The Dyatlov Pass Incident
August 17, 2014 | 68 comments
Image Credit: USDA
Fifty-five years of research into the case of the Dyatlov Pass incident — nine young ski hikers died on the Dead Mountain in Russia under bizarre circumstances — still does not offer a conclusive resolution to this long-standing mystery. The facts of this story are so puzzling and contradictory that as yet no theory can make them cohere into a realistic picture of those gruesome events.
The Soviet investigators determined that an “insurmountable force of nature” caused the death of the ski hikers.
Dyatlov Pass, the scene of this bizarre story, is between the Dead Mountain (Kholat Syakhl) and the Don’t Go There Mountain (Otorten).
In January 1959, a group of nine tourists — four university students, three recent graduates, two engineers, all from the Ural Polytechnic Institute and one tourist instructor — set out for a ski hike to Mount Otorten, which is ten kilometers (6.2 miles) north of the site of the incident.
All the members were experienced in long ski tours and mountain expeditions. If traveled during winter, this route was estimated as “Category III,” the most difficult.
Diaries and cameras recovered by rescuers established that on the first of February the nine ski hikers were caught in a snowstorm and deviated onto the slopes of the Dead Mountain. They never came back.
The relatives of the ski hikers demanded a rescue operation, and the head of the university sent the first rescue groups, consisting of volunteer students and teachers. The army and police became involved, too.
On the 26th of February, rescuers found their abandoned and badly damaged tent. They were baffled — all the group’s belongings, including warm clothing and shoes, had been left behind. The bamboo ski pole that was used as a central peg for the northern end of the tent was “cut” into pieces.
Why did the hikers leave the tent half-dressed and barefoot, or only in socks? The temperatures were between minus 25 and minus 30 degrees Celsius.
A chain of eight or nine sets of footprints in the snow, left by people who were wearing only socks, a single shoe or were barefoot, could be followed and led down toward the edge of some nearby woods.
At the forest’s edge, under a large cedar tree, the rescuers found remains of a fire, along with the first two bodies. They were without shoes and dressed only in their underwear. Both had bad burns on their hands, legs, and hair. Their clothing was partially burned, too. The clothes on them were shredded; pieces were missing, leaving part of their bodies exposed.
The branches on the cedar were broken up to five meters high, suggesting that someone from the group had climbed up to look for something, perhaps the tent. Some of the high branches of the nearby trees were burned, too, as if an explosion happened in the air.
Between the cedar tree and the camp the searchers found three more corpses, who seemed to have died in poses suggesting that they were attempting to return to the tent.
The search for the remaining four travelers took more than two months. They were finally found on the 4th of May under four meters of snow in a ravine 75 meters from the cedar tree, farther into the woods.
A legal inquest started immediately after finding the first five bodies. A forensic medical examination found no injuries that might have led to their deaths, and it was concluded that they had all died of hypothermia.
The forensic medical examination of the last four bodies that were found in May, however, greatly changed the picture. Some of the victims were mutilated.
Three of them had fatal injuries: the body of Thibault-Brignoles had major skull damage, and both Dubinina and Zolotaryov had major chest fractures. According to the forensic doctors, the force required to cause such damage would have been extremely high. It was compared to the force of a car crash.
Zolotaryov’s eyes were missing.
Notably, the bodies had no external injuries related to the bone fractures, as if they were crippled by a high level of pressure. Major external wounds were, however found on Dubinina, who was missing her tongue, eyes, and part of the lips, facial tissue, and a fragment of skull bone.
It has been claimed that Dubinina was found lying face down in a small stream that ran under the snow and that her external injuries are in line with decomposition in a wet environment and were unlikely to be related to her death, but photographs of her corpse clearly show her body was found kneeling against a large boulder, away from the running water.
The clothing of two of the tourists was highly radioactive.
When the rescuers found the dead ski hikers and the prosecutor began an investigation, they all thought it was a possible crime scene.
