For nearly 50 years, Turkmenistan has had a fiery reminder of an idea that looks good on paper doesn’t always pan out the way you’d like it to when it comes to the real world application of said idea. Look no further than the outskirts of a Derweze, a small village of 350 people in the middle of the Karakum desert. It is there a 230-foot-wide crater has been burning off methane gas since 1971.
At the time, a Soviet team of scientists looking for oil reserves had their exploratory drilling platform collapse into the sedimentary rock of the Karakum. This created a series of craters which acted as escape vents for not oil, but methane gas. The solution was to set everything alight and let the leaking, gassy craters, the largest of which the locals dubbed the Door to Hell, just burn themselves out.
While thankfully not quite as destructive as the carbon monoxide-leaking coal mine fiasco found in the now nearly-abandoned American town of Centralia, Pennsylvania, if nothing else the Door to Hell looks visually impressive. How long will it keep burning? Scientists have no idea. What’s the Russian word for “oops”?
Story by Jay Moon