Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Door To Hell

The Door To Hell

Deep within the Karakul desert in Turkmenistan lies what locals call the “Door to Hell”, a 70 meter wide and 20 meter deep crater that has been constantly ablaze for 45 years. 

The formally known Darvaza gas crater was originally stumbled upon by Soviet engineers in 1971, who deemed it a plentiful oil field site and set up exploratory measures to estimate the amount of petroleum it held. Soon after discovering a natural gas pocket located just underneath the surface of the desert, the surrounding ground collapsed in on itself creating a huge sinkhole and began emitting noxious gases.

Darvaza Gas Crater, Darvaza, Turkmenistan

In an attempt to minimize the potentially harmful effects of the gas, the engineers resolved to set the entire crater on fire, hoping to burn off the dangerous gas. Originally the fire was predicted to last only a few days to weeks, but after a whopping 4 decades the crater still burns today with no clear sign of ceasing. Geologists studying the area are unsure for how long the fires will persist, as Turkmenistan's land is substantially rich in natural gases.

The President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, visited the site in 2010 and declared that the sinkhole be closed, however the request initiated little action to fill the crater. Three years later, Berdimuhamedow returned to the site and announced that the section of the Karakul desert containing the crater be considered a nature reserve.

Posted by: Grace Houghton
Week 4


  1. Wow, that’s crazy that this has been going on for 4 decades, and this is my first time hearing about it. It makes me think that there is so much I don’t know, simply because I don’t keep up with the news as frequently as I should.Because the fire is still going, I wonder if the crater is constantly emitting gas, and if the fire will never go out. I have a lot of questions while I was reading your blog post. Is it in the news often in Turkmenistan, or is it old news at this point? Do you know if this crater is causing harm to the environment in any way? Is there another approach on how to deal with this sinkhole? Thanks so much for sharing this - it was very interesting to read about something that has been occurring for so long and has gone under my radar.

    - Angelina Weng (3)

  2. Wow that's a tad scary!! I'm completely clueless when it comes to geology so I have a couple of questions. What's stopping the fire from spreading further than the crater its currently in? Also, how does burning noxious gases make them less harmful?

    Posted by Sarah Kamukala

  3. It's interesting to think that this has been happening for 4 decades and I've never heard of this. In science classes we learn about the potential for volcanos to erupt and that's always been worrisome but to think that something similar has been occurring for 45 years is pretty scary. I wonder how this effects the surrounding areas in terms of habitation.

    -Sunaina Sharma (3)

  4. I found this very interesting especially because I haven't heard of it before. I think that it is very good that is was stumbled upon or else there would be gases being emitted into the air that we wouldn't have known about. I also wouldn't have known that to reduce the gases you could set fire to it. What allows to the fire to only stay in the crater? Also will the fire be there for more decades or will it evade eventually?

    -Tatiana Silveira (3)