Initially the hypothesis was explored that indigenous Mansi people had killed the hikers for trespassing on their land, to steal the alcohol and money of the young tourists, or for entering into some sort of conflict or desecrating sacred or taboo places. The Mansi people were intensively questioned, but the prosecutor soon rejected this hypothesis, especially after it was clear that the tourists cut the tent from inside. Then who killed and mutilated the tourists: escaped prisoners from the nearby labor camp, illegal gold prospectors, the KGB, the military, local criminals?
There were reliable witnesses that observed light orbs in the skies several times, including on the night of the first of February when the tourists perished under mysterious circumstances. The public prosecutor, Lev Ivanov, started working on an investigation hypothesis that the light orbs in the skies and the radioactivity were somehow connected with the death of ski hikers. Ivanov wrote in 1990, “Everybody was told that the tourists got into in an extreme situation and froze to death. However, it was not true.”
Ivanov was looking for some hard (ionizing) radiation emitted from the fireballs, some sort of death rays. He supposed that the radioactive clothes were the result of an alien attack with ionizing rays; the branches of the trees near the cedar tree were burned by an explosion or UFO, or by some energy rays.
This was not the first mystery in that region. Several airplanes disappeared over there. Intriguingly, nine Mansi hunters had mysteriously perished on the same peak years before. People often observed UFOs in that region.
The ski hikers were warned not to go there because they could die.
People who had attended the funerals of the first five members of the group maintained that each of the bodies had acquired a deep brown or orange color on their skin and they looked much older.
A viable theory should explain all the puzzling and contradictory facts of this mystery: the missing tongue and eyes, the airbursts (burned branches of the trees), the radioactivity, the grave blunt injuries, the burn wounds on the bodies, the last photography with fireballs, UFOs, or rocket engines in it, why the ski hikers abandoned the tent in a panic, cutting it, etc.
The avalanche, infrasound, mini tornadoes, UFOs, rocket incident, hurricane, KGB, hallucinogenic drugs or tea, crime, meteorite, aerostat, chemical or psychotronic weapon tests, nuclear explosion, rocket fuel poisoning, purple mist, thermobaric (vacuum) bomb, fight within the group, paradoxical undressing, Yeti, etc. theories can’t explain in a satisfactory way all the details of the Dyatlov riddle.
The new theory that explains all the facts of this mystery I presented in detail in the book The Dyatlov Pass Incident.
I found the original forensic medical files of the dead tourists and when I began reading about the heavy blunt injuries, broken ribs, and skull fractures, the missing eyes and tongue, the specific burns, it struck me: They were hit by lightning.
When the rescuers found the first five dead bodies, the military, the police, and the public prosecutor thought they had come across a criminal scene and started a criminal investigation.
Lightning strikes can do anything from literally exploding the eyes and the brain to giving something like a sunburn.
In his article “The shocking truth about lightning deaths,” Sgt. (Ret.) Tony Monheim wrote that the initial death scene when viewed by either a uniformed officer or even a seasoned homicide investigator can be very perplexing and even somewhat shocking. To the untrained eye, the scene and body can more closely resemble a homicide than an accidental death.
He wrote, “This enormous power can actually propel victims of a lightning strike several feet into the air. They may land on their heads, causing massive trauma that simulates or mimics blunt force trauma. The victims’ eardrums may burst. Blood pours from the ears and nose, creating the illusion that they have suffered a brutal beating.”
Blood poured from the nose of several of the ski hikers; three of them had grave blunt force injuries, giving the impression of a brutal beating. Some had burns on their hands and legs.
Losing hearing temporarily or permanently (sometimes entirely) is also part of the picture. After a lightning bolt strike many victims are almost deaf and very confused.
Monheim said that victims of lightning hits often are found clad only in their undergarments and are assumed to have been subjected to sexual assault, especially if they were women. Their clothing and shoes sometimes actually explode and are discovered some distance away in tatters. This is because the layer of air trapped between the clothing and the body can become momentarily heated by the lightning at very high temperature and because of the great acceleration of the body in just part of a second. This rapidly expanding hot air and the tremendous acceleration can rip, tear, and even shred clothes and shoes. The clothing of some hikers of the Dyatlov group looked like it was cut, shredded, or ripped.
