Dyatlov Pass Incident

Philo_T

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#1
Russia, 1959, a group of skiers embark on a cross-country ski trip. On the night of February 2, 1959, some sort of accident happens, leaving them dead. Evidence points to them ripping open the tent in their hurry to flee, mostly in their nightclothes and shoeless. Several of them had injuries that the medical examiner characterized as having been caused by a force equal to a car crash.

I've never heard of this before, but wikipedia has an article.

This is a very mysterious story, with each turn bringing a new strange facet. Consensus on Metafilter points to an avalanche. (Triggered by a hushed-up nuclear test?)


Has anyone heard of this before?
Is this some bit of Sovietana that didn't filter past the iron curtain?
Is this a Russian Blair Witch project?
 

escargot

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#2
It's very interesting. Having been raised in the Cold War, I personally have little faith that Soviet era secrets will ever be revealed.

In this instance, there seems to be a tantalising promise of more helpful documents tucked away somewhere. :)
 

rynner2

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#3
Thanks for digging this up.

Secret weapons testing doesn't seem likely (unless a missile went wildly off-course) because surely the expedition would never have been allowed anywhere near the area.

But the grim local legends remind me somewhat of the Skinwalker tales from the US.
http://www.forteantimes.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=6888

Avalanche? Maybe the party felt or heard one nearby and panicked out of their tent, but the search party reported no avalanche at the camp site. And avalanches aren't generally radioactive!

I guess it needs a Russian speaker to examine the records more thoroughly - even the Wiki article is not written by someone with English as his first language.
 

OneWingedBird

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#5
Nice find Philo-T. I'd never heard of this one before.

Yes but what about the missing tongue? That's just odd.
difficult to say without knowing more of the context, but i'd be surprised if the bodies had laid in the forest that long without there being some signs of scavaging by animals.
 

TheOrigDesperado

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#6
Is there evidence that this actually happened? All I can find on the web are discussions about it. I can't find any reliable reports or articles.
 

Philo_T

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#7
TheOrigDesperado said:
Is there evidence that this actually happened? All I can find on the web are discussions about it. I can't find any reliable reports or articles.

That's what I find strange about this. Having an interest in Weird Stuff , I find it strange to not heard of this fifty-year-old incident. The story rates high on the weird-o-meter, but is it merely a story?
 

rynner2

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#8
Philo_T said:
Having an interest in Weird Stuff , I find it strange to not heard of this fifty-year-old incident. The story rates high on the weird-o-meter, but is it merely a story?
Something that happened in the Cold War years, in the USSR, and seems to have been covered up in Russia at the time by a government paranoid about security and secrecy, is not likely to leak out easily into the West.

And even if the West had suspicions that there might be military intelligence to be gained from the incident, it would have been difficult to infiltrate agents into such a remote area. Spy satellites were still a thing of the future, and even spy planes (the U2s) were in their infancy.

As I said earlier, with most of the available documentation being in Russian, it's still difficult for Westerners to access it, and it's only the development of the WWW that has given it a popular outlet now.

And there's always the possiblity that there are simple and natural explanations for the events, but that the tale has expanded and grown more convoluted in the retelling, which is something Forteans should be well aware of!
 

markbellis

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#9
Sounds like it's taken from the pages of Pravda....
The bodies were found "shoeless and dressed in their underclothes only" like someone who'd been roused from slumbering in a cosy bed although they are camping in tents in winter in the northern Ural mountains....
and "strange orange tan. They also claimed that the dead were completely grey-haired" - You don't tan after death, and people only became grey haired overnight after being frightened in bad movies.....
 

rynner2

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#10
markbellis said:
You don't tan after death..
Who said you do?

The implication (whether real or hoaxed) is that they were exposed to radiation, presumably before they died.
 
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#11
markbellis said:
...The bodies were found "shoeless and dressed in their underclothes only" like someone who'd been roused from slumbering in a cosy bed although they are camping in tents in winter in the northern Ural mountains...
The removal of clothing is a not uncommon occurence in victims of hypothermia. When I used to go up and down steep things for fun I heard this kind of bizarre and apparently paradoxical behaviour referred to as 'cold stupid' or 'frozen stupid'.

