Scientists have proposed a new theory that may solve the mystery surrounding the bizarre deaths of nine Russian hikers in 1959.
Commonly known as the Dyatlov Pass incident, the hikers’ deaths have never been explained, though countless conspiracy theories have been put forward.
In a new article published in the Communications Earth and Environment journal, scientists have presented data pointing to the likelihood that a small avalanche may have been the cause of death.
The theory was previously dismissed because no obvious signs of an avalanche or debris were reported by the search team. The average slope angle above the group’s camp was also not sufficiently steep enough for an avalanche. Additionally, the hikers’ injuries were not consistent with those typical of avalanche victims.
The group had set out on a difficult skiing expedition in the Northern Ural Mountains, Russia. Here, they set up camp on the slope of the Kholat Saykhl – translated as the ‘Dead Mountain’ in the local Mansi language.
What happened next remains a mystery, but some 26 days to three months later, search teams found the hikers’ bodies in a nearby forest and on the way back to the tent.
While hypothermia was determined to be the main cause of death among the group, authorities were left confused by a number of strange injuries. Four hikers had severe thorax or skull injuries, two were found with missing eyes and one without a tongue.
It’s no wonder that countless conspiracies have arisen, given that some of the group were almost naked and barefoot, and traces of radioactivity were found on some of their clothes. Additionally, signs of glowing orange spheres were reportedly seen in the sky around the same time.
A 1959 Soviet criminal investigation into the deaths concluded that a ‘compelling natural force’ had been the cause of death.
The latest research aimed to identify a mechanism that could explain the inconsistencies in the avalanche theory.
Scientists said that although the avalanche at the location of the group’s camp was unlikely, they proposed that the combination of ‘four critical factors’ allowed the release of a small snow slab above the tent.
These factors include the location of the tent, which was put up under the shoulder of a steep slope to protect the group from the wind, as well as a cut to the snow slab made by the group when installing the tent.
‘Provided a realistic wind deposition flux, our model shows that the conditions for avalanche release can be met after a delay of 7.5 to 13.5 hours from the moment the hikers made the cut in the slope, in agreement with the forensic evaluation of the time of death,’ the report said.
Alexander Puzrin, one of the researchers, told National Geographic that computer models had shown that the avalanche would have been small in size, around 16 foot long.
Puzrin said a block this size could break the ribs and skulls of people asleep, but might not be fatal immediately. The small size also explains why no debris of an avalanche was found.
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