Destinations

Go to the Door to Hell

Go to (the Door to) Hell. Think about it. How many times has someone been upset with you and practically suggested this as a travel destination or even as a relocation spot?  Now you will learn all you need to know to make it possible.

Location

The so-called Door to Hell referred to by some as “Darvaza Crater”, “the Crater of Fire”, or “the Gate to Hell”, is in Derweze, Turkmenistan.  Turkmenistan, for those readers who never majored in Asian Geography, is a lesser-known country in Central Asia that is bordered by the Caspian Sea.  The Door to Hell, located near the Derweze village, is a natural gas-field that has ultimately collapsed into an underground cave (identified by Soviet engineers back in 1971) thus turning into a crater of natural gas. That said, the gas crater is specifically located in the middle of the Karakum Desert.  It is approximately 160 miles north of, the capital of Turkmenistan--Ashgabat.  This is actually one of the world’s largest gas reserves.

Legend

It was given the moniker "Door to Hell" by the natives inspired by the orange fiery flames and boiling mud all around the crater.  According to reports, the crater is 230 feet long in diameter.  The actual hot spots spot an area 200 feet wide and 98 feet deep. The Soviets discovered it accidentally after constructing an oil drilling rig in an attempt to determine how much oil was available there. Instead of oil, of course, they discovered gas. The earth directly under the Soviet drilling rig and even their camp actually collapsed into the wide crater there today never to be seen again. Before returning home, however, the team of engineers made a decision. Fearing that methane gas from the newly-formed crater could travel into the nearby village and perhaps even beyond, they decided to burn off the gas. They calculated the gases would burn for perhaps a month.  As this piece goes to press the gas has burned non-stop for over four decades. In 2010, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, the president of Turkmenistan, decided that they should either close the hole or make certain that the tourist site does not in anyway have a negative impact on the future development of any other gas fields in the vicinity.  The country has plans to increase the quantity of natural gas it produces by the year 2030.  Their target market is the countries of China, India, Iran, Russia and of course Western Europe.

In Popular Media

The Door to Hell has even had its moments in the media--specifically on cable TV.  It was featured in an episode of the educational television show Die Trying aptly named “Crater of Fire” which was first aired on the National Geographic cable channel on July 16, 2014.  What some critics found especially memorable is the moment when Canadian adventurer, explorer and storm chaser George Kourounis became the first human to actually stand at the bottom of the crater where he collected various samples of extremophile microorganisms.

Wrapping Up

The crater, which covers an area the size of a U.S. football field, is now a big favorite among tourists who know of it at least.  Online sources estimate that the site receives at least 10,000 tourists (from around the world) every year.  The neighboring area is said to be great for “wild desert camping.”  The crater continues to provide visitors with an attractive view of “the Door to Hell.”

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