1971. A group of Soviet Scientists were rooting around the small village of Dervaza. The village crucially lies in the Ahal Province of Turkmenistan, an area known for its abundance in one useful resource… Natural Gas. They found it. A site was identified next to the village and preparations were made for the drilling rig and camp to be set up on site, so as to facilitate the gathering of the sweet, sweet combustible resource.
There was, of course, an incident.
On an undisclosed date shortly after completion, the drilling rig was drilling. Surrounding it was a cornucopia of equipment dotted around the drilling camp. Gas was rapidly pouring in and being stored for transportation and the Soviet Scientists were reveling in their success.
In an instant the ground beneath the camp cracked and tore open, revealing a new crater 100 metres across. The camp and rig plummeted downwards, swallowed by the depths of this new menacing construct. It was a disaster none of them saw coming, fortunately no lives were lost. Despite the lack of injuries or deaths the Scientists were faced with a substantial problem, besides the massive new crater of course. The problem was the gas, of which there was a great deal. The Soviet Scientists recognised the threat, if left to its own devices, the crater would continue to pour out natural gas into the local atmosphere and poisoning the air itself and killing hundreds of people in the vicinity. This was undesirable to say the least. A plan was conceived.
Firstly they would leave the camp and drilling rig down there, as you can imagine volunteers to enter the crater filled with poisonous gas were thin on the ground. Instead they would set the gas alight. This would prevent the air being poisoned and after a few days the crater should burn off any excess gas seeping through before the fires too died out. Then they could return and see what was salvageable from the camp. The plan worked. The gas was burnt, preventing the poisoning, and the crater kept burning over the next few days.
It has been 40 years, the crater still burns.
The cursed craters effects are noticeable to this day and have not made it a nice thing to be around.
From its burning mouth pours the stench of sulphur, fouling the local air and making anything with nasal cavities flee from the vicinity. Were the stench not untenable not enough, the roaring flames in the crater do their part also. In addition it glows day and night, the leaping flames nested are so ferocious that they produce a hazy glow which can be seen from several miles away.
In April 2010 the president of Turkmenistan ordered the fire to be quelled and the hole to be sealed so as to stop it removing gas from nearby gas drilling sites. While it is an amazing site that many would like to keep around we cannot expect it to last forever, the gas being burnt is much worse than Carbon Dioxide in its contributions to global warming. While the planet should preserve its places of oddity we must respect the environment.
To this very day no-one knows where all of the gas is coming from and we may never understand quite how the,’Gateway to Hell ,’ has kept burning for 40 years. Peculiar indeed…