That said, it's a great story - but it does have the feel of a film pitch about it.
 

rynner2

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#12
There were several nuclear incidents in the USSR prior to Chernobyl.
During the early days of the atomic energy program in the former Soviet Union, some unfortunate events occurred. The country's first atomic test in Semipalatinsk in 1949 exposed over 25,000 people downwind from the blast to significant doses of fission products, especially 131I. During the late 1940s and the early 1950s nuclear material production facilities were developed near Chelyabinsk in the South Ural Mountains, which resulted in major releases into the environment and significant overexposures for thousands of workers and nearby populations.
http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articl ... id=1469939

1957 29 September

Mayak or Kyshtym nuclear complex (Soviet Union): A fault in the cooling system at the nuclear complex, near Chelyabinsk, results in a chemical explosion and the release of an estimated 70 to 80 tonnes of radioactive materials into the air. Thousands of people are exposed to radiation and thousands more are evacuated from their homes. It is categorised as Level 6 on the seven-point International Nuclear Events Scale (INES).
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/5165736.stm
More detail here:
http://www.mnweekly.ru/national/20071018/55283501.html

(I seem to remember one case where Western scientists only became aware of an accident years later, by 'reading between the lines' of published Russian research, which often dealt with things like the effects of radiation on wildlife, etc.)

So it's by no means out of the question that the expedition got caught up in something similar.
 

James_H

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#13
I find this part of the article most interesting:

Some try to explain the disaster via the local myths and legends of Mansi, the indigenous people of that area. Indeed, the surrounding is full of strange stories and even the local toponymics seems mystical. Otorten, the goal of expedition, translates from the Mansi language to "Do Not Go There". Kholat Syakhl, the place of disaster, translates in the same language to "The Mountain of Dead". There is an old Mansi-legend, that Kholat Syakhl had been named so after nine Mansi men dead on top of the mountain seeking salvation from the Flood in ancient times. This territory is acknowledged by local Mansi as "damned". They avoid visiting it when they go hunting or when they travel follow their deer herds. Though, it is known that there are not any explicit taboo visiting this place (against the version that the travelers were punished by local people for pervasion into a sacral zone).
What if the place itself is cursed (for want of a better word)?
 

Philo_T

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#15
I recall recent (last 5 years...) stories of radiation exposure incidents when some poor sot scavenges an abandoned Soviet installation. Seems the Soviets played around with RTGs to power things like isolated lighthouses and such.

Agapov confirmed earlier reports of radiation exposure incidents in the former USSR republic of Georgia, where "shepherds would warm themselves up in cold weather with the help of RTGs," which are, in essence, nuclear-powered heat generators.
 

markbellis

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#18
"Ekaterinburg writer Anna Matveyeva (Анна Матвеева) with help of the film makers published the fiction/documentary novella of the same name"
- Wikipedia
The wikipedia article implied they bolted out of their tent in their underwear and developed hypothermia later, and some survivors died after trying to stay warm by dressing themselves in whatever they could salvage from the others and trying to return to camp - the person who wrote this didn't realize people sleep in their clothes when winter camping. Tanning takes at least a few days to develop - gray hair takes years.....
I think I know the story that this is borrowed from - I think it was English, and the plot is a manuscript that first drives an explorer to hack his way out of his tent and vanish and then a string of others, but in the end it's revealed that it was just the publisher's secretary playing a practical joke on him - any guesses?
 

rynner2

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#19
The St Petersburg Times article, linked to by original_fLeebLe, and the photos and documents it was based on, suggest that this is anything but fiction. (The Times article uses better English than the Wiki version too.)

(Fictionalised spin-offs are always possible, of course.)
 

TheOrigDesperado

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#20
But even assuming that story is true...

A group of people pitch tent on a slope. In the middle of the night they hear an avalanche that sounds like it's coming directly for them.

They flee from their tents, not having time to dress.

The avalanche passes. Some of them attempt to get back to their tents but because it's dark and sub-zero and they have few clothes on, they die.

