendar in use in Russia until the Revolution, and 13 days out of synch with the modern, Gregorian calendar. [Return to text.]

[2] An English translation may be found in E. L. Krinov, Giant Meteorites, trans. J. S. Romankiewicz, Permagon 1966, p. 149. [Return to text.]


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copyright (c) 2004 by amber productions, inc.