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The radioactive trace on the Dyatlov Pass

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The radioactive trace on the Dyatlov Pass

The radioactive contamination in the Dyatlov case is one of the most complicated, controversial and unclear subjects we could come across. On top of the mind boggling fact why did the lead investigator order a radioactive test only on the last four bodies found in May and not on the first found in February-March, why order the tests on first place and then not taking in consideration the outcome at all, we can not agree on what the results tell us. I have discussed the subject with seasoned Russian nuclear physicist Igor Pavlov, and nuclear power researcher graduate from Arizona State University Brian Pierce. From what I can understand their opinions on the Radiological Analysis Report do not overlap.   Read more →

Thanks, Teddy, for the opportunity to comment on this!

I'm saddened that any further "debate" between me and Igor is impossible due to his passing. I would have loved to discuss all this with him, especially because I believe what I am hypothesizing would fit in with his and Teddy's theory published in their book 1079. While there are a few areas of disagreement, I see we also do agree on a lot.

I wrote what I did before being able to review Igor's notes, and I see we both came to the same conclusion that Levashov's radiological analysis does not necessarily require that a pure beta emitter contaminated the clothing, which would be extremely rare, but instead we both suggest that a combined beta/gamma emitter did it, such that beta emission was above the limit of detection and gamma emission below the limit of detection. Igor and I both consider a pure beta emitter, which he notes Rakitin suggested, as highly unlikely. Now I am not aware of Rakitin's hypothesis. I'd appreciate it if someone could please point me to it.

I am currently in grad school, so my time to respond is limited. But I'll address what I can over time here. To start, Igor and Teddy both note the nagging question of why Ivanov ordered the tests in the first place. Ivanov himself addresses this in the case files:

It seems Ivanov is referring here to criminal procedure, specifically "Articles 63 and 171 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of the RSFSR." I have no idea where to find the version of this Code of Criminal Procedure that would have been current in 1959, and it would be interesting to see what it says. Still, it seems to me by context that Ivanov did this because the procedures require it. Clearly, this kind of analysis can't be done on every unexplained death. It's my impression that Ivanov first became aware that the bodies' clothing, and possibly the bodies themselves, were emitting radiation, so it obligated him to order such an analysis. This makes sense. Dead bodies shouldn't be found wearing clothing with that much radioactive contamination, so it is important for a prosecutor to investigate. The prosecutor, once told, can't simply decide to ignore it.

Now how could Ivanov have known? Who told him? How did they know? Those are excellent questions, and I don't know.

I did speak with an acquaintance who does search and rescue in mountainous terrain for living hikers, and forensic search and recovery of hikers who likely died. She thought it very odd that anyone would bring something like a Geiger counter on a search and rescue mission. People who do S&R in this kind of terrain typically want to keep their weight down, so they carry the bare minimum essential gear. A Geiger counter, especially in 1959, is completely unnecessary weight so I can't picture anyone wanting to take one into a mountain range on a S&R mission.

Why did Ivanov order testing on just the last four bodies? My guess is that this has to do with timing. The first five bodies had been found, removed from the mountain, autopsied, returned to the families, and buried before the four in the ravine were found. If a Geiger counter were present, either on the mountain or at the morgue in Ivdel, but only after the last four bodies were discovered, and someone decided to switch it on and check the bodies for some unknown reason. found radiation to their surprise, and reported it to Ivanov, it sounds like this would have obligated Ivanov to order the analysis on these four bodies and their clothing.

It looks like Ivanov was doing the minimum amount of work necessary here. Levashov's report is very curious, but it doesn't suggest an acute health hazard either to the hikers when they were alive or the rescuers and investigators. A person trying to find the truth would want to know whether the other five bodies had contaminated clothing, too, or if it was just limited to the four in the ravine, but a prosecutor may be motivated to close the case quickly with minimal work and expense. I don't know whether the clothing found on the first five bodies was retained as evidence. If so, I'd think it would be easy to check. But the key here is that if the first five bodies were never initially checked with a Geiger counter, then they weren't known to be contaminated, and they weren't found in the same place as the bodies with contaminated clothing, so it would not have obligated Ivanov to investigate. In other words, Ivanov couldn't have ignored someone telling him that they found radioactive contamination on the last four bodies without violating criminal procedure. But if nobody ever checked whether the first five bodies were contaminated, nobody could have told him that they were contaminated too. Criminal procedure didn't require Ivanov to check, so he could safely ignore it and nobody could fault him for doing so. And why make extra work for himself and a technical expert if doing so wasn't required?

Because we don't know the circumstances around all this, we can't really know if the first five bodies were contaminated too but nobody bothered to check, or if only the four in the ravine were contaminated. This would be very interesting, but unless someone finds their clothing bagged up on a shelf in a dusty police warehouse somewhere, we'll probably never know.

Fascinating information, to me at least. Ive largely ignored the radioactive element of the case, mostly as I know little about the topic and most of what i have read seems to be contradictory ( as is everything).

I've been reading and looking at old posts but I'm not sure of the chronological appearance of the Geiger counter.

Do we know when it was first introduced or reported being used at the search area?.

There is the report of it being a dosimeter,which I understand is a different tool to measure exposure to radiative transfer over a period of time. I don't know if that's a translation error and if its meant to be Geiger counter.

Perhaps the reason for taking a measuring device to the area ,( it has been suggested before) was that there had been numerous reports of balls, lights and large objects in the sky , these were told directly to Ivanov by the other hiking groups and first searcher's. The dates of these sightings coincide with the timeline of the dp9 .

There would seem to have been rocket or missile activities in the Urals  and the need for a dosimeter may have in the first instance  just been precaution?.

I guess it all depends on how the reports come in to those making the decisions and then , their reactions?

The first bodies are buried quite quickly, the main suspicion is that they froze after having to leave the tent . There's speculation of various theories within the search teams and one is the missile and Ivanov may have ordered the testing of the clothes as a result of having come to dead ends. He was just exploring all avenues perhaps.

As to why they found results on the clothes is definitely strange. I would have thought that the items , clothing in the tent and the tent itself should have been tested also?

Another thought or reason for testing may have been the reported colour changes in the skin. If Ivanov wasn't aware of the changes to skin colour , this might be another reason to request the tests.

Hi Ryan,

I've read your letter with your thoughts about potassium hydroxide (a cousin of lye, sodium hydroxide) as a possible explanation for the test results.

I have zero knowledge about your field of expertise but you explain it in a way that I can understand. ( I think) .

I'm probably going to embarrass myself but I'd like to ask a couple of questions, they may either lead to a possible reason for the contamination or stop my reasoning in its tracks.

Is it a possibility that any potassium hydroxide contamination could come from a clinical, cleaning formula?


What would be a significant amount of potassium to get the results?

My reasoning is that I've read potash, lye or potassium is used in cleaning products. Obviously, an autopsy room will need cleaned and the ravine 4 were decomposing.
I don't know what chemicals they would have at the time for disinfecting rooms or tables etc, but I think there are two possible accidental opportunities for contamination.

My first thought would be applying or covering some chemical over the ravine 4 bodies before putting them in bags for the helicopter transportation.

My second thought comes from the nurse that stated the bodies were filthy and they were washed. ( I'll need to double check) but could strong cleaning chemicals containing potassium be enough to get those kind of readings? If concentrated?

It is your thoughts regarding all the 9 clothes were contaminated and the problem of how this could occur that has influenced my thoughts.


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