Swiss researchers have concluded that the avalanche that killed the group of Igor Dyatlov in 1959 arose on a relatively gentle hill due to powerful winds and the actions of the tourists themselves, who set up a tent in the wrong place. An article with the results of their research was published by the scientific journal Communications Earth & Environment.
“If Dyatlov and his team have cleared part of the slope of a hill of snow when camping, there is no tragedy would not have happened. This was the main reason for the avalanche, but not the only one. Due to the strong catabatic winds, there was a lot of snow on the part of the hill that overhung the tent. After a while, a crack appeared there, and the snow layer split,” said Alexander Puzrin, one of the authors of the work, professor at the Federal Polytechnic School of Lausanne (EPFL).
A tourist group led by Igor Dyatlov died in the Northern Urals in the winter of 1959 under mysterious circumstances. There are more than a hundred versions of the death of tourists – from an accident to paranormal phenomena and tests of military equipment.
60 years after the tragedy, the Prosecutor General’s Office initiated an investigation into the causes of the death of the Dyatlov group due to appeals from relatives of the victims, the interest of the media, and society. In July 2020, investigators said that the cause of the death of tourists was an avalanche and that young people could not find a tent after leaving it due to poor visibility.
The arguments of the representatives of the department did not convince many. The skepticism is because the slope of the hill on which the tent was located was too shallow for enough snow to accumulate for a sudden avalanche. The injuries on the body of tourists were not similar to the injuries that usually cause such disasters.
Swiss researchers have found a plausible explanation for these oddities. They drew attention to a pattern that usually escapes the attention of skeptics. The fact is that avalanches and landslides often do not begin immediately after the event that initiates them.
The reason for the death of the Dyatlov group
Guided by this idea, Professor Puzrin and his colleagues calculated how the snow cover behaved after the arrival of tourists. In the calculations, the researchers took into account the topography of the area and the fact that the snow on the slopes of the hill where the tourists ‘ tent was located consisted of several layers with different densities and mechanical properties.
As a rule, the upper parts of the snow cover consist of relatively loose and loose snow, which is located above a denser layer of compressed snow. Below is another soft layer that covers the icy ground.
Calculations of scientists showed that Dyatlov’s group set up a tent in one of the most unfortunate places, taking into account the topography of the area and the features of the snow cover structure. It was located on one of the steepest sections of the hill, which was inclined by 30 degrees. The tourists dug a small hole to install it, breaking the integrity of the solid layer of snow, which prevented the rest of the layers from moving down the slope.
At first, the snow mass did not begin to move down; this happened much later — because catabatic winds, that is, powerful air flows that move down the mountain slopes, gradually covered the upper part of the destroyed layer with even more snow. As a result, the solid layer inside it burst, and the entire snow-mass collapsed directly on the tent with the sleeping tourists.
Puzrin does not doubt that the calculations carried out by his team will not convince all the skeptics who prefer to believe conspiracy theories rather than investigators or scientists. Nevertheless, the researcher emphasizes, the new theory clearly shows that the avalanche really could have killed the Dyatlov group and also explained how it could have formed.