The Dyatlov Pass incident

Posted 07 Jan 2012 in Unsolved Mysteries

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  (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. The lack of eyewitnesses has inspired much speculation. 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.  Investigators at the time determined that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot into heavy snow and a temperature of −30°C. Though the corpses showed no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue.  Their clothing, when tested, was found to be highly radioactive.

A group was formed for a ski trek across the northern Urals in Sverdlovsk Oblast. The group, led by Igor Dyatlov, consisted of eight men and two women. Most were students or graduates of Ural Polytechnical Institute, now Ural State Technical University:

  1. Igor Alekseievich Dyatlov, the group's leader, born January 13, 1936

    Yuri Yudin hugging Lyudmila Dubinina as he prepares to leave the group due to illness, as Igor Dyatlov looks on

  2. Zinaida Alekseievna Kolmogorova, born January 12, 1937
  3. Ludmila Alexandrovna Dubinina, born January 11, 1936
  4. Alexander Sereievich Kolevatov, born November 16, 1934
  5. Rustem Vladimirovich Slobodin, born January 11, 1936
  6. Yuri Alexeievich Krivonischenko, born February 7, 1935
  7. Yuri Nikolaievich Doroshenko, born January 12, 1938
  8. Nicolai Vasilievich (Vladimirovich?) Tibo-Briniolle, born June 5, 1935
  9. Alexander Alexandrovich Zolotariov, born February 2, 1921
  10. Yuri Yefimovich Yudin, born 1937

The goal of the expedition was to reach Otorten, a mountain 10 kilometers north of the site of the incident. This route, at that season, was estimated as "Category III", the most difficult. All members were experienced in long ski tours and mountain expeditions.

The group arrived by train at Ivdel, a city at the center of the northern province of Sverdlovsk Oblast on January 25. They then took a truck to Vizhai  - the last inhabited settlement so far north. They started their march towards Otorten from Vizhai on January 27. The next day, one of the members (Yuri Yudin) was forced to go back because of illness.  The group now consisted of nine people.

Diaries and cameras found around their last camp made it possible to track the group's route up to the day preceding the incident. On January 31, the group arrived at the edge of a highland area and began to prepare for climbing. In a woody valley they cached surplus food and equipment which would be used for the trip back. The following day (February 1), the hikers started to move through the pass. It seems they planned to get over the pass and make camp for the next night on the opposite side, but because of worsening weather conditions, snowstorms and decreasing visibility, they lost their direction and deviated west, upward towards the top of Kholat Syakhl. When they realized their mistake, the group decided to stop and set up camp there on the slope of the mountain.

The search

<Photo: Skiers setting up camp at about 5. p.m. on Feb. 2, 1959. Photo taken from a roll of film found at the camp>

It had been agreed beforehand that Dyatlov would send a telegraph to their sports club as soon as the group returned to Vizhai. It was expected that this would happen no later than February 12, but when this date had passed and no messages had been received, there was no reaction—delays of a few days were common in such expeditions. Only after the relatives of the travelers demanded a rescue operation did the head of the institute send the first rescue groups, consisting of volunteer students and teachers, on February 20.  Later, the army and police forces became involved, with planes and helicopters being ordered to join the rescue operation.

On February 26, the searchers found the abandoned tent 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 cedar, the searchers found the remains of a fire, along with the first two bodies, those of Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroshenko, shoeless and dressed only in their underwear. Between the cedar and the camp the searchers found three more corpses—Dyatlov, Zina Kolmogorova and Rustem Slobodin—who seemed to have died in poses suggesting that they were attempting to return to the tent.  They were found separately at distances of 300, 480 and 630 meters from the cedar 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 cedar tree.

Investigation

<Photo: A view of the tent as the rescuers found it on Feb. 26, 1959.The tent had
been cut open from inside, and most of the skiers had fled in socks or barefoot>

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. According to Dr. Boris Vozrozhdenny, the force required to cause such damage would have been extremely high. He compared 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.

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, Dr. Boris Vozrozhdenny stated 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.

