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The Dyatlov Pass Incident

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Taken entirely from Wikipedia (emphasis mine):

The Dyatlov Pass incident refers to an event that resulted in the deaths of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural mountains on the night of February 2, 1959. It happened on the east shoulder of the mountain Kholat Syakhl (Холат Сяхл) (a Mansi name, meaning Mountain of the Dead). The mountain pass where the incident occurred has since been named Dyatlov Pass (Перевал Дятлова) after the group's leader, Igor Dyatlov (Игорь Дятлов).

The lack of eyewitnesses and subsequent investigations into the hikers' deaths have inspired much speculation. Investigators at the time determined that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot in heavy snow. Though the corpses showed no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue. According to sources, four of the victims' clothing contained substantial levels of radiation. There is no mention of this in contemporary documentation; it only appears in later documents.[1] Soviet investigators determined only that "a compelling unknown force" had caused the deaths. Access to the area was barred for skiers and other adventurers for three years after the incident. The chronology of the incident remains unclear due to the lack of survivors


On February 26, the searchers found the abandoned camp on Kholat Syakhl. The tent was badly damaged. A chain of footprints could be followed, leading down towards the edge of nearby woods (on the opposite side of the pass, 1.5 km north-east), but after 500 meters they were covered with snow. At the forest edge, under a large old pine, the searchers found the remains of a fire, along with the first two dead bodies, those of Krivonischenko and Doroshenko, shoeless and dressed only in their underwear. Between the pine and the camp the searchers found three more corpses—Dyatlov, Kolmogorova and Slobodin—who seemed to have died in poses suggesting that they were attempting to return to the camp. They were found separately at distances of 300, 480 and 630 meters from the pine tree.

Searching for the remaining four travelers took more than two months. They were finally found on May 4, under four meters of snow, in a ravine in a stream valley further into the wood from the pine tree.

A legal inquest had been started immediately after finding the first five bodies. A medical examination found no injuries which might have led to their deaths, and it was concluded that they had all died of hypothermia. One person had a small crack in his skull, but it was not thought to be a fatal wound.

An examination of the four bodies which were found in May changed the picture. Three of them had fatal injuries: the body of Thibeaux-Brignolle had major skull damage, and both Dubunina and Zolotarev had major chest fractures. The force required to cause such damage would have been extremely high, with one expert comparing it to the force of a car crash. Notably, the bodies had no external wounds, as if they were crippled by a high level of pressure. One woman was found to be missing her tongue. There had initially been some speculation that the indigenous Mansi people might have attacked and murdered the group for encroaching upon their lands, but investigation indicated that the nature of their deaths did not support this thesis; the hikers' footprints alone were visible, and they showed no sign of hand-to-hand struggle.

There was evidence that the team was forced to leave the camp during the night, as they were sleeping. Though the temperature was very low (around −25° to −30°C) with a storm blowing, the dead were dressed only partially. Some of them had only one shoe, while others had no shoes or wore only socks. Some were found wrapped in snips of ripped clothes which seemed to be cut from those who were already dead. However, up to 25 percent of hypothermia deaths are associated with so-called "paradoxical undressing". This typically occurs during moderate to severe hypothermia, as the person becomes disoriented, confused, and combative. They may begin discarding their clothing, which, in turn, increases the rate of heat loss.

Journalists reporting on the available parts of the inquest files claim that it states:

    * Six of the group members died of hypothermia and three of fatal injuries.
    * There were no indications of other people nearby apart from the nine travelers on Kholat Syakhl, nor anyone in the surrounding areas.
    * The tent had been ripped open from within.
    * The victims had died 6 to 8 hours after their last meal.
    * Traces from the camp showed that all group members left the camp of their own accord, on foot.
    * To dispel the theory of an attack by the indigenous Mansi people, one doctor indicated that the fatal injuries of the three bodies could not have been caused by another human being, "because the force of the blows had been too strong and no soft tissue had been damaged".
    * Forensic radiation tests had shown high doses of radioactive contamination on the clothes of a few victims.

The final verdict was that the group members all died because of a "compelling unknown force". The inquest ceased officially in May 1959 due to the "absence of a guilty party". The files were sent to a secret archive, and the photocopies of the case became available only in the 1990s, with some parts missing.

Some researchers claim some facts were missed, perhaps ignored, by officials:[2][3]

    * After the funerals, relatives of the deceased claimed that the skin of the victims had a strange orange tan.
    * In a private interview, a former investigating officer said that his dosimeter had shown a high radiation level on Kholat Syakhl, and that this was the reason for the radiation found on the bodies. However, the source of the contamination was not found.
    * Similar "spheres" were observed in Ivdel and adjacent areas continually during the period of February to March 1959, by various independent witnesses (including the meteorology service and the military).
    * Some reports suggested that much scrap metal was located in the area, leading to speculation that the military had utilized the area secretly and might be engaged in a cover-up.

Cracked has a rather compelling explanation of why much of this may have happened, but it's fun to speculate.

The Good Reverend Roger:
I'm guessing food poisoning (ergot, maybe).

I'm not sure the kind of physical damage they suffered is definitely due to an avalanche, as Cracked's article suggests, but I'm hardly an expert.

I would be surprised, however, to discover vodka was not involved in any way.

The Good Reverend Roger:

--- Quote from: Cain on January 17, 2011, 04:58:25 pm ---I'm not sure the kind of physical damage they suffered is definitely due to an avalanche, as Cracked's article suggests, but I'm hardly an expert.

I would be surprised, however, to discover vodka was not involved in any way.

--- End quote ---

If they were all fucked up on mold, running your ass head-first into a ravine (where the injured people were found) isn't that unusual.

The avalance fits all of the facts, and explains everything from the original reports, except for the tent not being under 4-6 meters of snow.  Of course, if they were inside the tent, they might have HEARD the avalance, and not realized it was going to miss them.

Would rip the tent from inside and run away naked if I heard an avalance.

I was thinking more the "no external signs of damage" aspect of an avalanche.  I suppose it depends how they define it, but I would expect bruising and torn tissue at the very least, especially with the impact causing that kind of damage.

And yeah, I'd run from an avalanche too, regardless of the state of undress.  It is interesting though that some of the bodies were positioned as if they were to return to the camp.  There are several possible explanations for that, but I need to look at the area before saying anything for sure.

I'm going to have to Google Map this, I think.


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