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 Report on The Discovery of Smerdyachee Lake By Nikolai Andreevich Filin

The Discovery of Smerdyachee Lake

Smerdyachee Lake, click to enlarge

Brief Background: Smerdyachee lake lies in a pine forest 4 km northwest of Baksheevo village, near the confluence of the Polya and Voymega rivers. The lake is like a round mirror 200 meters in diameter, surrounded by a ring wall 350-400 meters across. The lake is 20 meters deep, as measured from the ice on the surface in the winter of 1985.

"My first suspicions of the lake's possible meteorite origin appeared after I first visited it in the summer of 1983. As I approached the lake I noticed the strange rise of the ground, beginning 200-300 meters before the lake. Just before the shore the slope became steeper and when I reached the ridge, the path turned sharply downward and the lake opened out before me in all its beauty. It lay in a deep, perfectly round bowl. The banks, covered in woods, fell steeply to the water. Here and there deep cracks were visible in the lake shore. These were ooze and peat deposits slowly slumping into the lake, unable to hold up on its steep banks. At the bottom of the cracks, fine snow-white sand was visible.

I took several pictures and descended to the water's edge. The water was clean and so clear that I could see the bottom sloping steeply into the depths. Climbing back up on the ridge, I walked around the lake. It was a perfect funnel shape, as if from an explosion, marred only by a deep gap in the northeast through which once upon a time water had flowed out of the lake and into the nearby Voymega river. The ring wall, especially well preserved along the southeast shore of the lake, the steep banks and the great depth, all indicated that at one time there had been a powerful explosion here.

I contacted the Meteorite Committee. Dr. R. L. Khotinok suggested that I speak to Dr. U. V. Kestlane of the Estonian Academy of Sciences. I met with him in Tallinn. I told him about the lake and showed the photographs I had brought with me. He was very interested in my story and in June, 1989, he came to see me with a group of scientists.

We investigated the lake, performing a topographic survey and digging sampling trenches on its banks. One trench on the northern bank proved to be the most interesting. In it we found a large number of stones of different shapes and sizes. At a depth of two meters was a dark layer of soil resembling organic material beginning to petrify. Deeper down were layers of clay which were deformed and in places torn up, which usually is evidence of an explosion.

We attempted to search for meteorite fragments using a metal detector, but the territory was covered with all kinds of different pieces of metal and we had to give up the search. With this the expedition finished up and departed, taking with it soil samples from the lake.

In the winter of 1985 I visited the lake again and measured its depth. The depth was twenty meters, although fishermen with whom I had spoken earlier told me that the depth used to be forty meters. It is possible that the depth may have been 40 meters before but that the slumping of the banks was helping to decrease the depth. The water level used to be higher, but when artesian wells were drilled in the town of Roshal the level fell. The smell of hydrogen sulfide which used to come from the lake water also disappeared. That smell apparently was the source of the lake's name, Smerdyachee ("Stinking Lake")."

N. A. Filin

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