Natural Wonders

Turkmenistan plans to close its ‘Gates of Hell’ fire crater in Darvaza

Turkmenistan’s leader has ordered that a mysterious fire crater nicknamed the ‘Gates of Hell’ be extinguished after burning for decades.

A mysterious fire crater nicknamed the ‘Gates of Hell’ is set to be extinguished after spewing ‘devil breath’ flames for decades.

Turkmenistan’s dictator president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has demanded officials put out the flames at the Darvaza gas crater in the middle of the vast Karakum desert, The Sun reports.

In 2010, Mr Berdymukhamedov also ordered experts to find a way to put out the flames that have been burning ever since a Soviet drilling operation went awry in 1971.

But this failed and he has now demanded the fiery crater be quelled because it “negatively affects both the environment and the health of the people living nearby”.

He said: “We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people,” he said in televised remarks.

The fiery Darvaza gas crater is located in the Karakum Desert and its origin remains a secret.

The surreal site, also known as “Door to Hell”, is a natural gas that field collapsed into a cavern in the village of Darvanza.

Although there are no records of how the burning pit was originally discovered, the most popular theory suggests it was created in 1971, when Turkmenistan was still under Soviet rule.

According to the theory, geologists hit a pocket of natural gas while were drilling for oil which caused the earth to collapse.

It is believed that in order to prevent the spread of methane, they set it on fire and it has been burning ever since.

The crater was featured in an episode of the National Geographic Channel series Die Trying in 2013.

Canadian explorer George Kourounis was the first to descend into the 100-ft deep pit of fire, was unable to explain the origin of the pit.

Burning for decades

At the time, he said it looks like “a volcano in the middle of the desert,” and admitted he felt “a bit like a baked potato,” according to National Geographic.

“It is burning with a tremendous amount of flame like there is a lot of fire down there,” he said.

“Day or night, it is clearly burning. You can hear the roar of the fire if you stand at the edge.

“The heat, if you are downwind of it, is unbearable. There are thousands of little flames all around the edges and towards the centre.

“Then there are two large flames in the middle at the bottom, and that is probably where the drilling rig hole was for the natural gas extraction.”

Local Turkmen geologists believe the crater was formed in the 1960s and wasn’t lit until the 1980s.

Shrouded in mystery

And as at the time Turkmenistan was under Soviet rule, any record of the crater’s creation is now classified information.

In 2013, Mr Berdymukhamedov declared the part of the dessert with the pit, a natural reserve.

The mystery surrounding the fire pit has turned it into a popular tourist attraction, with thousands visiting the area every year to see the hellish pit closely.

It comes as another strange location was recently explored for the first time.

A brave team of cave divers have made the first journey down into the 200ft deep “Well of Hell” in Yemen.

The 100ft wide hole is located in the desert in the eastern province of Al-Mahra and locals believe it is a prison for demons.

But despite the tales of evil spirits, the divers from the Oman Cave Exploration Team have only discovered snakes, dead animals and cave pearls.

This story first appeared on The Sun and has been republished here with permission

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