In some sense, the earth got way lightly, and maybe we should reflect on just how lucky we all are, because we might simply not be here at all, had the outcome been other than the mid-air maelstrom that it was.
103 years ago, June30/July1 something gigantic exploded 8 km high in the air over the Tunguska river in Russia, and within seconds 80 million trees had been blown over like matchsticks, while an area of 2200 sq km of Siberia was utterly devastated. There had been reports all over Europe of a strange glow in the sky, Londoners seeing a pink phosphorescent night sky over the capital around midnight
The same was reported over Belgium, German skies said to be bright green, while those over Scotland were so light that wildlife was tricked, cocks crowing at 2am One English golf game went on until four am because it was so light. Nobody seeing these weird things suspected that in central Siberia just after 7:15 a.m. a comet had exploded ijust above the Earth's surface.
Settlers by Lake Baikal saw a bright light cross the sky, transformed into a column of black smoke on reaching the far horizon, before hearing what they thought was distant artillery fire they felt a thump in the ground and heard a series of bangs that they compared to artillery in the distance. 70km from the explosion site, people were knocked over, windows shattered and buildings were damaged.
200km away, t people and animals were still swept off their off their feet, an eastbound Trans-Siberian Railroad train shaking so hard the engineer stopped it in panic. The comet, visible 700 km away, the explosion still audible 1200 km distant away, the
effects noticed across the Northern Hemisphere, blast dust injected into the stratosphere, circling the earth for days, creating amazing sunsets and bright night skies.
Cricket continued to be played in London after midnight, while Scottish farmers used the harvested hay. It was believed at the time that the bright skies were caused by unusual auroral displays due to unusual sun activity. Nobody had any idea, at the time, what a cataclysmic event this could have been.
Some local Siberian newspapers of the day had featured fireball stories, telling of a great explosion, but these stories soon died out, going largely unnoticed in Moscow and the West, as the area involved was one of the most inaccessible places on Earth.
It later emerged that the nearest people to the explosion site had been reindeer herders asleep in their tents, 30 km away, who heard tremendous sounds of explosions, and after coming round from a shock-wave that had stunned them senseless. saw the devastated forest burning around them. Many thousands of reindeer were killed, and the herders lost just about all they possessed.
It is known today that this devastating blast, equivalent to possibly 100 Hiroshima nuclear explosions, was a lucky escape for the earth, because the incoming comet fragmented, unlike that vast meteorite that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years earlier.
Had it not exploded in mid-air, but impacted the earth below, another extinction-level event might have been the result. In some sense, the earth got way lightly, and maybe we should reflect on just how lucky we all are, because we might simply not be here at all, had the outcome been other than the mid-air maelstrom that it was.