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The day Soviet engineers found a “Door to Hell” in Turkmenistan


Martha de Jong-Lantink CC

Daniel Esparza - published on 03/14/17

They believed they had hit an oil field, but when they installed their first drills, the floor collapsed

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When Soviet engineers — back in 1971 — believed they had found a new oil field in Turkmenistan, they immediately installed their drills to get a sample that might allow them to test the quality of oil they hoped they would get. Instead, they bumped into a natural gas pocket, and the ground beneath the extraction field collapsed, forming a crater now known as the Darvaza gas crater or, as it is popularly known, “the Door to Hell.”

To prevent the gas from expanding and reaching nearby towns, the engineers decided to light the crater on fire, in order to fully consume the gas. But they were also wrong on that estimate: they initially calculated the gas would burn completely in a couple of weeks but, in fact, the crater is still burning today, after more than four decades.

The crater has a diameter of 69 meters, and an approximate depth of 30 meters. Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow recently visited the site, and announced that they would either close the crater or try to limit the combustion so it would not interfere with other gas explorations the country intends to carry on shortly in order to export gas to nearby countries, according to a post published in The Vintage News.

If you want to see George Kourounis and his team descending into the crater, as featured in Nat Geo, you can click here.

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