The Gate to Hell

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The hellhole known as the "Gate of Hell" is a burning crater that has been burning nonstop for over 45 years. The crater is located in the Aral Karakum Desert, near Derweze, Turkmenistan, in Central Asia. It is a large, deep crater with a diameter of about 70 meters, 60 meters width, 30 meters depth, and about 5.5 square meters area.

The Gate of Hell was formed during the era of the Soviet Union in 1971 while mining for natural gas; the gas driller fell in a cave full of gas, leading the cave to collapse and form this huge crater. When the toxic methane started leaking into the atmosphere, and to prevent it from leaking to the neighboring areas for the sake of the environment and living creatures, geologists decided to set fire to the crater until it consumes all the gas and stops burning within days. However, what happened was completely unpredictable; until now, the fire has not been extinguished.

Although the Gate of Hell is not a natural phenomenon, but a human disaster, it has become a famous touristic site in Turkmenistan, especially for adventurers and those who like seeing the burning fires from the edges of volcanoes. The glowing hell crater can be seen kilometers away; sulfur can be smelled in the neighboring areas and at far distances.

In 2014, Canadian explorer George Kourounis risked his life and went down the Gate of Hell to explore it and learn about its features, temperature, and the gases involved in its formation. Kourounis is the first person to ever go down the Gate of Hell; it took 18 months to plan for this scientific adventure, under the supervision of a specialized professional team. Kourounis was tied with a thick rope and dangled down into the Gate of Hell, wearing a custom made suit of multiple layers of kevlar to protect him from the heat; he was also equipped with a special breathing apparatus.

By analyzing samples of the Gate of Hell's soil, a bacteria species—crusty extreme bacteria—was discovered living at the bottom of the crater. What is interesting about this is that the bacteria can easily live in high temperatures, and has no effect in the soil surrounding the crater; this threatens humanity with a new, developed bacteria that can survive and resist similar high temperatures.

Watch this video for further information about this adventure:

Scientists explained the phenomenon of the continuously burning crater due to the supply of natural gas from the neighboring gas fields, especially the one in the Derweze region, which runs under the Caspian Sea. The natural gas in that field occupies about 8 billion square meters, and is the fourth biggest natural gas field ever discovered in the world.

Although Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, President of Turkmenistan, ordered to close the Gate of Hell during his visit to Derweze in April 2010 based on his fear of its effects on other natural gas fields in the region; the Gate of Hell is still open and is more popular than ever. The permanent fire burning at the heart of Turkmenistan is continuing to attract tourists from all over the world to enjoy the sight of this glowing fire in the dark Aral Karakum Desert.

[Man standing in front of the Gates of Hell, at Derweze, Turkmenistan.]
© Mike_Sheridan/Getty Images

References
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thoughtco.com
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worldatlas.com

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