After conducting research on various geographic landscapes around the world, I’ve decided to elaborate on a unique landscape nicknamed “The Door to Hell.” Given its name by the locals, this crater-like, flame burning landscape is located in Derweze, Turkmenistan in the barren, deserted land of the Karakum Desert. The crater “which is 69 meters wide and 30 meters deep is located in a natural gas field” ranking in at number six for largest reserves in the world (Shearlaw, 2014).
Furthermore, known for its erupting flames and eerie environment, the Darvaza gas crater was not always a natural part of the land.
So, you’re probably asking yourself, how did this landscape come into existence and why is it so unique in nature? During 1971, “Soviet geologists started to drill at the site where they tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas” (Geiling, 2014). Consequently, the ground under a drilling rig gave way causing the natural gas to escape the hole and release into the air.
Due to their lack of prior knowledge, the geologists didn’t think much of it until they noticed a spike in the amount of dead wildlife. In hopes to burn away the dangerous natural gas, the geologists lit the crater on fire and it’s been burning ever since.
It is crazy to think that “what was supposed to be a few-week burn has turned into almost a half-century-long desert bonfire” (Geiling, 2014). Even to this day, the crater-like pit still spits orange flames of fire and boiling-hot mud.
Due to the isolated nature of the country, the “Door to Hell” sees only a couple thousand tourists each year. Additionally, the crater-like pit is not blocked by fencing which allows for tourists to get hazardously close to the edges. Without the protection of fencing or other blockades, it doesn’t make for the best tourist location because “the ground near the edges being unstable poses significant threat to the lives of these irresponsible tourists” (Nag, 2016).
Despite these obstacles, tourists come from around the world to witness the natural occurring eternal flame. One tourist even shared his insight on the tourist location saying, “no tourist has fallen victim, but there was an urban myth of one local who wasn’t quite so lucky” (Business Insider, 2017). With the ground basically crumbing at your feet, this is definitely a tourist location for the strong-willed, daring individual but if you’re willing to travel the distance, this landscape is truly a naturally stunning phenomenon. One brave soul, George Kouronis, documented his experience of descending into the fiery pit to collect samples of the soil to determine whether life can exist in these extreme environments. He describes his experience in the article Entering the ‘Door to Hell’: “To give you an example of how volatile [the environment is], at one point I kneeled down on the ground, and I’m digging in the sand to try and gather some samples from a little below the surface and as I’m digging with a small hand shovel, fire is coming out of the hole that I’m digging” (National Geographic Society, 2014). This is a true representation of the uniqueness of the land.
Where else would you find fire spitting out at you from the ground? Kourounis goes on to describe the one-of-a-kind landscape as “being on a place like Mars, where you have that orange and red soil…an other-Earthly feel” (National Geographic Society, 2014). It’s mind blowing to think that there are places on our planet, like the Darvaza gas crater, that defy our knowledge and understanding of the planet in which we live. Even after doing extensive research on this topic, I am still amazed by the natural phenomenon of the Darvaza gas crater.
The geologists whom created this fiery pit never imagined the impact of their actions; no one would have ever imagined that the crater would still be burning more than 40 years later. However, with limited knowledge of the terrain and its elements, it’s hard to say how much longer the pit will be burning. Nevertheless, the crater has and will continue to be one of the most mysterious sights any country has fostered.
Geiling, Natasha. “This Hellish Desert Pit Has Been on Fire for More Than 40 Years.” Smithsonian.com, Smithsonian Institution, 20 May 2014, www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/giant-hole-ground-has-been-fire-more-40-years-180951247/.
“I Traveled to the Middle of the Desert to See ‘The Door To Hell’.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 26 Jan. 2017, www.businessinsider.com/turkmenistan-darvaza-gas-crater-the-door-to-hell-photos-2017-1#theres-no-restrictive-fencing-at-the-door-to-hell-so-you-can-get-up-close-and-personal-6.
Nag, Oishimaya Sen. “The Door to Hell Of Turkmenistan.” World Atlas – Maps, Geography, Travel, WorldAtlas, 10 June 2016, www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-door-to-hell-of-turkmenistan.html.
National Geographic Society. “Entering the ‘Door to Hell’.” National Geographic Society, 3 July 2014, www.nationalgeographic.org/news/entering-door-hell/.
Shearlaw, Maeve. “Dropping in on Turkmenistan’s ‘Door to Hell’ – in Pictures.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 July 2014, www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/18/-sp-door-to-hell-turkmenistan-in-pictures.