Renamed “Door to Hell”, the spectacular chasm of fire has been burning in the Turkmenistan desert since 1971.
The crater about 70 meters wide and up to 50 meters deep, which burns continuously in the Karakum desert, in Turkmenistan, has been renamed “Door to Hell”. Formed 260 kilometers from the capital Ashgabat, it is located not far from the village of Derweze which, by a curious coincidence, in the Turkmen language means “door”.
Contrary to what one might think, the Door to Hell is not a natural phenomenon. This spectacular chasm the size of a football field has been burning since 1971 when a group of Soviet geologists began drilling the ground for oil.
Right in the place where they had begun to search for hydrocarbons, there was a gigantic cave produced by water erosion, of which nothing was known.
Shortly after the work began, the drills reached a pocket of natural gas, and the roof of the cave collapsed, engulfing the scientists’ equipment.
Thus a valley was formed about 70 meters wide and up to 50 meters deep.
Fortunately, the accident did not cause casualties among geologists, although it has been hypothesized that a large amount of gas released in the early days may have resulted in the death of some inhabitants of nearby villages.
To prevent poisonous gases such as methane from escaping from the underground, the Soviets decided to start a fire, hoping that within a few days the fire would consume all the combustible gas present in the cave and the area would be safe again. But this did not happen.
For the past 46 years, what has been renamed the “Door to Hell” has continued to burn, so much so that the belief has spread among the locals that it is a supernatural phenomenon.
Nobody knows how much gas has burned so far, or how long it will continue to burn. What is certain is that the crater is now one of the main tourist destinations in Turkmenistan. The glow that arises from the chasm is visible, at night, from miles away, and the show is incredibly evocative.
Tens of thousands of visitors flock every year to publish on the Internet photos and videos of the cavern that burns relentlessly, despite the strong sulfurous smell generated by the combustion, for which the local populations have renamed the great cavity in flames the “Door of the Hell”.