Lightning injuries are the result of direct electrical damage, intense heat, and the mechanical energy that these generate.
The burned branches of some of the trees near the cedar tree could have been caused by lightning. Lightning usually does not create the specific pattern of an explosion, which has an epicenter. The Soviet criminal investigators were baffled by the pattern of the burned twigs because they expected to find an epicenter like with any regular explosion.
Reported mortality rates range from 10 to 30 percent. Most people who are struck by lightning live to tell the story, but many suffer from long-term injury or disability. If the Dyatlov group was struck by the lightning bolt in a city and they got proper medical treatment, most of them would have survived.
Examining the charred tree branches at the fire pit, the rescuers determined that the fire had not burned for more than one hour and a half or two hours maximum. There was more than enough firewood nearby. In two hours they were all dead.
Doroshenko’s hands, up to the elbows, were black. The investigators assumed that his hands were frozen to the point of losing all sensitivity and he burned them in the fire because the fire was not big enough to keep the ski hikers warm, and they burned their hands and feet trying to get closer to the fire. The skin on the body, the hands, the legs, etc., can turn black when a victim is hit by lightning.
Lightning often exhibits entry and exit holes, where the electrical charge has passed through the body of the victim. Lightning entry points are generally discovered on the head, neck, and shoulders. Exit points most often may appear on the heels and buttocks. These entry and exit marks are generally small.
The “Litchtenberg figures” (fern-like injuries of the skin that appear within minutes of the accident), characteristic of high voltage electrocutions and lightning deaths, are a useful indicator for medical examiners when trying to determine the cause of death. They typically fade within 24-36 hours, confusing the Soviet forensic medical doctors about the true cause of the injuries.
The probable time of death of the hikers was between six and eight hours after the last meal.
Massive lightning strikes have frequently been observed during snowstorms, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, huge forest fires, nuclear detonations, the launch of huge space ships, etc.
Certain snowy conditions can result in lightning and thus put skiers at risk for lightning injury.
In winter, because of the strong wind, the snow and ice particles continuously collide. The constant banging together and swirling of these crystals creates negative and positive charges. An electrical differential develops between the cloud and the surrounding objects including the ground, other clouds, rocks, trees, buildings, etc. At some moment the differential becomes great enough to form a lightning bolt.
Lightning strikes are not always fatal. If a lightning strikes a group, some individuals suffer much heavier, even fatal, injuries than other individuals of the same group. However, those who do survive often suffer horrible after-effects, including deafness, blindness, and irreversible brain damage.
Lightning tends to injure the nervous system.
Since the skull is a common contact point, the brain is commonly injured.
This explains the irrational behavior of the hikers after they were struck by a lightning.
Most of the electricity flashes over the skin. Some finds its way into the body through the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth.
Researchers claim that it has been substantiated experimentally in animals that lightning strikes near the head may enter orifices such as the eyes, ears, and mouth to flow internally. This may help explain the myriad eye and ear symptoms and signs that are reported with lightning injury.
Zolotaryov and Dubinina had no eyes, Dubinina lacked her tongue. Dubinina was blinded and made mute by the lightning. There was her blood found in her stomach, probably swallowing it from the wounds in the mouth. She could have bitten off her tongue or, most probably, it was torn off by the lightning. If the tongue was lost because of the decomposition of the body, there would be no blood in her stomach. She swallowed blood from her mouth wounds.
The hikers made the fatal mistake to gather under a large cedar tree and make a fire.
The precaution about lightning states that when a thunderstorms starts, tourists should extinguish the fire because fire and smoke are good electricity conductors and can cause a lighting strike. Fire is a genuine plasma. Maybe not the best plasma, or the most ionized plasma, but it does alright.
After they abandoned the tent, the group gathered around the fire to warm up and recover, and to discuss what to do, when the lightning struck.
But what was so horrible to make the hikers cut their tent and run half-dressed downhill in the dark, cold evening? It was minus-twenty degrees Celsius. Why did they have no time to undo the latches at the entrance and have to cut the tent by knife from inside in three places?