Controversy surrounding investigation

Some researchers claim some facts were missed, perhaps ignored, by officials:

  • 12 year-old Yury Kuntsevich, who would later become head of the Yekaterinburg-based Dyatlov Foundation (see below), attended five of the hikers' funerals and recalls their skin had a "deep brown tan".
  • The hikers' clothing was found to be highly radioactive; however, the source of the contamination was not found.
  • Another group of hikers (about 50 kilometers south of the incident) reported that they saw strange orange spheres in the night sky to the north (likely in the direction of Kholat Syakhl) on the night of the incident.  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 suggest that there was a lot of scrap metal in the area, leading to speculation that the military had utilized the area secretly and might be engaged in a cover-up.

Aftermath

In 1967, Sverdlovsk writer and journalist Yuri Yarovoi (Юрий Яровой) published the novel Of the highest rank of complexity which was inspired by this incident. Yarovoi had been involved in the search for Dyatlov's group and the inquest, including acting as an official photographer for the search campaign and in the initial stage of the investigation, and so had insight into the events. The book was written in the Soviet era when the details of the accident were kept secret, and Yarovoi avoided revealing anything beyond the official position and well-known facts. The book romanticized the accident and had a much more optimistic end than the real events – only the group leader was found deceased. Yarovoi's colleagues say that he had alternative versions of the novel, but both were declined due to censorship. Since Yarovoi's death in 1980 all his archives, including photos, diaries and manuscripts, have been lost.

Some details of the tragedy became publicly available in 1990 due to publications and discussions in Sverdlovsk's regional press. One of the first authors was Sverdlovsk journalist Anatoly Guschin. Guschin reported that police officials gave him special permission to study the original files of the inquest and use these materials in his publications. He noticed that a number of pages were excluded from the files, as was a mysterious "envelope" mentioned in the case materials list. At the same time photocopies of some of the case files started to circulate among other unofficial researchers.

Guschin summarized his studies in the book The price of state secrets is nine lives Some researchers criticized it due to its concentration on the speculative theory of a "Soviet secret weapon experiment", but the publication aroused the public discussion, stimulated by interest in the paranormal. Indeed, many of those who remained silent for 30 years reported new facts about the accident. One of them was the former police officer Lev Ivanov (Лев Иванов), who led the official inquest in 1959. In 1990 he published an article  along with his admission that the investigation team had no rational explanation of the accident. He also reported that he received direct orders from high-ranking regional officials to dismiss the inquest and keep its materials secret after reporting that the team had seen "flying spheres". Ivanov personally believes in a paranormal explanation - specifically, UFOs.

In 2000, a regional TV company produced the documentary film The Mystery of Dyatlov Pass. With the help of the film crew, a Yekaterinburg writer, Anna Matveyeva (Анна Матвеева), published the fiction/documentary novella of the same name.  A large part of the book includes broad quotations from the official case, diaries of victims, interviews with searchers and other documentaries collected by the film-makers. The narrative line of the book details the everyday life and thoughts of a modern woman (an alter ego of the author herself) who attempts to resolve the case.

In September 2011, Ancient Aliens on the History Channel featured a lengthy segment on the Dyatlov Pass incident.

Despite its fictional narrative, Matveyeva's book remains the largest source of documentary materials ever made available to the public regarding the incident. In addition, the pages of the case files and other documentaries (in photocopies and transcripts) are gradually published on a web forum for enthusiastic researchers.

The Dyatlov Foundation has been founded in Yekaterinburg, with the help of Ural State Technical University, led by Yuri Kuntsevitch (Юрий Кунцевич). The foundation's aim is to convince current Russian officials to reopen the investigation of the case, and to maintain the "Dyatlov Museum" to perpetuate the memory of the dead hikers.

Source: Wikipedia

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Scaffino
    06 July 13, 10:02am

    This occurrence seems to support the USA national parks dissapearances and also the Icelandic Bolder Spirit mythology. Such activity unfortunately only leaves more questions than answers and I personally believe these are related to the strong forces of evil spirits . If I was to believe what I read on line I would conclude it is from ETs underground activity .. Go Figure

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