Written by Gaurika Mathur – a grade 10 student.
The Darvaza gas crater also known as the Door to Hell or Gates of Hell, is a natural gas field collapsed into a cavern located in Derweze, Turkmenistan.This is not volcanic. It’s not magma, this sinister flame pit was human-made and thought to be the result of a Soviet-era gas drilling accident, yet Turkmenistan has no official record. Geologists set it on fire purposely in order to curtail the spread of methane gas, and it is thought to have been burning continuously since 1971.
This place has become a popular tourist attraction as it is placed in the middle of the Karakul desert. According to Turkmen geologists, this site was identified by Soviet engineers in 1971. It was originally thought to be an oil field site. The engineers set up a drilling rig and operations to know how much oil was available at the site. Soon after the preliminary survey found a natural gas pocket, the ground beneath the drilling rig and camp collapsed into a wide crater and was buried forever. Expecting dangerous releases of poisonous gases like methane from the site into nearby towns, the engineers considered it advisable to burn the gas off.
It was then thought that the gas would burn out within a few weeks, but, can you imagine, it has actually been burning for 48 years? And it is expected to keep on burning. This crater is approximately 230 foot -wide.
You may be wondering why steps haven’t been taken to either harness the crater’s energy or just extinguish it entirely.
It’s likely because Turkmenistan has the fourth largest natural gas reserves on Earth, so an investment here at such a volatile site would be high risk, low reward prospect plus. If extinguished, the gas wouldn’t stop, and people would have to find a way to cap every fissure within proximity of the site, which would be expensive and inefficient and, without that investment, dousing it would be counter-intuitive. Burning the natural gas is preventing its toxic components from lingering and hinders the methane’s potential as a greenhouse gas.
Falling in would truly be horrendous, a painful death by asphyxiation (suffocation).But apparently no tourist has fallen victim, but there was an urban myth of one local who wasn’t quite so lucky!