The Doorway to Hell, Turkmenistan

12th Sep 2016

A fiery pit, burning for forty years has been dubbed by locals as “the doorway to hell”

For forty years, unsuspecting travelers have been astounded by the sight of an ever burning huge fiery pit in the Karakum desert close to the faded mining town of Darvaz in the Turkic state of Turkmenistan – aptly dubbed by locals as “The Doorway to Hell”

There are two different stories as to the origin of the doorway:-

  • One version of events tells of a scientific expedition into the desert in 1971 to search for natural gas reserves.  They stopped to drill in one area and during the drilling process; the large, heavy drilling equipment disappeared through the earth into a chasm below.

Natural gas began to seep out from the newly opened chasm, and to prevent the gas from killing surrounding life, the gas was ignited.

  • In an alternate account, no drilling equipment was lost but the scientific expedition encountered a cave filled with natural gas, which they ignited to prevent leakage into the environment.  After the initial explosion, only the gaping flaming pit remained.

Whichever of the two accounts are correct, the facts seem to point to deliberate ignition of a naturally seeping gas reserve – and it must be a significant reserve, as the fires have been burning for 40 years now with no hint of fuel depletion.

It seems a shame that the heat energy emission has not been harnessed for any beneficial social or industrial or purpose.

It is reported in fact that the town closest to “the doorway to hell”, Darvaz, once a thriving mining town is now a hellish place to live…. run down, persistently sand blasted by the desert, run down and stark.

The few remaining residents have no fresh source of food or water and have a full days drive just to be able to buy basic provisions.

Turkmenistan is currently ranked fourth in the world for natural gas reserves, behind only Russia, Iran and Qatar.

In 2010, Turkmenistan’s President, Gurbanguly Berdimuhameow, visited the Darvaz site and ordered that the hole be covered or contained in fears that the constant fires are reducing valuable reserves which they plan to maximize profits on in coming years.

So, if the President gets his way the days of the door to hell are numbered!  The question is, can the pit ever be safely and effectively contained or will the area prove to live up to its hellish reputation?

Tales of doorways or gateways to the underworld can be found in myth and legend throughout history and across the globe, possibly fuelled by geological anomalies such as this one.

The Greeks wrote of the Hades, the God of the underworld using these portals to reach up and snatch the living down to the pits of hell……how close to the edge would you stand?

  • Austin

    Burning for 40 years? Amazing.

  • Kevin

    It is wonderful post

  • Julia

    Excellent post. Well researched and even better written.