One fractures his skull, presumably by falling in the dark.

Four of the skiiers fall into a ravine by accident. They are crushed due to the fall and the weight of snow that piles on top of them, triggered by their fall.

So, to account for the apparently inexplicable facts, assuming they are true ~

We discovered that the tent was half torn down and covered with snow.
Either it was struck by the edge of the avalanche or it was damaged when the skiers fled, and it later snowed.

Investigators matched the footprints to the members of the group, saying there was no evidence of a struggle or that other people had entered the camp.
Of course not.

Sharavin found the first two bodies at the edge of the forest, under a towering pine tree. The two — Georgy Krivonischenko, 24, and Yury Doroshenko, 21, were barefoot and dressed in their underclothes. Charred remains of a fire lay nearby
They couldn't find their way back to the camp so they lit a fire but still died of hyperthermia.

The next three bodies — Dyatlov, Zina Kolmogorova, 22, and Rustem Slobodin, 23 — were found between the tree and the camp. The way the bodies were lying indicated that the three had been trying to return to the camp.
Again, they died of cold whilst trying to find their way back, as would be expected. Clearly they wouldn't have tried to get back to camp if they believe that some danger remained there.

Doctors said the five had died of hypothermia.
And there you go. No mystery there.

It took two months to locate the remaining skiers. Their bodies were found buried under four meters of snow in a forest ravine, 75 meters away from the pine tree. The four — Nicolas Thibeaux-Brignollel, 24, Ludmila Dubinina, 21, Alexander Zolotaryov, 37, and Alexander Kolevatov, 25 — appeared to have suffered traumatic deaths. Thibeaux-Brignollel’s skull had been crushed, and Dubunina and Zolotarev had numerous broken ribs.
Pretty consistent with falling into a ravine and being covered by tons of snow.

Dubinina also had no tongue.
The tongue is usually the first body part to be eaten by scavengers, so this isn't in the least surprising for a body spending 2 months in the wilderness.

The bodies, however, showed no external wounds.
No, they fell onto snow and snow piled on top of them so it's perfectly possible they had no external wounds.

The four were better dressed than the rest, and those who had died first had apparently relinquished their clothes to the others. Zolotaryov was wearing Dubinina’s faux fur coat and hat, while Dubinina’s foot was wrapped in a piece of Krivonishenko’s wool pants.
They exchanged clothes by the fire before they set off in search of the camp and subsequently fell into the ravine.

Deepening the mystery, a test of the clothes found they contained high levels of radiation.
High as compared to what? This statement is meaningless.

a doctor who examined the bodies in 1959 said he believed that no man could have inflicted the injuries because the force of the blows had been too strong and no soft tissue had been damaged,
Precisely what you'd expect from falling onto snow and having tons of snow piled on top of you.

And what does the chief investigator come up with?

Ivanov speculated that one skier might have left the tent during the night, seen a sphere and woken up the others with his cries. Ivanov said the sphere might have exploded as they ran toward the forest, killing the four who had serious injuries and cracking Slobodin’s skull.
Unbelievable. No wonder he didn't solve the case, he was insane.
 

rynner2

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#21
Unbelievable. No wonder he didn't solve the case, he was insane.
Whereas people who solve the case from a distance of thousands of miles and after many decades are eminently sane..?

On a scale of 1 to 10 from fluffy woo-woo to arch-skeptic, I'll give that 9! :D
 

TheOrigDesperado

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#22
rynner said:
Unbelievable. No wonder he didn't solve the case, he was insane.
Whereas people who solve the case from a distance of thousands of miles and after many decades are eminently sane..?
I note you declined to address any of the points I made so I assume you don't disagree with any of my conclusions. Therefore it looks like you'd rather believe in woo than logical argument.

If someone falls into a river on a cold day and drowns then, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, I'll conclude that they slipped on ice and fell into the water. If some local type happens to assert that the person was pushed by a psychic invisible bigfoot dressed as Elvis then this won't alter my logical assessment one iota, regardless of how closely this person has examined the scene or what trumped-up title he may hold within the community.
 

rynner2

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#23
TheOrigDesperado said:
I note you declined to address any of the points I made so I assume you don't disagree with any of my conclusions. Therefore it looks like you'd rather believe in woo than logical argument.
Au contraire, monsieur!

