PERHAPS not many people know that there is a ‘Gate to Hell’ in Turkmenistan, a country located in the Central Asia region, directly bordering Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and the Caspian Sea.
Most of the area is the Karakum desert. A huge melt pit in the Turkmenistan desert has been spewing fire for decades, but its origins are thought to be top secret.
Reporting from Times Now, the Karakum Desert is a large expanse of sun-baked sand dunes that covers around 70% of Turkmenistan. You can explore this 350 thousand square kilometer barren land for days and just see the endless peaks and valleys of the barren Karakum wilderness.
But if you venture into the desert’s north-central plains, visitors may encounter a dreamlike site: the Darvaza Crater, a vent of liquid gas that has been spewing flames for decades and is known as the ‘Gates of Hell.’
The story goes that in 1971, Soviet geologists were drilling for oil in the desert when they discovered a pocket of natural gas. This caused the earth to collapse, forming three large sinkholes.
To prevent methane gas from leaking into the atmosphere, it is rumored that geologists set one of them on fire, thinking it would only burn out in a matter of weeks.
But after Canadian explorer George Kourounis set out on the first expedition to probe the depths of the crater in 2013, he discovered that no one knew how this hellfire came to be.
According to local Turkmen geologists, the 69-meter-wide and 30-meter-deep gaping crater was formed in the 1960s and only lit up in the 1980s.
However, because gas and oil were very valuable commodities in Turkmenistan during Soviet rule, it seems that any record of the creation of the crater is now highly classified information.
What is certain is that the fire pit, which emits methane gas, has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in a country with only around 6,000 visitors per year.
For most of the past decade, as the sun sets below the sea of Karakum sand dunes, wide-eyed travelers from near and far have come to watch the colosseum of blazing fire light up the desert sky.
Even though it is amazing, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that the Leader of Turkmenistan 2022 was planning to close this site, although until now there has been no official news that the site has been closed.
In January 2022 on Turkmenistan’s state TV channel, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov urged officials to find a solution to extinguish the fire, citing concerns for the health of people living near the burning crater, as well as lost business opportunities. [antaranews/photo special]