Door to hell burning since 45 years
Door to hell burning since 45 years, The Door to Hell is situated in Derweze, a village in Turkmenistan located in the middle of the Karakum Desert. Derweze’s 350 inhabitants are semi-nomadic and were disbanded by the President of Turkmenistan in 2004 after he stated that they were an ‘unpleasant sight’ to tourists.
Derweze is rich in natural gas, and the Door to Hell gas crater was a product of miscalculation. In 1971, Soviet geologists made a mistake when they accidentally tapped a cavern filled with natural gas while drilling. The ground collapsed, leaving a large hole 70 meters in diameter. As a safety precaution, geologists decided to burn off the gas and thereby prevent poisonous gas discharge. Much to their surprise, the fuel that they hoped to burn in one day is still burning today, earning it the name “The Door to Hell.” This site has been burning for more than 40 years now and attracts thousands of brave visitors annually.
In an attempt to minimise the dangers of the gas, they set it alight with the expectation it would burn itself out in a matter of days. But the calculations appear to be way off, and the crater has been burning continuously for 45 years.
An alternative version dates the sinkhole’s collapse to the 1960s, and says it was set alight two decades afterwards, making an accurate timeline difficult to establish.
Much of Turkmenistan is rich in natural gas and there is little understanding on how long it will continue to burn. In 2010, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow ordered that the hole be closed, but that doesn’t seem to have happened.
Canadian adventurer George Kourounis was the first known person to descend into the pit in 2013, and he described it to National Geographic, who partly funded his expedition, as “a coliseum of fire”.
“Just everywhere you look it’s thousands of these small fires. The sound was like that of a jet engine, this roaring, high-pressure, gas-burning sound,” he says.
“And there was no smoke. It burns very cleanly, so there’s nothing to obscure your view. You can just see every little lick of flame.”