Aliens or maybe Angels causing Sinkholes?
An interesting phenomena has occurred in Russia as of the last several years. Because of it there has been widespread speculation of what has caused these gaping holes in the ground, from aliens to angels with everyone having their own wild theories about the subject. The latest sinkhole to open up occurred this last winter was sometime before November 20th. The believed causes were an abandoned mine below the area that became flooded. While searching the internet one site claimed that individuals who were close to the site saw Angels come down from heaven during the event, what they were doing……. no one knows. What I do know is that the claims that the sinkholes themselves are only a hundred feet long as shown below is quite incorrect. Looking at the Dachas surrounding it says it’s more like 200-250 feet in length and the width probably closer to what has been speculated.
What is known is that potash has been mined from the area going back to soviet times. The cities of Berezniki-Solikamisk were these sinkholes have occurred have had a rich history that dates back to 1430 with the discovery and exploitation by miners and merchants, probably from Vologda, of massive salt deposits on the banks of the Usolka River. The name of Solikmisk is derived from the Russian words “соль” (sol, meaning “salt”) and “Кама” (Kama River, flowing through the town). The name Berezniki is derived from a birch forest that was originally situated were the city is located today. The cities themselves are close to a notorious area of Gulag prisons that were established in Stalin era. Unlike in other areas of the world mines like these were kept away from the cities. Here the Gulags were built within walking distance which have contributed to the problems that the area is currently experiencing. See here and here for more information about Russian Gulags.
One very curious thing that has happened since this all began, the citizens of the city started giving the sinkholes nicknames. The oldest of them all is called “The Grandfather”, he showed up in 2009. He could quite likely be the largest man-made sinkhole in the world. The others that have showed up have been called “The Younger”, and “The Tiny One”. Sounds a bit like kissing cousins to me.
Pillars of Salt for Support. Oops!
Berezniki’s problems have been traced to October 2006, when a freshwater spring began flowing into the mine, where potash fertilizer is extracted from salt lying 720 to 1,500 feet below the surface. The problem began when the walls and pillars of salt that miners had left to support the ceilings of huge underground caverns began to dissolve. Oops! It’s Russia.
Berezniki, today a city of 154,000 began as a labor camp, was built directly over one of the mine in the area – again a legacy of the Soviet policy of placing camps within marching distance of work areas. It is afflicted by sinkholes, yawning chasms hundreds of feet deep that can open at a moment’s notice. Engineers tried in vain to keep the mines from collapsing, unfortunately they were unsuccessful.
After that, the local government adopted the policy in effect today, of careful observation and early warning: geologists, surveyors and emergency personnel use a panoply of high-technology monitors. These include the video surveillance system, seismic sensors, regular surveys and satellite monitoring of the changes in altitude of roofs, sidewalks and streets.
Despite all these cavernous anomalies the region is a great place to visit. Stay tuned for my next post on the region where I explore the Ural mountains and all they offer. Until then you can explore my post on the Urals themselves here.