What would have been the results if the Tunguska event landed in Canada instead of Siberia in 1908. I am sure that there would have been a effort to find out what had happened right away instead of waiting decades. How would it affected scientific knowledge and other cultural norms. Would it of helped speed up atomic bomb?
Can’t imagine how it could influence development of the atomic bomb anymore than the 1917 Halifax explosion. The latter was the first that came to mind when I saw this thread (“Just because we’re a big country doesn’t mean we need so many explosions!”)
My guess is it would have stimulated research into “space hazards.”
I’m not sure about that. It would depend heavily on where it landed. If it occurred in an equivalent area, the effect might have been much the same. For example, the 1911 Census lists the population of the Northwest Territories as 6,507 people. I can’t find any information on its size then, but using its current size, that works out to 1 person per 70 square miles.
Furthermore, considering that scientists back then tended to regard indigenous peoples as unreliable and ignorant, they very well may have ignored the first reports.
I’d also question this. In 1908 Russia was larger, more populous and wealthier than Canada, and was a much more significant and longer-established player in scientific research generally. And it had a much bigger and better-established system of universities and scientific academies.
Matters went backwards after the revolution, partly because of political considerations distorting research interests, and partly because of regular purges under Stalin. But, in 1908, if the Russians weren’t investigating Tunguska, it’s not very likely that the Canadians would have done much more for an analogous event in a comparably remote part of Canada.
Tunguska is ~4500km from Moscow. The Canadian equivalent would be Yellowknife which before 1930 would have been empty taiga. The chances of anything being known immediately would have been small and getting to Great Slave Lake even in summer would have been difficult.
In short, almost no difference in outcomes.
The Northwest Territories were substantially larger in 1911; see the grey area on this map. As an estimate, I would multiply the current area by 3 or 4 to get the area in 1911.
I do think that the impact site would have been more promptly explored and investigated had the impact site been in Canada. The exploration of the Canadian interior was still going on in the early 20th century; for example, see the Canadian Arctic Expedition of 1913 which (ceteris paribus) might well have been re-directed to investigate the event. Moreover, while Canada did not have a huge amount of infrastructure dedicated to scientific investigation and exploration, the Americans did, and they were right next door. I could easily envision the National Geographic Society or the Smithsonian Institution mounting an expedition even if the Canadian government didn’t; it would have been much closer to their home base, and the borders would have been much more open to them.
I don’t know how well-populated the Canadian area is compared to Siberia, but the Tunguska region was prettyy sparsely populated, and was swampy and hard to traverse, besides. I suspect that most expanses of Canadian wilderness would have been a little easier to get through, but I don’t know.
Russian investigation of the site was hampered by World War I and the Russian Revolution, not to mention the reorganization and rebuilding both physical and socially that followed. It wasn’t until 1927 that Leonid Alexeyevitch Kulik finally got permission and funding to put an expedition together to visit all the meteorite falls in Siberia he wanted to visit, not just the Tunguska site. He also got special permission from the NKVD, the predecessor to the KGB.
Canada would, I suspect, have been quicker to dispatch an expedition because it was not in the throes of a Revolution and was probably wealthier than Russia. I doubt if any expedition leader would’ve needed permission from the interior security police to visit the site.
So Kulik had to deal with social unrest, national disorder, money, bureaucracy, and the swamps and terrain of the Siberian taiga, and I think anyone investigating in Canada would’ve had less trouble and gotten there sooner.
Even so, Kulik is to be applauded. It required considerable effort (you can see films of them building rafts to haul their equipment around), but he finally got to the site, interviewed people, drained some of the swamps, drilled down into the ground to find fragments, and finally was able to put together an aerial survey that photographed that vast expanse of blown-down trees, all pointing toward the epicenter of the explosion. He went back a total of three times, I think. I think Canadians would’ve had an easier time of it, but I’m not sure they could have done any more.
Since this involves speculation, let’s move it to IMHO.
General Questions Moderator
The reason I asked about the atom bomb was that the explosion was considered the equal to a thermonuclear bomb. Would that type of natural event stimulate other minds which were aware of Einstein’s E=mc2. And since the event left it’s mark on 830 square miles, which if it fell in the same area, I think the sounds and the lights from the explosion would have noticed by some type of civilization.
Neither of which were going on in 1908. A very brief perusal of Russian history doesn’t show anything in 1908 or the next few years that would have necessarily hindered an investigation.
What hindered it was the remoteness, and the relative lack of population in the affected area, which resulted in very few reports.
The output of the Tunguska explosion was estimated by various methods, but all suggested an explosion roughly the size of the Hiroshima bomb, on the order of kilotons. As far as I know, it didn’t stimulate anyone to think of nuclear explosions prior to the reality. Nor do I see a reason for it to do so – it was a big meteorite strike, albeit with a lot of anomalies.
It DID stimulate one fellow named Kazantsev to write a science fiction story wherein the explosion was the result of a malfunctioning alien spacecraft. His story was later translated and published in the Isaac Asimov-edited anthology Soviet Science Fiction. In his introduction, Asimov called the idea “far-fetched”. Kazantsev was clearly influenced by the similarities in the sizes of the two explosions.
Some account of Kazantsev’s story was also transmitted by some other route in English and reached the writer of Weird Stuff , radio commentator Frank Edwards, who included it as an afterthought in his 1959 book Stranger Than Science. Edwards was never one for letting facts get in the way of a good story, or for researching his stuff very well. (UFO debunker Phillip Klass had unkind things to say about Edwards’ relationship with the truth in some of Klass’ books) I don’t know if the translation he got was garbled, or if he elaborated on it himself, or just made mistakes, but in his hands Kazantsev’s story became an account of a Russian scientist investigating a weird occurrence and finding that the site was radioactive! (It wasn’t) and that some of the Tunguskans displayed radiation burns and signs of radiation sickness! (they didn’t). Nothing suggests that the account was fiction.
Fast forward about 15 years. A couple of guys named Baxter and Atkins wrote and published a book called The Fire Came By, in which they claim that the Tunguska meteorite was the result of — an exploding alien spacecraft. In support, they claim that the thing changed course before exploding (It didn’t – you can read Kulik’s accounts, where he interviewed the locals, in many places. Also those of Yevgeny L. Krinov, who was on some of kulik’s expeditions and carried on the work after Kulik’s death) They even got Asimov to write a foreword in which he said that the concept was intriguing and possible, evidently forgetting his earlier foreword. (I asked Asimov about this at a lecture he gave a year or so later. He said that he made a mistake, and that another SF writer and UFO debunker had set him straight.
So the Tunguska event did suggest atomic bombs – but only in retrospect. The event is a kind of high-tech Rohrschach Test, appearing as whatever oddball theory interests people. It has three times been suggested that the explosion was due to antimatter, a couple of times that it was due to a quantum black hole. It has been explained as the result of a meteor that bounced off into space, a disintegrating cloud of dust, and many times as due to a fragment of cometary material. That’s besides the weirder explanations of exploding or crashing alien spacecraft, destructive radio signals from Cygnus 61, and stranger stuff. But, as far as I know, the event didn’t stimulate any thought of new ideas - people only see in it the manifestation of ideas and concepts already formulated.