|Darvaza gas crater|
The Darvaza gas crater (Turkmen: Garagum ýalkymy), also known as the Door to Hell or Gates of Hell, is a burning natural gas field collapsed into a cavern near Darvaza, Turkmenistan. How the crater formed and ignited remains unknown.
The gas crater is near the village of Darvaza; it is in the middle of the Karakum Desert, about 260 kilometres (160 mi) north of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. There are other craters nearby. The crater has a diameter of 70 metres (230 ft) and has a depth of about 20 metres (66 ft).
The early years of the crater's history are uncertain. Relevant records are either absent from the archives or classified or inaccessible. Some local geologists have claimed that the collapse into a crater happened in the 1960s; it was set on fire only in the 1980s to prevent emission of poisonous gases. Others assert that the site was drilled by Soviet engineers in 1971 as an oil-field but collapsed within days, forming the crater; the engineers chose to flare the crater to prevent emission of poisonous gases but underestimated the volume of the gas.
Controlling the burn
In April 2010, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow recommended that measures be taken to limit the crater's influence on the development of other natural gas fields in the area. In January 2022, Berdimuhamedov announced plans to extinguish the crater in light of its negative effects on the environment and public health; a commission was established to find the optimum technique.
Tourism and Culture
In post-Soviet Turkmenistan, the crater became a minor tourist attraction, perhaps, aided to an extent by the declaration of the region as a natural reserve in 2013. As of 2022, there is no road to access the crater and tourists had to depend on local guides. In 2018, the gas crater was used as an overnight stop in the Amul-Hazar automobile rally. In 2019, Berdimuhamedow appeared on state television doing doughnut stunts around the crater to disprove and correct rumours of his death.
In 2013, George Kourounis became the first person to set foot at the bottom of the crater; he was gathering soil samples for the Extreme Microbiome Project. The descent was featured in an episode of the National Geographic Channel series Die Trying; National Geographic had sponsored the expedition.
I describe it 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. 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.
George Kourounis, Interview with National Geographic
Kourounis used a custom-made Kevlar harness attached to multiple Technora ropes; he wore a full-body aluminized suit and used a self-contained breathing apparatus. He has since wished to descend into the crater again, carrying other equipments for a better profiling of the local biome.
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