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[5 Oct 2009]

On June 30, 1908, at approximately 7:14 a.m., a huge explosion rocked the area near the Podkamennaya (Lower Stony) Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai of Russia. This explosion, known as The Tunguska Event, has fascinated scientists for a hundred years. Though no one has been able to fully explain the cause, most scientists agree that the Tunguska Event was the explosion of a meteor or comet 3-6 miles above the Earth’s surface. Witnesses report seeing a bright, bluish light streaking across the sky followed by a blinding flash and deep booming sounds similar to thunder or artillery fire. Shock waves and hot winds knocked people off their feet and broke windows for hundreds of miles. For several days, the night skies over Europe and Asia glowed so brightly that residents were able to read by the eerie light.    Strangely, scientists did little to investigate the explosion, possibly because of the extreme isolation of the Tunguska region. The first expedition didn’t take place until 1927, nearly a decade after the event. Scientists on this expedition, and several others that followed determined that the Tunguska explosion was about 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. The Tunguska blast flattened 80 million trees over an area of 830 square miles, killing thousands of reindeer but only two people. While nearly all scientists believe a comet or meteor caused the Tunguska event, some people blame the explosion on black holes passing through Earth, UFOs crashing from the sky, or antimatter colliding with the planet. No matter what its cause, one thing is certain: if an explosion like this were to occur over a major city thousands, if not millions of people would die.

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[30 Sep 2009]

This week the State of California announced that Fort Ross, which was built in 1812 by Russian settlers, will remain open as a state park. The historical site was one of about 100 state parks that faced closure due to the California budget crisis.   After visiting the site last month, Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, urged California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to keep the reconstructed site open. In a personal letter to the governor, Kislyak wrote that it is a “memorable landmark in Russia-U.S. relations.”   Under new budget plans, announced by Governor Schwarzenegger, California will be able to keep state parks open without increased expenditures.   Fort Ross located 2 ½ hours north of San Francisco was founded under a tsarist charter by the Russian-American company in 1812 and was used for three decades as a supply source for Russia’s Alaskan colonies. Fort Ross was the most southern Russian outpost in North America.   The Fort Ross Historic State Park was established in 1906 and includes the restored Rotchev House, built around 1836 for the administrator of the outpost and a reconstruction of the first Russian Orthodox Church in the Americas south of Alaska.