You describe a sequence of events, starting from the assumption that there was an avalanche.

But the St Petersburg Times article didn't mention an avalanche, merely stating

“We discovered that the tent was half torn down and covered with snow. It was empty, and all the group’s belongings and shoes had been left behind,” Mikhail Sharavin, the student who found the tent, said by telephone from Yekaterinburg.
Now, avalanches are quite dramatic and dangerous events, capable of sweeping away everything in their path. A tent and its contents would have been spread all down the mountainside, but all we read is of a tent 'covered with snow'. (Well, it was winter!)

Furthermore, you dismiss the radioactivity issue with a wave of the hand (and ignore the odd skin colour of the corpses altogether).

If you start from a false premise, all your chain of logic will go awry.

These trekkers were presumably very experienced in the conditions expected to even consider this expedition, so it seems likely that something very out of the ordinary spooked them.

UFOs? Weapon tests/misfire? Yetis? Ghosts? Something else?

I don't know, which is why, on the scale of 1 to 10, I like to hover around 5 or 6! (As a Fortean, I don't always expect clear-cut explanations, even if it would be 'nice' to reach some 'closure'.)
 

markbellis

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#24
If it was on the edge of an avalanche why should it be swept away? Chunks of snow could just have smashed into it, which is what the photo seems to suggest - and in avalanches, don't think of fluffy snow, think hard packed slabs, quite capable of crushing heads - and Ivanov, if he really existed, does sound crazy if he really made the supposition of "death by mysterious flying sphere" with no evidence at all!
And if this is supposed to be something the Soviet government was trying to cover up, why were two commemorative plaques put up and the pass renamed in the expedition's leader's honour?
 

markbellis

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#25
rynner said:
But the St Petersburg Times article didn't mention an avalanche
Finally, a truly Fortean event!! The St Petersburg Times article NOW contains this:

"Dyatlov’s friends have looked into whether the deaths might have been caused by an avalanche. Setting up the camp on the slope might have disturbed the snow above, causing it to tumble down a few hours later. This would explain the ripped tent, which the skiers would have had to cut open to exit."

:_pished: The only possible explanation is that the flying spheres inserted this AFTER rynner wrote the above.

Which only goes to show that you should never trust ANY spheroid, ellipsoid or even those snarky little platonic solids to edit online newspapers.
 

TheOrigDesperado

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#26
rynner said:
Au contraire, monsieur!

You describe a sequence of events, starting from the assumption that there was an avalanche.

But the St Petersburg Times article didn't mention an avalanche, merely stating
They do now, as markbellis points out!

rynner said:
Now, avalanches are quite dramatic and dangerous events, capable of sweeping away everything in their path. A tent and its contents would have been spread all down the mountainside, but all we read is of a tent 'covered with snow'. (Well, it was winter!)
Avalanches can be small or large, like any natural phenomenon. Yes, they normally destroy what's in their path but who's to say the tent was directly in the path of this avalanche? It seems the logical conclusion that it wasn't.

rynner said:
Furthermore, you dismiss the radioactivity issue with a wave of the hand
You mean this - "a test of the clothes found they contained high levels of radiation."? What am I supposed to say about that? High compared to what? Did they measure the ambient radiation in the area? Radiation exposure increases with altitude as the air thins so an increase would be expected.

rynner said:
(and ignore the odd skin colour of the corpses altogether).
A body will change colour very rapidly after death. Depending on the environment, temperature, atmosphere, etc. it can go pretty much any colour from bright orange to green to grey to blue. The only thing that would have surprised me is if the corpses had not changed colour.

rynner said:
If you start from a false premise, all your chain of logic will go awry.
True, that's why I was careful not to.

