Here’s a new category for the Fortean section of this blog: Mystery Holes! The “St. Louis Post-Dispatch,” March 19, 1985:
There is a mysterious hole in the ground, discovered last fall, in the northwestern part of the state of Washington on the Colville Indian Reservation, not far from the Grand Coulee Dam.
A chunk of earth 10 feet long, 7 feet wide and 18 inches to 2 feet deep and weighing at least two tons was uprooted from a wheat field. It apparently flew through the air, turning slightly en route, and landed almost completely intact 73 feet away.
Since then, winter storms have covered the hole with snow, and cows grazing in the field have trampled down the edges.
Nobody has figured out how or why the dirt took flight. Several scientists have examined the site and come away scratching their heads.
When two farmers, Rick and Pete Timm, found the displaced dirt, they notified Don Aubertin, the director of mining on the Indian reservation. He thought it might be a meteorite fragment, but a geologist who investigated said it was not.
"There was no sign of impact," Aubertin told a newspaper reporter in November, when the story became public. "The hole was not a crater. It had vertical walls and a fairly flat bottom. It was almost as if it had been cut out with a giant cookie cutter."
There are lots of theories. One is that an earthquake caused the freakish upheaval. A quake, about 20 miles from the hole, had rattled the area nine days before the Timm brothers' discovery.
Stephen D. Malone, an earthquake expert, believes that a quake that small lacks the power to push a heavy patch of turf out of the ground. "I think a hoax is a possibility," Malone said. So do some other scientists who have not yet seen the site.
Other scientists say they don't see how a hoax could have been created in the field, in a remote area that is sprinkled with huge boulders that residents call "hapstack rocks."
For one thing, there are no signs of human beings--no wheel tracks, no footprints, and no evidence of machinery. Robert L. Schuster, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colorado, examined the hole carefully. He thinks that perhaps an underground methane gas explosion may have popped out the earth.
Greg Behrens, a geologist with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation at Grand Coulee Dam, and who has probably spent more time studying the situation than anyone else, thinks that the methane theory is improbable. Instead, he suggests that it may have been the result of a freak tornado or a complex freezing action, combined with strong winds. He noted, however, that the weather was warm when the incident was supposed to have happened.
Behrens mentioned several believable man-made causes, such as an excavation dug by an enormous crane or an airborne pickup of the earth by a helicopter.
"Man has done more spectacular things," Behrens said, "but the cost would be high, with no profit."
Big holes in our planet almost never go unexplained. Most common are sinkholes, the kind that occasionally make headlines with cave-ins that swallow buildings, cars and sometimes people. Such "subsidences," as they are called, usually occur in the parts of the United States where the material under the top layer of soil is soluble limestone, which erodes underground.
Nobody can say with certainty whether an answer to the "Cookie Cutter Puzzle" will ever be found.
"It's the most bizarre thing I ever saw," said Aubertin. "There are just enough unknowns about this to have it hanging in the air, so to speak."
Can you think of any other explanation of how that chunk of earth came to be moved?