Goodbye Old Flame: Closing Turkmenistan’s ‘Gates Of Hell’

Turkmenistan’s fiery football-field-sized “Gates Of Hell” sinkhole will finally be closed after burning uncontrollably for over half a century.

Fire In The Hole!

Add a visit to the “Gates of Hell” to your Bucket List before it’s too late – and you can take that several different ways. Set sarlacc-like in the desolate Karakum Desert, the otherworldly (or should we say, UNDERwordly) flaming sinkhole is located 160 miles north of Turkmenistan’s capital city, Ashgabat. Formerly the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic, Turkmenistan achieved independence in 1991 following the breakup of the USSR. The Central Asian nation possesses the world’s fourth-largest reserves of natural gas and over 90% of its exports are fossil fuel related. As it happens, the story of the Darvaza Gas Crater is also fossil fuel related. (images via Roderick Eime at top and Hotel Kaesong above)

* Turkmenistan Trivia: Over 70% of the country is covered by one of the world’s driest deserts: the Karakum Desert. Also known as the “Black Sand Desert,” the color refers to dark deposits of shale rock underlying the sand, indicating the presence of vast underground petroleum deposits.

The Crater Good?

The Darvaza Gas Crater is a 230-ft wide by 100-ft deep cavern named after the nearby village of Darvaza. The crater’s origin is rather mysterious, owing in part to the pervasive secrecy of the old soviet system. Most sources agree, however, that the sinkhole sunk, as it were, in 1971 following a failed attempt to drill into what was assumed to be a promising deposit of crude oil. (image via Mike Moss)

* Turkmenistan Trivia: More like “Nyet-flix”, amiright? In April of 2015 the government of Turkmenistan banned the installation of new satellite TV dishes and ordered the removal of existing satellite TV infrastructure. Satellite TV reception had exploded in popularity over the past 20 years with almost every private residence boasting at least one dish.

Drill Down

But back to our backstory: instead of black gold, the drill struck natural gas. The sudden pressure release caused the roof of the gas pocket to collapse, burying the rig within an acre-sized crater. There were concerns that toxic methane gas fumes wafting from the newly exposed sediments would imperil those living in nearby villages. As such, geologists at the site recommended the gas be burned off in a “controlled ignition” lasting several weeks… as it turned out, not consecutive weeks. (image via sunriseOdyssey)

Not everyone thinks running out of gas is a bad thing. Check out Canceled Gas Pipeline Thrills Environmentalists!

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