“I wonder what awaits us in this hike. What new things will we see?” – Zina Kolmogorova, January 23, 1959.
Dyatlov did not report back on the appointed day of February 12 or on any day after that. The search party operation began on February 20, which involved the local hunters known as the Mansi*Mansi (another name, now obsolete, is Voguls) – Finnish-Ugric ethnic minority in Russia consisting of about 10,000 people., troops from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and civilian and military aviation.
On February 26, they found a tent in tatters, with abandoned shoes and clothes inside. There were no signs of robbery - a flask of alcohol and the money had been left intact. A trail of urine and a dropped flashlight found near the tent indicated that one of the hikers had gone outside to answer the call of nature, and was the first to see the danger.
“…I looked all around very carefully. The first thing that I noticed was that the snow down the slope was lower, as if melted by a high temperature.” – Vladimir Karelin, search party member
8 meters away, the weathered bare footprints appeared in the firn. Splitting and converging again, the tracks came down the slope and headed toward the forest.
1.5 km from the tent, under a large cedar tree at the forest edge, searchers found a huge fire pit. Next to the ashes, leaning against one another, laid two bodies in their underwear: those of Yuri Doroshenko and Yuri Krivonischenko. The corpses had charred hands: apparently, the deceased tried to warm the numbing limbs by shoving them straight into the fire.
“All the small brushwood on the cedar tree was broken off as high as 5m. The side of the tree facing the slope and the tent was cleared of branches at the level of 4-5 m. These broken branches had not been used for bonfire. It looked like the skiers made some kind of a window, to get a view on the hillside they had come from and where the tent had been left.” - the criminal case, p. 217
Within another week, the rescue party discovered three more bodies, identified as Igor Dyatlov, Zina Kolmogorova and Rustem Slobodin. Stiffened in “dynamic” poses, covered with snow, the bodies lay heads towards the tent, as if they were crawling up the slope to get back to the abandoned camp.
Autopsies found that all five had died of hypothermia. However, Slobodin had a fractured skull, multiple areas of edema and abrasions on his face and his arms.
The medical examiner recorded that some of the corpses had livor mortis on the front. Given that such marks always form on the side of a body that has been pressed against the ground, this indicated that someone had turned them over after death.
THE TERROR TENT