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The Tunguska Event: Eyewitness Account

N. Ponomaryov, Nizhne-Ilimsk

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

The population of Nizhne-Ilimsk and surrounding villages was alarmed on 17 June[2] by an unusual phenomenon. At 7:20 in the morning, all around Nizhne-Ilimsk there was heard a powerful noise, going over into the rumble of thunder. Meanwhile, the sky was cloudless. Several houses began to sway to and fro from the crashes, above the earth “some sort of fiery body resembling a beam[3]” rushed headlong from the south to the northwest. Immediately after that a crash resounded, and in that place where the fiery body had vanished there appeared a “fire,” and then “smoke.”

Undated correspondence cited by A. V. Voznesenskii:

The population of Nizhne-Ilimsk and surrounding villages was alarmed today (17 June) by an unusual phenomenon. At 7:20 in the morning, above Nizhne-Ilimsk, by very good weather conditions (the sky was covered with cloudlets here and there), there was heard approaching the village an out-of-the-ordinary noise, which went over into the rumble of thunder as it drew nearer. After the rumbles, throughout the whole district there resounded a most powerful crash, evoking a near-panic in the population.

I was sleeping. When the rumbles of thunder were heard, I woke up and, at the moment of the crash, felt how my house began to sway; in the kitchen, the dishes came crashing down, and the chair standing close by the wall was moved a couple of inches[4] toward the middle [of the room] by the vibration of the wall; a servant who happened to be standing on a bench nearly fell from the shaking.

Quickly getting dressed, I run out on the street, I read great alarm on the faces there, here and there the population have climbed on the roofs of houses and are looking in the direction where the crash resounded. One approaches me and reports that he saw, before the thunder rumbles appeared, that some sort of fiery body resembling a beam rushed headlong over the earth and vanished; all at once the crash resounded. Some other muzhiks[5] reported the same thing, having seen it together with a contractor. A fellow rides up astride a horse and reports that he also saw some sort of fiery body, saw how in that place where it fell there appeared at first a fire, and then, when the crash resounded, instead of the fire there appeared smoke.

My father and two brothers were about 6 versts[6] away from Nizhne-Ilimsk on a fishing trip and distinctly heard how before the powerful crash there were two thunderclaps, not as strong, while after the crash there were heard very many less strong crashes — up to 100 and in different places in three directions. One of [my] brothers, having been to war, compares what happened to that moment when the enemy opens fire and the big military weapons roar ...

A muzhik who rode up to us from a village 7 versts away also saw the fiery body. The body rushed from the south to the northwest, and everyone who saw it unanimously confirms that, indicating the direction exactly.

— 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] “brevno,” the word used here, refers to a beam of wood, not one of light. [Return to text.]

[4] Literally “moved a vershok toward the middle” — a “vershok” being a unit of measure equivalent to 1.75 inches. [Return to text.]

[5] “muzhik” means “(male) peasant.” [Return to text.]

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


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copyright (c) 2004 by amber productions, inc.