Friday, June 22, 2012

Freaky (Factual) Tale Friday: The Dyatlov Pass Incident



Soviet Russia, 1959

In January of 1959, 10 hikers (eight men and two women) decided to embark on a trek across the northern Ural Mountains. Nearly all of them were students or recent graduates of Russia's Ural State Technical University (which at the time was known as the Ural Polytechnic Institute). 

Thanks to ermaktravel.com, we are able to put some faces and background with each member of the group. The expedition consisted of:


 Igor Dyatlov, the group's leader and a talented engineer.


Zinaida Kolmogorova, engineering student and experienced hiker


Ludmila Dubinina, the group's unofficial photographer

 
Alexander Kolevatov, a brilliant physics 
student and the group's unofficial second in command.



Rustem Slobodin, skilled athlete and experienced hiker



Yuri Krivonischenko, engineer that 
had worked on cleaning up the Kyshytm Disaster

Yuri Doroshenko, ex-boyfriend of Zinaida and 
possible Abercrombie & Fitch model lost in time.



Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolles, engineer whose father had been executed by Stalin


 Alexander Zolotariov, who was somewhat 
of a mystery due to how much he moved around during his short life time.


Yuri Yudin, experienced hiker (and later blessed with some amazing luck)

Their goal was to use the challenging journey as a training exercise for future expeditions into even more treacherous Arctic regions. On January 25, the group took a train into the city of Ivdel, then traveled by truck to Vizhai.

Vizhai was the last inhabited settlement that the group would be able to stay at before they made their way towards their desired destination, the Otorten mountain range.

On January 27, they began their trek. One day into the journey, Yuri Yudin fell ill and had to return to Vizhai. As the group marched on, Yuri had no idea that it would be the last time that he saw his friends alive.

February 20

Dyatlov had told Yuri that even though their expected date of return was February 12, weather conditions would probably delay them a bit.  But by February 20, the hikers' families and friends had demanded that a search to be initiated.  After initially beginning as a small operation, the rescue mission eventually involved army and police teams with full air support.

On February 26, one of the search teams found the expedition's abandoned camp. Their tent had been cut open from the inside and 8-9 sets of footprints were visible for 500 meters heading towards the edge of the woods.  Under a tall cedar were the remains of a campfire...along with the bodies of Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko.  Both were shoeless and dressed only in their underwear.

The corpses of  Igor Dyatlov, Zinaida Kolmogorova, and Rustem Slobodin were recovered various distances between the cedar tree and the campsite. Their poses suggested that they were attempting to return to the campsite.

May 4

After more than 2 months of searching, the bodies of the remaining four members of the expedition were discovered. Unfortunately, this finding would not bring any closure, but instead unlock a series of disturbing and seemingly unanswerable questions.
The last four recovered bodies from the expedition were much better dressed than the others; some of them were actually wearing clothes (or using the clothes to dress wounds) from the expedition members that had been found earlier.  

Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolles was found to have a massive skull fracture, while the chests of Ludmila Dubinina and Alexander Zolotariov had been crushed inward, shattering their ribs and destroying their internal organs.

According to Doctor Boris Vozrozhdenny, who examined the bodies, the force required to do the type of damage he observed would have had to have been "equal to the effect of a car crash."  Making things supremely bizarre was that even though the bodies showed internal damage consistent with exteme blunt force trauma, there was no soft tissue damage or external wounds at all.
  
As if all of that wasn't morbid enough, it's also worth mentioning that Dubinina was missing her tongue.




To make matters even more confusing/disturbing, all but three members of the ill-fated expedition had incredibly high levels of radiation on their clothes and corpses. Eye witness reports from five of the hiker's funerals claim that the bodies were discolored to a "deep brown tan." and orange. 

There was also another issue complicating the investigation: Another hiking groupe reported seeing "orange spheres" in sky near where the hikers had met their fate.   

Soviet investigators were stumped (or not talking) and decided to officially close the case...by making a statement that would only cause people to want to know more.  They concluded that the hikers had come in contact with a "compelling unknown force."  After this declaration, the files were sealed and archived.

The case's lead investigator, Lev Invanov, was told to classify all documents pertaining to the case as top secret. If the Soviet government did know what happened, they had no intention of letting the general public know what the "compelling unknown force" was.




So what happened?

On October 20, 2008, Cracked.com included the Dyatlov Pass incident on their list article entitled 6 Famous Unsolved Mysteries (With Really Obvious Explanations) by Jake Slocum.

No offense to one of my favorite websites/sometimes employer Cracked.com (which you can probably tell by my article formattting) or Mr. Slocum, but they got this one dead wrong with regards to the explanation being "obvious."

Let's first take care of the Cracked article's claims that make sense:

What Cracked Got Right

-The fact that Dubinina's tongue was gone can easily be attributed to scavenging animals. The bodies were found long after the expedition crew had all died. Soft tissue (like a tongue) is going to be the first thing an animal goes for.

-The fact that some of them were found undressed can easily be explained by a phenomenon know as paradoxical undressing. Many moderate to severe hypothermia victims have been observed or recorded taking off their clothes as they become more and more disoriented.

What Cracked Got Wrong

-Slocum claims that the tan discoloration of the bodies was due to the corpses "laying out in the sun surrounded by white snow for days."  What Slocum doesn't seem to realize is that the pigments in your skin would also stop working upon death, making a tan/orange discoloration nearly impossible.  Tanning could possibly occur for a very short time as a corpse's metabolism winds down, but not to the severe degree that was seen with the hikers.

-Slocum contends that the "orange spheres" were never mentioned in the official documents...which means that the official explanation of them being top secret launches/testing of R-7 intercontinental missiles wasn't really needed.

-Slocum also contends that the reports of high radiation levels were not part of the official report. This contradicts the lead investigator's account and the accounts of those that have actually seen the documents, which began getting (partially) released in 1990.

-Slocum's article also fails to address the lack of soft tissue damage associated with the enormous and fatally crushing force experienced by three of the hikers.

-If their deaths were caused by an avalanche, why were most of the hikers able to travel away from the campsite on foot for more than a kilometer? 


So...once again, what happened?

We can be fairly certain that the "orange spheres" were missiles and that the hikers' disrobing was a symptom of hypothermia.  We can also probably assume that Ms. Dubinina's tongue was made into a winter snack for some type of varmint.

What we still don't know is how a force that was equal to a car crash could crush two people's ribs and internal organs without causing any soft tissue damage. 

We also have yet to figure out what caused the high levels of radiation found on most of the expedition.  One theory is that Yuri Krivonischenko's clothes still had radiation on them from his work at Kyshytm, but it is highly unlikely that he kept and wore his clothes from the time he worked at a radioactive accident site.

There are also people that try to make something out of the photograph shown below (which was taken from the camera found with the group), but it most likely is just a blurred and accidentally taken picture.



...or Cthulu is just terribly unphotogenic.


ErmakTravel.com has compiled an impressive collection of photographs taken by the expedition and photographs of the their bodies taken by the rescue team. Unfortunately none of them shed any light on what exactly happened to the group of  hikers led by Igor Dyatlov (for whom Dyatlov Pass was named).

For now, the mystery of  what happened remains classified and/or buried or still lurking in the Ural Mountains.

 


A last shot of the happy group before they met their unexplained demise.


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