A safety tip for mariners says, “The glow on a masthead produced by an extreme buildup of electrical charge is known as St. Elmo’s fire. Unprotected mariners should immediately move to shelter when this phenomenon occurs. Lightning may strike the mast within five minutes after it begins to glow.”
St. Elmo’s fire is a signal that there is a powerful buildup of static electrical energy. And that this electrical energy will discharge very soon.
Julius Caesar wrote about St. Elmo’s fire in his Commentaries: “In the month of February about the second watch of the night, there suddenly arose a thick cloud followed by a shower of hail, and the same night the points of the spears belonging to the Fifth Legion seem to take fire.”
The hikers made the mistake of erecting their tent next to the high windy rocks that stick up through the barren landscape like lightning rods, a perfect place for the buildup of static electrical energy and electric discharges (lightnings). There could have been St. Elmo’s fire on the rocks and on the tent. There are reports from alpinists and tourists from all around the world about St. Elmo’s fire in the mountains throughout all seasons, including winter, and also St. Elmo’s fire on tents.
From the diaries of the tourists we know that the weather on the 31st January had worsened, with a strong wind blowing from the west. The sky was clear but looked as it was snowing, an illusion caused by the strong wind sweeping snow from the trees and the mountains. Low temperatures, strong wind, and snow are the perfect scenario for electric buildup in winter.
We don’t know if the ski hikers saw the St. Elmo’s fire on the rocks, but for sure they could hear the thunder, and see the electric buildup on their tent, on the ski poles, and on the skies near the tent. They could hear the specific sounds of the St. Elmo’s fire when discharging. Often accompanying the glow is a distinct hissing, crackling, or buzzing sound. St. Elmo’s fire sometimes can create a plasma globe, looking and behaving like ball lightning.
The high windy rocks that stick up through the barren landscape could be the source of the mysterious light flashes and fireballs the Mansi People and the pilots saw. They observed and actually reported St. Elmo’s fires, sometimes in the form of a plasma ball. The rocks also could have been a source of ball lightning.
Kholat Syakhl is a magnetic anomaly zone. This was first discovered by the investigator Evgeny Buayanov, who visited the place of the tragedy and discovered that the needle of the compass points out not to the north magnetic pole, but deviates 31 degrees to the west. Probably the hikers diverted from their route because of the magnetic anomaly.
The enhanced levels of iron in the rocks make them more conductive and more prone to lightning and St. Elmo’s fires.
The eerie, glowing electric buildup on the top of the tent, on the tent poles, on the skies, and on the ski poles frightened the tourists and they cut the wall (the lower part of the tent with less electricity) and the back of the tent, and ran downhill into the opposite direction of the buildup of atmospheric electricity, far from the high windy rocks sticking up through the barren landscape like lightning rods and the dangerous glowing in the night tent.
Probably the group hastily discussed what to do and made the decision to cut the tent. The investigators came to the conclusion that the tent was cut by three knives at the same time. But the hikers didn’t have the time to dress properly and take shoes, even to think about taking clothing and shoes with them, so large and imminent was the danger.
Well, now we have the true reason why the hikers had to cut their tent and to abandon it as quickly as possible. It was the glowing St. Elmo’s fire, the imminent danger of a deadly lightning strike, and probably an indirect lightning hit.
A witness said that they had found in the tent a ski pole “cut” in several pieces. Ski poles at that time were made from bamboo sticks.
The main stem of a bamboo is made up of jointed segments. The joints are called nodes, and the area between nodes is called an internode. The internode is hollow: as a matter of fact, it is full of air. The bamboo pole was actually “cut” by an electric discharge into internodes. The superheated air in the hollow chambers of the internodes broke the stick into pieces.
The witness said, “On top of all things was a ski pole cut into several pieces, it apparently was supporting the northern end of the tent.”
It is possible that an electric discharge (not a direct lightning strike) broke the pole, the tent collapsed partially, and the hikers had to cut the tent to get out or just to leave it as quickly as possible in the face of more lightning.
