The Darvaza gas crater or “The Door to Hell” is a 60 meters wide and 20 meters deep hole in the heart of the hot, expansive Karakum desert in Turkmenistan, that has been on on fire for the last 38 years. But the hole is not of a natural origin. The large crater is a result of a Soviet gas exploration accident that occurred in 1971.
The Darvaza (also known as Derweze) area is rich in natural gas. While drilling in 1971, the Soviets accidentally tapped into a massive underground natural gas cavern, causing the ground to collapse and the entire drilling rig to fall in. To prevent escape of poisonous gas into the atmosphere, the geologists decided to light it on fire. They had hoped the fire would use all the fuel in a matter of days, but as it turns out, the supply of natural gas below the crater is near infinite as the crater’s been burning since.
On a dark night, the glow of the burning hole can be seen from miles away and the smell of burning sulfur can be detected from a distance that becomes quite strong as you near the hot edge of the crater. Photo credit