August 2022 Newsletter

The Perfect Storm. Scholars often think of an alignment of catastrophic interactions as coincidence. Is it possible to apply that phrase to a sixty-year-old mystery? Let see.

In January 1959, Igor Dyatlov gathered a group of nine students from the Ural Polytechnical Institute to transverse the northern Ural Mountains. Upon completion, the Grade II hikers would receive a Grade III certification, the highest award in Soviet history.

Five days into the trip, one member, Yuri Yudin, tuned back, claiming back problems. Yudin told the Institute that the group expected a delay in their return by a few days due to weather. When word from the hikers did not arrive, the students’ relatives demanded the formation of a search party.

On February 26, the rescue team found the tent crushed with large gashes on the sides. They also found nine sets of footprints escaping the tent. Inside, the hikers’ clothes and shoes remained in piles. Note: the rescue team found ten pairs of skies, not nine, and a cut ski pole near the tent.

At the bottom of the slope, the searchers found evidence of a fire and two undressed bodies. In the same vicinity, they found three more bodies in a climbing position, reaching for the tent.

Several months later, the indigenous Mansi people found the remaining bodies at the bottom of a ravine. Based on their appearance, the last four survivors had removed the clothing of the first two hikers to keep warm. Yet, the bodies had undergone extreme injuries, like a car crash. One body had no eyes, and part of her lips and tongue were missing. A post-mortem examination found traces of radiation on their clothing.

So, what happened? At first, the authorities questioned the Mansi people. The Mansi regarded that land as holy and frowned upon strangers encroaching on their homeland. Several of the Mansi underwent questioning. During the interrogation, the people reported seeing strange fireballs falling from the sky. But the investigators disregarded Mansi’s claims.

Years later, skeptics accused the Soviet government of a coverup. Based on Yudin’s involvement in the investigation, he stated the surroundings appeared staged and not in an organized manner. He also reported hearing one of the chief investigators noting a footprint with a heel similar to military boots. An initial radiogram sent by the searcher stated they had no explanation for the puttee (a linen strip of cloth used to secure military boots) amongst the hikers’ belongings. Yudin also verified that none of the hikers used a puttee.

But the mystery doesn’t stop there. An autopsy found that the group’s oldest member was not the person he claimed to be. Thirty-eight-year-old Semyon Zolotaryov, who had received certification with another team, had joined the hikers at the last minute, with approval by the government. Some theories claim Zolotaryov worked as a KGB agent since several “civilian dressed” (a code for KGB agents) individuals attended the funeral. Zolotaryov is the only victim not buried near another hiker.

Zolotaryov died with his camera around his neck. Most of the negatives in the camera are damaged. Still, the last two frames show an eerie ball of light highlighting the sky and a blurred large creature (man?) standing in the woods resembling a Yeti. 

Finally, the winds traveling over the night terrain were strong enough to develop a hurricane. Some injuries sustained by the group are consistent with an avalanche. That would explain the sudden exit from the tent.

The growing theory plays out as follows:

  1. The Soviets release a missile, rocket, or some explosive that cause shock waves to trigger an avalanche. (Remember that the last four had trances of radioactive fluids on their clothes?) The last photo in the camera and Mansi’s testimony also reinforces the story of the strange balls of fire in the air.
  2. The avalanche sets the hikers in motion. They rip their tent and run (why they did not use the front exit? No one knows). But the flow from the snow takes them downhill, and they experience bodily injuries.  
  3. The Soviets investigated what happened with their nuclear testing and discovered the group camping. That could explain the unknown creature/man photographed in the last pictures. Some theorists believe the soldiers found the group alive, waited for them to die, then set the scene to look like death by an avalanche.
  4. The missing body parts of the hikers found in the ravine are consistent with animals feeding on soft tissues.

In 2020, the Dyatlov Memorial Foundation published a statement agreeing that the all-in-one statement is plausible.

So, was it a perfect storm? Maybe. A coverup? Possible. Until the USSR opens the records collected during the investigation, the theories will continue to swirl and remain unresolved.

The Dyatlov Pass mystery is an interesting case. If you’re interested in more information on this investigation, I linked a few websites on my Facebook page (@Harper Gale books).

Until next time!

Harper