Darvaza Crater: Origins of 'Gates of Hell' discussed by experts
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Officially named the Darvaza Crater, the fiery pit was formed back in the early 1970s when the ground collapsed during a Soviet gas drilling expedition. The hole is 20 metres deep and 60 metres (190ft) wide. It is located in the Karakum Desert, about 160 miles north of capital city Ashgabat. Scientists are said to have lit the giant hole on fire to prevent the spread of natural gas, and the fire has kept burning ever since.
But now, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has reportedly ordered the closure of the site.
While the crater has brought tourists to the region to catch a glimpse of the red hot spectacle, Mr Berdymukhamedov has reportedly called on his Government to find a way to close the gates.
The reportedly damaging effects of the long-burning firepit includes negative effects on health of people living nearby.
Mr Berdymukhamedov is also reportedly concerned that the “Gates of Hell” is wasting valuable natural gas resources and is causing environmental damage.
According to state-run newspaper Neytralny Turkmenistan, Turkmenistan’s deputy prime minister “was instructed to gather scientists, and if necessary, to attract foreign consultants and find a solution for extinguishing the fire.”
But despite calls to stop the fire burning, there is currently no known deadline to close the Darvaza Crater or to extinguish the flames.
Natural gas is one of Turkmenistan’s main sources of revenue.
Mr Berdymukhamedov, who has been President since 2006, said on state TV: “We are losing valuable natural resources for which we could get significant profits and use them for improving the well-being of our people.
He warned that his team need to “find a solution to extinguish the fire”.
And this is not the first time that Turkmenistan President has ordered the flames to be put out.
Back in 2010 Mr Berdymukhamedov ordered experts to put out the flames of the “Gates of Hell”, but the attempts to extinguish the fire failed.
The story behind the giant firepit has been one which has been shrouded in mystery.
Although it is believed to have been intentionally set alight by Soviet authorities, hoping it would burn off in a matter of weeks, details of the “top secret” project remain scarce.
Explorer George Kourounis, who visited the crater in 2013, told BBC Reel: “It looks like the kind of spot where Satan himself should jump out with a pitchfork and the whole works.
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“One of the most appealing and frustrating things about this crater is there really isn’t a whole lot of information about it.
“Even while I was in the country, I met with two local Turkmen geologists and it’s hard to get the story straight on exactly what happened.
“If you research on the internet, you’ll hear that the crater formed in 1971 and was lit almost immediately by Soviet geologist.
“But the geologists in Turkmenistan tell a different story – they say that the crater actually formed in the late Sixties and was gurgling with gas and mud for quite a few years until it was ignited in the Eighties.”
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