The hikers reached the forest and the cedar tree for about ten minutes, enough to get out from the state of shock, especially taking into account that they were running in the cold winter evening without shoes and half-dressed. Why didn’t they go back? Obviously, the danger was still there and they had to wait until it went away. In this case, the winter thunderstorm. They thought that it would last too long for them to survive without fire. They had to take a very risky step—to light a fire. Without fire they were doomed to die of hypothermia. It was minus-twenty degrees Celsius or even colder, and the wind was blowing, sometimes whipping up clouds of snow.
Winter lightning bolts are rare but more damaging, because each bolt carries more currency.
Being scantily dressed makes lightning bolts more dangerous because lightning goes through the body instead of through the thick winter clothes.
Some of the clothing of the hikers was torn or burnt as a result of the lightning strike.
Criminal investigators and police say that the scene of a lightning death can be complex, confusing, and open to misinterpretation.
The cut and shredded clothing, the entry and exit wounds, burned flesh, tree twigs, and clothing, the nature of the blunt wounds and broken bones, confused behavior, the missing tongue and eyes, the temporary camp and fire next to a large tree against the safety tips, the tent abandoned in panic half-dressed and without shoes in the cold, dark night, and finally their swift death after the incidents tell us that they became victims of atmospheric electricity, winter lightning.
What was the source of radiation? Secret nuclear tests, tests of some new weapon, controlled delivery of radioactive material to foreign spies, radiation from a nuclear-powered rocket, from the mantles of the camping lamps, UFOs? Or it was just an unintended contamination of the clothing in the nuclear facility where some of hikers were working?
The slightly radioactive dust over a large area, the result of previous nuclear tests in the Soviet Union and all around the world, was washed down the rivers by the rains and the melting snows, and was concentrated in the mud of the river bed. The water source of the Auspia River, where the last four bodies were found, are rains and snows. The nurse of the forensic medical doctor remembered that the clothing of the last four victims was very muddy. The three pieces of the hikers’ clothing (two pants and sweater) were found to be radioactive because of the river mud that was radioactive slightly above the natural background levels.
The famous 33rd frame. What was it?
Many researchers assume that on this frame the hikers took a photo of an UFO, a rocket, or fast-moving object, emitting light. On the illustration you can see the 33rd frame and two more pictures of fast-moving objects: a rocket and a meteorite. They are very different, aren’t they? The fast-moving objects leave a continuous trace on the film, but you don’t see such trace on the 33rd frame.
The pictures were taken with a Zorki 35mm camera, made in the USSR.
Before the tourists abandoned the tent for a very short time they discussed what to do and one of the ideas they accepted was to film the phenomena, whatever it was. They took all three cameras; someone put one camera on a tripod and removed the camera cover and the lens cap. Now it was with yellow filter and wound film—the camera was ready to shoot. One would just have to push the shutter button. But at that moment something very frightening happened and they all had to leave the tent, half-dressed, no shoes. The camera on the tripod with the 33rd frame was put on the floor, and they all abandoned the tent. It is possible that the button was pushed accidentally and took the last picture. The yellow filter was broken—obviously the camera was hit very hard, when the hikers left the tent or the rescuers removed the snow from the tent.
But it is also plausible that the 33rd frame was made by the guy who developed the film. He pushed the shutter button. In the Zorki instruction manual for removing the film from the camera is written: “1. Push the shutter button.” You should first push the shutter button in order to remove the film from the camera.
The famous 33rd frame shows an octagonal lens flare in the middle of the frame and the dark room with a single source of light. The aperture (diaphragm) of Zorki is octagonal.
None of the nine hikers survived the night.
The Dyatlov Pass incident was not a rare event.
According to the 2008 annual Lightning Detection Conference, an estimated 24,000 people are killed by lightning strikes around the world each year and about 240,000 are injured.
Sadly, these nine young people became part of these unfortunate statistics and part of a legend that will be remembered.
Alexander Popoff, The Hidden Alpha