© 2006 Dave Conklin
Back in 1993, I made a chance discovery that a famous UFO sighting just happened to connect with the Tunguska explosion--a very powerful atmospheric blast which took place 100 years ago over Siberia on the morning of June 30th 1908--or more specifically, with a trajectory map for the Tunguska object created by a Russian aerodynamics professor/Tunguska researcher named Felix Zigel. The discovery was a complete accident and would probably never have happened if were not for my curious habit of looking up obscure geographical locations in an old 13" X 20" world atlas; and the fact that both locations are in central China, which usually ends up in the center of maps and is therefore less subject to the radical distortions typically found on the perimeters of large maps. The connection is that the roughly south-to-north course trajectory for the Tunguska object (as indicated by the Zigel map) points directly to the area of the sighting; and the sighting, which occured 19 years after the Tunguska explosion, itself involves an object traveling in a north-to-south direction. I created a hand traced map showing the connection and sent a copy of the map to the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies. In the spring of 2001, I created this webpage to present the information to other researchers, which underwent a complete restructuring in 2006.
If you have studied the subject of the Tunguska explosion to any depth, then you have probably realized that it has become more and more exploited over the years. Some scientists will state very matter-of-factly that it was a meteor that caused the explosion, and are also quick to site it as the perfect example of why we need to "spend more" on asteroid research and tracking, but to do so completely ignores some of the stranger circumstances surrounding the explosion; the most important of which being the almost complete lack of any physical trace of the object. Or on the flip side, someone finds a few metal artifacts in the area and the event gets reduced to tabloid fodder as the latest proof of an exploding alien spaceship. I don't mean to understate the importance of science or being prepared, but since I do not represent any university, government agency, research organization or other entity, hopefully these webpages differ a bit by representing a completely unbiased look at the Tunguska event.
The sighting took place August 5, 1927 in what is now usually referred to as Qinghai Province, China and was recorded by a Russian explorer/Renaissance man named Nicholas Roerich. I think it is very unlikely that Roerich fabricated his story to have any connection to the 1908 Tunguska explosion for a number of reasons. For one, 1927 was very early on in Tunguska research. It would be another 19 years before any such notion came along that the Tunguska blast might have been caused by something artificial. Also, Roerich moved to the United States in 1920 and began his Far East odyssey in 1924. This was about the time the very first Tunguska eyewitness trajectory map was published by A.V.Voznesensky, head of the Irkutsk Observatory. The first map did not line up so well with Roerich's "shiny huge oval moving at great speed from north to south," but proved very useful to another central Tunguska figure named Leonid Kulik. Kulik was convinced the explosion had been caused by the impact of a large meteorite, and used the map in his quest to find the "Tunguska crater." Kulik finally arrived at the epicenter of the Tunguska blast on May 30, 1927--just nine weeks before Roerich's sighting--only to find an extensive wasteland of burnt and fallen trees.
Felix Zigel created his map in the early sixties, so it is very possible that he could have learned of the Roerich sighting prior to drawing the map and purposely aligned his trajectory with it. However, there is another more logical explanation: When the first map was created, the exact location of the epicenter of the explosion was not known. Later maps then, such as Zigel's, probably represent an attempt to more precisely align the eyewitness statements with the known epicenter; granted there was probably a certain amount of educated guesswork involved. Leonid Kulik apparently preferred a south to north trajectory as well, but so far, I have not run across any maps depicting his exact trajectory (if one even exists). Felix Zigel passed away on Nov 20, 1988 at the age of 68.
What are the odds? Well, it is impossible to say exactly because we don't know the exact course of Roerich's object; only that it was moving at first in a north-south direction. So we can only postulate. Higher mathematics is not one of my specialties, so I consulted someone with better math skills than myself. As it turns out, the odds of two completely happenstance moving objects (albeit UFOs, meteors, airplanes, or whatever) taking on the same trajectory within five degrees of each other is approximately 1-1000 (thanks KR); Not real low, but not high enough to call it an impossible coincidence either. Here is the formula used; if anyone has reason to dispute this conclusion, please let me know. (10/360) X (10/360) = 0.00077. Of course, this number does not take into consideration the fact that both objects were surrounded by unusual circumstances, the odds of which fall into an uncalculable realm.
As for my own study of the subject, I have not come to any firm conclusion regarding the cause of the Tunguska explosion, and probably never will. Although I have been collecting articles and info on the subject since, believe it or not, 1976, when I happened to read an article on the subject in a copy of "Official UFO" magazine, the stack doesn't add up to much. The problem is, probably 95 percent of all the papers that have been published on the Tunguska blast are in Russian, including the witness accounts, which must number somewhere from 500 to 1000. This makes Tunguska research for someone like myself, who cannot read Russian, a bit difficult. Of course, this also makes it difficult to determine the likelihood of one proposed course trajectory over another. From the witness accounts that I have read, I can say that there are definite peculiarities; not for a meteor necessarily, but for an object that expended nearly 100 percent of its kinetic energy in an instant of complete vaporization and heat. The most interesting and perplexing witness statements have to be those that suggest a comparatively slow moving object, such as eyewitnesses hearing thunderous sounds (presumably sonic booms or small explosions) and then watching the object travel. I use the word comparatively because the average speed of meteors in general as they enter the Earth's atmosphere is about 45 km/s or 100,000 mph. But sight with simultaneous sound is not the only witness evidence pointing to a slow moving object. And then you have a few witness accounts that are truly bizarre indeed.
The fact that no significant physical trace of the Tunguska object has ever been found in the forest fall area seems to be the central issue to the debate over what caused the explosion. The stony meteor/asteroid people argue that a comet would break up too high in the atmosphere and besides--someone should have seen it coming. The comet people argue that a stony meteor should have left a certain amount of large fragments scattered about the taiga. Both seem to agree on one point, and that is, an iron meteor would most likely have had too much integrity to break apart like the Tunguska object apparently did. And, as mentioned, the eyewitness accounts have proved problematic for every theory. Perhaps we will never really know for sure what caused the Tunguska explosion until we get lucky (or unlucky) and track a large asteroid or comet entering Earth's atmosphere that explodes and duplicates the 1908 Tunguska event. Or.....someone admits to it. (Insert Twilight Zone melody here.)
Note: It has been estimated that a Tunguska sized object hits the Earth approximately every 300 years. A Tunguska sized object hits over a continent approximately every 3,000 years, and over a heavy populated area every 100,000 years. So we might be in for a long wait.
Map courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries
An assortment of scans etc., related to the Tunguska
explosion. Hold your shift key while clicking to open in a new window.