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The Door To Hell

 

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The Darvaza Crater, more commonly known as the Door to Hell, still burns today, a surreal feature in an otherwise barren landscape.

The Darvaza gas crater (Turkmen media use the name Shining of the Karakum: Turkmen: Garagum ýalkymy), also known as the Door to Hell or Gates of Hell, is a natural gas field collapsed into a cavern near Darvaza, Turkmenistan.

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Country

Turkmenistan

Region

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Darvaza, Ahal Province

Offshore/Onshore

 

Onshore

Coordinates

40°15′09″N 58°26′23″E

Field history

Discovery

1971

Abandonment

1971

Accurate records of the how the crater ignited have not been discovered, and some facts are disputed. One of the more popular theories is that Soviet geologists intentionally set it on fire in 1971 to prevent the spread of methane gas, and it is thought to have been burning continuously ever since. The gas crater has an area of 5,350 m2 (1⅓ acres).[citation needed] Its diameter is 69 m (226 ft), and its depth is 30 m (98 ft).

The Turkmen government hopes that the crater will become a popular tourist attraction.[8] The surrounding area is also popular for wild desert camping.

Geography

The gas crater is near the village of Darvaza, also known as Derweze. It is in the middle of the Karakum Desert, about 260 kilometres (160 mi) north of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. The gas reserve found here is one of the largest in the world. The name “Door to Hell” was given to the field by the locals, referring to the fire, boiling mud, and orange flames in the large crater, which has a diameter of 70 metres (230 ft). The hot spots range over an area with a width of 60 metres (200 ft) and to a depth of about 20 metres (66 ft)

History

The Darvaza gas crater and the surrounding area, including where the tents usually are pitched, a couple of hundred meters (yards) away to the south of the crater.

According to Turkmen geologist Anatoly Bushmakin, the site was identified by Soviet engineers in 1971. It was originally thought to be a substantial oil field site. The engineers set up a drilling rig and operations to assess the quantity of oil available at the site. Soon after the preliminary survey found a natural gas pocket, the ground beneath the drilling rig and camp collapsed into a wide crater and the rig was buried with no casualties.

Expecting dangerous releases of poisonous gases from the cavern into nearby towns the engineers considered it advisable to burn the gas off. It was estimated that the gas would burn out within a few weeks, but it has instead continued to burn for 50 years and is expected to keep on burning.

The early years of the crater’s history are uncertain: local geologists say the collapse into a crater happened in the 1960s, and the gases were not set on fire until the 1980s. There are, however, no records available of either the Soviet or Turkmen version of events.

In April 2010, the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, visited the site and ordered that the hole should be closed. In 2015, he declared the part of the Karakum Desert with the crater a nature reserve. In 2023, he appeared on state television doing doughnuts around the crater to disprove and correct rumours of his death.

The crater was featured in an episode of the National Geographic Channel series Die Trying. In the July 16, 2015, episode “Crater of Fire”, explorer George Kourounis became the first person to set foot at the bottom, gathering samples of extremophile microorganisms. An edited photograph of the crater was also released as publicity for the then-upcoming 2015 Godzilla film, with the image depicting MONARCH agents and vehicles investigating the site.

Although the crater has captured public imagination as a mystery and has been named the “Gates of Hell”, the crater is a simple geological anomaly; a superficial gas pocket which allowed the ground to sink into a natural depression, allowing the slowly escaping natural gas from a large deeper natural gas field to both accumulate and burn without being extinguished by the wind, or rapidly diluted. The gas from similar, smaller gas leaks in the area is rapidly dispersed by the desert wind. “Burning ground” sites where natural gas escaping from the ground has been ignited are found in other parts of the world.

In 2023 the gas crater was used as an overnight stop in the Amul-Hazar automobile rally.

Effects on future development of gas 

On President Berdimuhamedow’s April 2010 visit, he recommended that measures be taken to limit the crater’s influence on the development of other natural gas fields in the area. At that time, Turkmenistan announced plans to increase its production of natural gas, intending to increase its export of gas to many countries such as Pakistan, China, India, Iran, Russia and Western Europe, from its then yearly production level to a new production level of 225 billion cubic metres (7.9 trillion cubic feet) by 2030.

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