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This is the mystery of Turkmenistan’s “Hell’s Gate”, a huge burning hole that hasn’t been put out in 50 years.

Turkmenistan is not a country that receives a lot of tourism to say, but it does have a unique attraction in the world: a huge hole in the middle of the desert that is always on fire. It never goes out due to constant methane emissions coming out of the hole, and no one can confirm who or what lit it up first.

“It’s as if Satan himself is about to get out of there at any moment”

George Kouronis is frustrated when he recounts his expedition to the crater, formally named Darvaza, which he did for National Geographic. There are several versions about its origin and what was tried to do with it, but could not draw any reliable conclusions. The flames have been burning for more than half a century and it doesn’t look like they will go out anytime soon.

Discrepancies about the origin of the crater span several years. There are those who say that it was formed in 1971 and was turned on by the Russians as soon as they discovered it, but there are also those who say that it was formed in the late 1960s and that it was not turned on until well into the 1980s.

It was a time when the Soviets controlled the territory, historian Jeronim Perovic tells the BBC, and workers searching for gas in the desert saw no reason to report the incident when it was in a desert far removed from urban centers. In addition, the USSR valued any source of energy (such as gas) as a strategic point to keep secret.

The fact is that someone threw fire in a crater that was expelling methane gas without stopping, and we are still seeing the effects to this day. It is also said that perhaps it was an accident of nature itself (like lightning falling right into the crater, as unlikely as it may seem), although they suspect they circulate more towards the Russians, intentionally lighting it as a precaution. If you work near a permanent gas leak, you are in great danger, but not if you set it on fire and consume it constantly.

Could this ‘Hell’s Gate’ be turned off one day? Yes, but right now Turkmenistan is using it as a tourist attraction. Unless the gas coming out of the surface is suddenly depleted, there is not much intention to put out this fiery crater for now seeing that the president of the country is dedicated to running rallies around it. In addition, it has irony but better than methane burns so that it does not remain suspended in the atmosphere accelerating climate change.

Imagen | Snowscat