“Big Bang in Tunguska” is a 2008 documentary about the so-called Tunguska event or Tunguska explosion, a mysterious (and very large) explosion that took place in 1908 in a remote part of Siberia in Russia. The Tunguska event is the largest impact event in recorded history, and could have killed hundreds of thousands of people if it had happened in a large city. The official death toll seems to be zero (sic), but an Evenk native interviewed in the documentary claims that many Evenk were indeed killed by the blast. The first scientific exploration of Tunguska Ground Zero was made in 1927.
Fanciful speculations about the explosion are legion, and some of them are (tongue-in-cheek) mentioned in the documentary, such as the claim that Nikola Tesla did it (ha ha) or that an alien space ship collided with a huge comet just outside the Earth´s atmosphere, the alien cosmonauts sacrificing themselves to save humanity (or was it progressive mankind). I read about the Tunguska event already as a child, in a book which promoted the “mini-black hole” theory, also mentioned in the program. Antimatter and the inevitable UFOs are other proposals. And yes, one of the guys interviewed claims it must have been a – wait for it – mosquito explosion! If so, it had no appreciable impact on the local mosquito population, which is so enormous, that it´s downright impossible to visit Tunguska during the summer… Maybe it was a mosquito population explosion, LOL.
The native Evenk people have an original theory all their own. They say that one of their shamans asked the thunder-god to destroy a competing clan. Angry at being used in this base manner, the god responded by punishing the Evenk with the Tunguska explosion. Clearly, we have to be careful what we wish for!
The documentary points out that no impact crater have been found, although it´s possible that one of the lakes in the region could be such. There is definitely an epicenter. Curiously, the trees in the epicenter were left standing after the explosion, while all other trees in the area fell to the ground! The theory which seems to fit all the facts is the idea that the events were caused by a meteorite which exploded in the atmosphere. There are still dissenting voices, though, including those who suspect that the explosion was caused by a hopefully rare form of volcanic activity in the Earth´s mantle. Weird facts that perhaps still need to be explain include magnetic anomalies in the region, and mutations in the local trees (their tree-rings are larger after 1908).
One thing that struck me when watching “Big Bang in Tunguska” is how extremely wild and isolated the area is. Even going there is hell, and staying around is no better. Temperature varies from -40 degrees centigrade in the winter to +35 degrees centigrade in the summer, almost as if Tunguska was another planet. During the summer, the area is turned into a cluster of impenetrable marshlands (mosquitos love it). The documentary reminds us of the fact that humans aren´t really in charge of anything. We can´t subject Siberia to our will, and we´re sitting ducks for meteorite impacts (or comets…or volcanic eruptions…or antimatter…or…). Who the hell put us on this rock, anyway? The Evenk thunder-god?
The documentary is nevertheless recommended.