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Gates Of Hell

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The Darvaza gas crater also known as the Door to Hell or Gates of Hell, is a natural gas field collapsed into a cavern in Darvaza, Turkmenistan. Soviet geologists may have intentionally set it on fire to prevent the spread of methane gas, and it is thought to have been burning continuously since 1971. The gas crater has an area of 5,350 m2. 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. The surrounding area is also popular for wild desert camping.

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 2013, he declared the part of the Karakum Desert with the crater a nature reserve. In 2019, he appeared on state television doing doughnuts around the crater to disprove rumours of his death.

The crater was featured in an episode of the National Geographic Channel series Die Trying. In the July 16, 2014, 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 2014 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 nothing more than a geological anomaly and is of little interest itself geologically or geographically. A superficial gas pocket allowed the ground to sink in and create a natural depression. This allows the slowly escaping natural gas from a large deeper natural gas field to both accumulate and burn without being extinguished by the wind and 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.

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