The Darvaza crater locally called "Gates of Hell", stays in the middle of Karakum desert, in Turkmenistan. It’s one of the largest reserves of natural gas in the world. The name given by the local population refers to the fire, boiling mud and the orange flames coming out of the crater. The crater has a diameter of 70 meters, fueled by rich deposits of natural gas, provides a scenario that makes remember the popular description of main access to the “Kingdom of Hades” (Greek mythology).
At night, in an empty desert with only the stars for company, red light emanates from the ground in the distance, and a distant rumble presages the crater. Shooting flames and fireballs across its undeep hole, like a volcano, the crater must be viewed at night for full effect.
During excavations to evaluate the amount of gas and oil available at the site, a deep underground cave filled with toxic gas was discovered.
The village of Darvaz, also known as Darvaza, or Derweze (meaning "The Gate" in Turkmen), with 350 inhabitants, is located about 260km north of Ashgabat, in the middle of the Karakum Desert, which occupies more than 70% of the area of the country and is rich in oil, sulfur and natural gas. The gas reserve found here is one of the largest in the world. The name "Door to Hell" was given by the local population referring to fire, boiling mud and orange flames in the crater that has a diameter of 70m providing a scenario that recalls the popular description of the main access to the Kingdom of Hades (Greek mythology). Its inhabitants are mainly Turkmen of the tribe Teke that conserves a semi-nomadic lifestyle.
The site was identified in 1971 by engineers from the then Soviet Union thinking that this could be an oil field. From this premise, they set up a camp with a drilling rig to evaluate the amount of gas and oil available on the spot. As the Soviets were satisfied with the success in finding these resources, they began to store the gas. However, during the excavations, a deep underground cave was discovered, filled with toxic gas. At one point in the work, the floor beneath the drilling platform gave way to a large crater that swallowed the equipment. No life was lost in the incident, but large amounts of methane gas were released into the atmosphere creating huge environmental problems and immense damage to the village people, resulting in some deaths.
Fearing the release of more harmful gases from the crater, scientists decided to burn them. They considered it safer to burn it than to extract it from the basement, as this would require expensive processes. In environmental terms, gas-burning is the most coherent solution when circumstances are such that it can’t be extracted for use. Methane gas released into the atmosphere is also a dangerous greenhouse gas. At that time, expectations were that the gas would burn for a few days, but it is still burning decades after it has been set ablaze. There is no prediction as to when the flares will finally cease, as the amount of gas that still exists in the depths of the crater is uncertain.