rynner said:
These trekkers were presumably very experienced in the conditions expected to even consider this expedition, so it seems likely that something very out of the ordinary spooked them.
First off, why wouldn't experience trekkers have run to save their lives from an avalanche? Second, if they were so experienced why were they sleeping in -30C in their underwear?

rynner said:
UFOs? Weapon tests/misfire? Yetis? Ghosts? Something else?
No. No. No. No. Yes; an avalanche.

rynner said:
I don't know, which is why, on the scale of 1 to 10, I like to hover around 5 or 6! (As a Fortean, I don't always expect clear-cut explanations, even if it would be 'nice' to reach some 'closure'.)
I don't know either, but if it quacks like a duck and falls down ravines like a duck then it's sensible to assume it's a duck and not a bigfoot.

markbellis said:
Which only goes to show that you should never trust ANY spheroid, ellipsoid or even those snarky little platonic solids to edit online newspapers.
In fact, treat any flying geometric shape with caution, especially when unbiased and accurate reporting is called for.
 

tilly50

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#27
A corpses skin changes colour as decompostion progresses. These bodies were in subzero temperatures so I would imagine that decompostion would have been all but halted and the bodies would have appeared mainly white with what would have looked like bruising where the blood pooled in the body after death. A few years ago some explorers found the remains of an earlier expedition in the arctic the corpses where frozen solid and in a remarkable state of preservation even after nearly 100 years had past.
The absence of the tongue cannot really be attributed to a scavenger if the corpses were underneath several feet of snow.
The mystery may well have a perfectly normal explanation. An avalanche may have been triggered by nuclear testing and the exepdition members may have killed by a combination of hypothemia and a shock wave from a blast. They may have been in contact with a toxic fallout of some sort, this could also explain the discolouration of the hair (a corpses hair could be bleached white by chemicals) and the skin. Where there any laboratories in the area used for research into germ/chemical weopons?
 

markbellis

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#28
tilly50 said:
The absence of the tongue cannot really be attributed to a scavenger if the corpses were underneath several feet of snow.
It does if the snow fell after a fox ate the tongue. But it doesn't explain how they found the bodies under "four meters of snow" in the first place. That's far too deep even for dogs to find them.
I think what happened is that they were caught in an avalanche, as the maps and photos suggest, and died from injuries and exposure, and that fictionalized details have been added, something that popular Russian media do all the time - cf. Pravda.
 
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#29
Since this story doesn't seem to have any real internet presence before this year is it possible that this is viral marketing for a movie?

I mean the leaked X-Files movie trailer had a lot about people running around in the mountainous snow looking for something. Possibly a crashed ET spacecraft.
 

TheOrigDesperado

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#30
tilly50 said:
A corpses skin changes colour as decompostion progresses. These bodies were in subzero temperatures so I would imagine that decompostion would have been all but halted and the bodies would have appeared mainly white with what would have looked like bruising where the blood pooled in the body after death.
Frozen corpse 1

http://static.flickr.com/76/228556104_4415975a7c_o.jpg

Frozen corpse 2

http://a.abcnews.com/images/Technology/ ... 607_ms.jpg

Frozen corpse 3

http://www.geocities.com/gjerrett/oetzi_zoom.jpg

Note the orange "tan" on each

tilly50 said:
The absence of the tongue cannot really be attributed to a scavenger if the corpses were underneath several feet of snow.
Snow could well have thawed and laid down many times over.

tilly50 said:
The mystery may well have a perfectly normal explanation. An avalanche may have been triggered by nuclear testing and the exepdition members may have killed by a combination of hypothemia and a shock wave from a blast.
That's not perfectly normal. Perfectly normal would be an avalanche. There's no evidence of any nuclear intervention and it's not needed to explain the facts. Indeed, any type of shockwave would be impossible given the presence of the tent that was still standing.

tilly50 said:
They may have been in contact with a toxic fallout of some sort, this could also explain the discolouration of the hair (a corpses hair could be bleached white by chemicals) and the skin. Where there any laboratories in the area used for research into germ/chemical weopons?
Again, why go for the far out explanation when a normal avalanche, of which there can be hundreds every day in a susceptible region, fits all the known facts?
 
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