It may sound like a horror movie, but“The Door to Hell” it’s actually a natural gas field in Derweze, Turkmenistan. However, this giant hole of fire in the heart of the Karakum Desert is not a natural phenomenon.
“The Door to Hell” is a crater made by geologists more than 40 years ago, and the flames within have been burning ever since.
In 1971 a group of Soviet petroleum geologists set out to explore the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. They were actually looking for oil fields.
Instead, they found gas and based on their incorrect measurements and data, the Soviet engineers started drilling operations so that they could successfully assess the gas reserves of the area.
They drilled over a big cavernous pocket of natural gas and it collapsed soon after the operation began. The ground created an enormous sink hole with diameter of 69 m and 30 m deep.
Geologists had to choices back then: to let the dangerous methane vent into the atmosphere, putting the local population and environment at risk, or to set it on fire and prevent the spread of deadly methane gas.
They chose the second one, hoping that the gas will be burnt in couple of weeks. It’s been more than 40 years now and the crater is still burning.
There are no official records of the tragedy. The Soviets geologists allegedly concealed the extent of the disaster, leaving no paper trail, not even an incident report.
Why the name? The Door to Hell is actually a name given to the crater by the locals.The name was drawn from the fact that the crater not only hosts a fire that burns continuously but hosts boiling mud as well. The orange flame together with the boiling mud give the image of hell as etched into human subconscious mind by religion.
There’s an alternative theory as well. Since the crater is the only light and heat source at night, animals are naturally attracted to it. It’s believed that camel spiders, seduced by its warmth, will approach and plummet to their deaths.
The crater is a very popular tourist attraction. The gas crater has a total area of 5,350 m2, which is approximately the size of an American football field. Besides the crater, the surrounding area is popular for wild desert camping.
So, if you wish to do something unusual, add visiting The Door to Hell to your bucket list. Tourists who have visited the crater say that it’s pretty amazing to be so close to hell.
‘I must say, it did strike me how blasé we all became to the obvious risks. The edges were nothing but dry mud, and you could see it crumbling under your feet, yet taking that photo just a tad closer remained almost a magnetic enticement.
Falling in would truly be horrendous, a painful death by asphyxiation, slowly cooked by the flames as the sounds of those panicking above are drowned out by its roar.
You’d be helpless. I asked, and apparently no tourist has fallen victim, but there was an urban myth of one local who wasn’t quite so lucky,’ says Elliott Davies, a tourist who recently visited the crater.
According to explorer and storm chaser George Kourounis, at first sight the crater seems ‘like something out of a science fiction film. You’ve got this vast, sprawling desert with almost nothing there, and then there’s this gaping, burning pit … The heat coming off of it is scorching.
The shimmer from the distortion of it warping the air around it is just amazing to watch, and when you’re downwind, you get this blast of heat that is so intense that you can’t even look straight into the wind.
You have to shield your face with your hand just standing at the crater’s edge. Here I am thinking, Oh-kaaaay, maybe I’ve bitten off a bit more than I can chew.’
Being still relatively unknown, The Door to Hell even caused some embarrassment for Russia’s Channel One. In 2013 the Russian Channel One was tricked by some YouTube user and aired it in the aftermath of Chelyabinsk meteorite’s fall.
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