The Door to Hell in Turkmenistan
There are some most bizarre events written in the pages of history that remain matchless. Turkmenistan is a small country in the Central Asia and was a part of the then Soviet Russia. The country is rich in natural gas reserves and as of 2011 its Galkynysh gas fields had the second largest gas reserves in the world. After the fall of USSR the country became independent in 1991.
Brief History – Opening the Door
Back in 1971 a team of petro chemical scientists from Russia landed in Turkmenistan. The team was on an expedition to discover new oil and natural gas reserves. Indeed they found gas field in the middle of Karakum desert near the village named Derweze (also spelled as Darvaza which literally mean ‘gate’) in Ahal province. Overwhelmed by the new discovery the team began to explore the newly found region. Unexpectedly the rig constructed to extract gas collapsed leaving a crater. It wasn’t over yet. From the crater began to release poisonous methane gas in large quantities. Fearing the releasing methane might affect the nearby villages those petro chemical experts decided to burn the gas off, to localize its effect.
Those engineers surprisingly assumed that the fire set by them might use up the gas available at the site and then doze off in few days. Since they were at a very early stage of estimating the quantity of gas reserve in the site (in fact the rig set up was built to estimate the same) they just made a ‘big’ decision hoping on a wild guess -a rough estimate, perhaps. Despite all this the event is also seen from the political point of view and there seems a lot of questions unanswered and doubts still waiting to be cleared.
From then on …
Contrary to their estimation the fire they had set in didn’t doze off in days, weeks or months, but goes on since then! Months turned years and years turned decades. The fire still is fresh and blazing. The locals began to call the spot as the ‘Door to Hell’ and that name has lingered with it eternally. The place initially attracted only professionals and experts who came to study the situation. Now this spot is emerging into a tourist spot. Though the then (in 2010) Prime Minister of Turkmenistan announced plans to close the crater permanently, now the government is hoping that the site would in fact boost tourism. Despite the popular name ‘The door to hell’ the place is addressed only as ‘Darvasa gas crater’.
This natural gas crater attracted wider public attention after a long time, while this place featured in the ‘Die Trying’ episode aired in the National Geographic Channel back in 2014. I stumbled upon a YouTube video posted as The Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan by an adventure traveler Johnny Ward, more recently (The video has been uploaded by him in Feb 2016). In the video we might see it clearly the current status of the fire in the crater. Though, the intensity of the fire raise and fall- probably due to the variation in the quantity of supply of gas beneath- the fire seems eternal.