The Door to Hell

I don't want to get too bogged out on the etymology

But if you're gonna name a place the door to hell

it had better look something like this in this case I think we can all agree the

name fits

The door to hell otherwise known as the Darvaza gas crater isn't exactly a

natural phenomenon nature merely provided the raw materials for what

humans managed to turn into a decades-long environmental freak show

and while it's origin is somewhat shrouded in mystery the science behind

it is not it was nineteen seventy one when a group of Soviet petroleum

geologists set out to explore the Karakum desert in Turkmenistan

mostly they were looking for oil fields but the region is also rich in natural

gas because oil and gas are both the results of the same geologic process the

very slow very intense compression of ancient organic material over time

though there has never been an official report about the events that followed

most believe that during the initial exploration of the area

the geologists were so encouraged by their estimates of how much natural gas

there was that they quickly set up some drilling rigs but unbeknownst to them

they drilled right over a big cavernous pocket of natural gas and it collapsed

soon after the operation began the ground gave way taking with it their

equipment and creating an enormous sinkhole more than 60 meters in diameter

and 20 meters deep

miraculously no one is reported to have been killed but there was another

problem natural gas is composed primarily of methane a colorless

odorless gas that while not toxic can displace oxygen and easily make it hard

to breathe when it's nearby and then there's that thing that we like so much

about methane in the first place

it loves to explode, it can create a combustible mixture in the air at levels

as low as 5 % + even though we had yet to pick up on the fact of global warming

back then it's worth pointing out that methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times

more potent than carbon dioxide. That's why in some oil and gas drilling

operations were natural gas is released if it can't be captured it just burned

off in a process called flaring

yes this still releases tons of co2 but co2 is way less bad than methane

anyway those seventies Soviet scientists were left with a choice

one continue to let the dangerous methane vent into the atmosphere putting the

local population and environment at risk or two light the crater on fire burning

off all the gas and what scientists predicted would take a few weeks they

chose the latter and 42 years later the crater is still burning. Today the door

to hell has become something of a -

tourist attraction creating an eerie glow that can be seen at night from

kilometers away and releasing a terrible

[Eggy?] smell that has nothing to do with natural gas which remember has no smell

but is instead produced by hydrogen sulfide in the ground; Can't wait to go

there myself and if you want to visit you probably have some time the fire

will continue to burn until all the natural gas deposits feeding the flame

have been combusted

and no one knows when that's going to happen Do you have an idea for a weird place

you'd like us to teach the world about or for any other sci show episode let

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