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The Darvaza Crater

Long-story-short, someone threw a match into a large crater and it’s been on fire ever since.


In 1971, a soviet drilling rig was searching for gas pockets near the capital of what is now Turkmenistan. The excitement of hitting a large underground cavern was quickly dampened when the rig collapsed, forming a gigantic crater. The cavern was filled with toxic gases, which - now exposed - were escaping into the atmosphere. In an attempt to ‘burn-off’ the harmful pollutants, the gases were set alight. Authorities believed the fire would only last a few weeks. However, without realizing it, they had lit what was essentially a giant pilot light. The crater has continued to burn for 50 years, earning the nickname ‘Gates of Hell’.


Natural gas seeps into the crater through vents, keeping the fire fueled for the unforeseeable future. While this all sounds like a huge environmental disaster, the exposed pit has been likened to power plants and active volcanoes, which spew similar levels of toxic gases into the atmosphere. Obviously, one less fiery crater of burning gas would be ideal, but these comparisons help put it in context. 


In 2013, explorer George Kourounis was the first man to climb into the crater. His sweaty expedition surveyed life - like bacteria - living at high temperatures. 


Surprisingly, the Darvaza crater is not the only example of an endless burning pit of gas. Centralia, Pennsylvania has been sitting on a burning coal mine for over 50 years, forcing its 1200 residents to relocate.


Burning with curiosity? Learn more about the Gates of Hell below: Entering the Door to ‘Hell’ National Geographic Gates of Hell Earth Observatory ‘Door to Hell’ The Independent Photo by Ybrayym Esenov

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