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Gate to Hell: Pit in Turkmenistan Reportedly Lit More Than 60 Years Ago Continues to Burn to This Day

Scientists in the Karakum desert originally estimated that the fire would only last a few weeks.
Cover Image Source: YouTube/BBC Global
Cover Image Source: YouTube/BBC Global

The world is filled with many peculiarities, but very few are as dazzling and dangerous as the one in the desert of northern Turkmenistan. Darvaza Gas Crater has been burning for almost six decades, BBC reported.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Stephen Leonardi
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Photo by Stephen Leonardi

The pit's massive size and bright flames have earned it the moniker: "The Gates of Hell." The molten gas pit has become a popular tourist attraction, receiving about 6,000 visitors every year.

Located 161 miles (about a four-hour drive) from the Turkmen capital Ashgabat, the pit is in the north-central plain of the Karakum Desert, which covers roughly 70% of Turkmenistan.

There are multiple theories as to how the fire was started in The Gates of Hell.

One popular rumor suggests that some Soviet geologists were digging for oil when they stumbled upon a pocket of natural gas. The activity led to earth giving way and creating the pit. The rumor has it that the geologists lit the pit to prevent methane from leaking into the atmosphere and causing a possible explosion, assuming the fire would be out in a couple of weeks.  

This procedure called "flaring" is common in oil and natural gas drilling operations all over the world, Smithsonian Magazine reported.


Even to this day, there is no accurate estimation of the amount of natural gas in the location.


Canadian explorer George Kourounis set off on an expedition to analyze the crater more deeply in 2013, BBC reported. During his research, the explorer concluded that no one knows how the crater came to be. Local Turkman geologists claimed that the crater was created in the 1960s and lit in the 1980s.

Records related to the crater formation have been classified, making it all the more difficult to find the origin of the fire. Gas and oil were highly prized commodities during the Soviet rule, and the formation of the crater is now believed to have occurred during that time. 

In 2010, Turkmenistan's then president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov stated he wanted to put out the fire and develop gas fields in the area. He ordered experts to come up with a solution regarding the flames, according to BBC. In 2018, the site was renamed the "Shining of Karakum."


President Berdymukhamedov also wanted to close up the pit for environmental, health, and economic purposes. "We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people," the president said in televised remarks.

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