This Pit Has Been On Fire For More Than 40 Years And Some Think It Might Be A Hellmouth

Amid the endless sea of sand that is Turkmenistan's Karakum Desert sits a giant crater that has been on fire for 40 years. Of all of the natural wonders of the world, the Darvaza Gas Crater is one of the most captivating and strange places you can visit. The flaming abyss is located in the middle of nowhere, which has prompted locals to dub it the “Doorway to Hell”.

Though the pit isn't bottomless, the crater's ability to burn for decades is enough to suggest that it is indeed a Hellmouth, as only the fires of Hell can smolder for all eternity. However, the blaze was not sparked by natural causes. 

In their endless search for oil, blundering Soviet scientists opened a Doorway to Hell in 1971. Their careless drilling caused the Earth to devour their camp and equipment, thanks to a huge pocket of methane gas that rested just below the site. In an effort to prevent the methane from seeping out into the atmosphere, the scientists lit it on fire, thinking that it would burn away in a matter of weeks. That never happened, and today, the fire shows no sign of letting up. 

  • An Insatiable Thirst For Oil Caused The Pit To Open

    In 1971, Turkmenistan was still part of the Soviet Union, and the USSR was (and still is) heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Because of this, the Soviets did everything in their power to dredge oil and natural gas out of their lands. The Russians believed that the incredible expanse of the Karakum Desert concealed a bounty of oil beneath its dunes, so they sent a team of drillers and engineers to determine if their hunch was correct. Unfortunately, they were dead wrong. 

    The team unknowingly set up their camp — including a ton of heavy drilling equipment — right on top of a large pocket of natural gas. When they reached that pocket of gas, all Hell broke loose. Once there was a clear path for the gas to escape, the ground underneath them collapsed, and swallowed up the entire site. The only remains were a few feet of scrap metal that are still visible today.

  • The Doorway To Hell Glows In The Dark

  • When Engineers Started The Fires, They Didn't Realize The Blaze Would Never Stop Burning

    After their camp was consumed by the Earth, the engineers realized that they had a serious problem on their hands. In addition to having possibly angered a sleeping demon, the methane gas they accidentally uncorked was rapidly seeping out into the atmosphere.

    Nowadays, people are aware that methane gas is a greenhouse gas, and that its emission into the atmosphere perpetuates global warming. While scientists weren't very concerned about climate change in the '70s, they were aware that the gas could potenitally cause fiery explosions.

    On average, the concentration of methane in the Earth's air stays locked at around 0.00017%. Once it reaches 5%, the likelihood of a methane-based fireball becomes uncomfortably high. As the pit continued to pump an incredible amount of methane into the atmosphere, the scientists were faced with a choice: leave it alone, or set it on fire.

    Pragmatic as they were, the team set the site ablaze, believing that the pocket of gas would run out in a matter of weeks. While this is a fairly common practice for natural gas miners, this particular gas reserve seemed bottomless; nearly 50 years later, the fire is still burning. 

  • The Darvaza Gas Crater Is Still Terrifying During Daylight Hours

  • The Accident Caused Several Craters To Open Up In The Desert

    The Accident Caused Several Craters To Open Up In The Desert
    Video: YouTube

    When engineers drilled into the Karakum Desert in 1971, they were expecting oil to gush out of the Earth, bringing riches to their homeland of Russia. Instead, what they got was a pit that devoured their equipment without warning.

    By puncturing the Earth and letting the gas escape, the team unknowingly caused a chain reaction deep beneath the desert's surface. The pockets of methane gas were presumably linked to one another, and when one of the bubbles burst, the surrounding pockets emptied through the newly made hole.

    In addition to adding fuel to the fire,  the release of gas caused several more massive craters to form, similar to the one that swallowed up the team's campsite. Two craters are especially noteworthy: one’s filled with water, and the other contains boiling mud and embers.

  • A Team Staged An Expedition To The Bottom Of The Fiery Pit

    Canadian explorer and adventurer George Kourounis took one look at the Doorway to Hell and decided that he wanted to see what was at the bottom. In 2013, he brought his crew — along with plenty of fireproof equipment — right to Satan’s front door. Kourounis's adventure had several motivating factors, the primary one being that he wanted to search for signs of underground life. 

    As it turns out, the space beneath the crater was home to several microscopic species. Upon investigating the theoretically inhospitable ground, the team discovered that the earth was rich enough to house bacterial. In an interview with National GeographicKourounis described his team's experience: 

    “Well, we were hoping to find signs of microbial life-forms that are thriving in the hot, methane-rich environment. Even if we found nothing, it still would have been a valid result and the expedition would have been worthwhile. But we were very fortunate. We did find some bacteria living at the bottom that are very comfortable living in those high temperatures, and the most important thing was that they were not found in any of the surrounding soil outside of the crater.”