Darvaza gas crater

The Darvaza gas crater (Turkmen media use the name Shining of the Karakum:[1] Turkmen: Garagum ýalkymy),[2][3][4] also known as the Door to Hell or Gates of Hell, is a burning natural gas field collapsed into a cavern near Darvaza, Turkmenistan.[5]

Darvaza gas crater
Darvasa gas crater panorama.jpg
Darvaza gas crater, 2011
Darvaza gas crater is located in Turkmenistan
Darvaza gas crater
Location of Darvaza gas crater
RegionDarvaza, Ahal Province
Coordinates40°15′09″N 58°26′23″E / 40.2525°N 58.4396°E / 40.2525; 58.4396Coordinates: 40°15′09″N 58°26′23″E / 40.2525°N 58.4396°E / 40.2525; 58.4396
Field history

Accurate records of how the crater ignited have not been discovered, and some facts are disputed. One of the more popular theories is that Soviet geologists intentionally set it on fire in 1971 to prevent the spread of methane gas, and it is thought to have been burning continuously ever since.[6] Its diameter is 69 m (226 ft), and its depth is 30 m (98 ft).[7]

The crater has become a popular tourist attraction.[8] The surrounding area is also popular for wild desert camping.


The gas crater is near the village of Darvaza, also known as Derweze. It is in the middle of the Karakum Desert, about 260 kilometres (160 mi) north of Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan. The gas reserve found here is one of the largest in the world. The name "Door to Hell" was given to the field by the locals, referring to the fire, boiling mud, and orange flames in the large crater, which has a diameter of 70 metres (230 ft).[9] The hot spots range over an area with a width of 60 metres (200 ft) and to a depth of about 20 metres (66 ft).[10]

There are two other sinkholes nearby, namely the Water Crater and the Mud Crater, that are also tourist attractions in the vicinity. [11]


The Darvaza gas crater and the surrounding area, including where the tents usually are pitched, a couple of hundred meters away to the south of the crater.

According to Turkmen geologist Anatoly Bushmakin, the site was identified by Soviet engineers in 1971.[8] It was originally thought to be a substantial oil field site.[12] The engineers set up a drilling rig and operations to assess the quantity of oil available at the site. Soon after the preliminary survey found a natural gas pocket, the ground beneath the drilling rig and camp collapsed into a wide crater and the rig was buried with no casualties.[8]

Expecting dangerous releases of poisonous gases from the cavern into nearby towns the engineers considered it advisable to burn the gas off. It was estimated that the gas would burn out within a few weeks, but it has instead continued to burn for more than 50 years and is expected to keep on burning.[8]

The early years of the crater's history are uncertain:[13] local geologists say the collapse into a crater happened in the 1960s, and the gases were not set on fire until the 1980s. There are, however, no records available of either the Soviet or Turkmen version of events.[7][4] Satellite images captured by LANDSAT-1 in 1972 show that there has been little change in the area since then, suggesting that the crater and fire were already ongoing at this time.

In April 2010, the President of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, visited the site and ordered that the hole should be closed. In 2013, he declared the part of the Karakum Desert with the crater a nature reserve.[8] In 2019, he appeared on state television doing doughnut stunts around the crater to disprove and correct rumours of his death.[14]

The crater was featured in an episode of the National Geographic Channel series Die Trying. In the July 16, 2014, episode "Crater of Fire", explorer George Kourounis became the first person to set foot at the bottom, gathering samples of extremophile microorganisms.[15] An edited photograph of the crater was also released as publicity for the then-upcoming 2014 Godzilla film, with the image depicting MONARCH agents and vehicles investigating the site.

Although the crater has captured public imagination as a mystery and has been named the "Gates of Hell", the crater is a simple geological anomaly; a superficial gas pocket which allowed the ground to sink into a natural depression, allowing the slowly escaping natural gas from a large deeper natural gas field to both accumulate and burn without being extinguished by the wind, or rapidly diluted. The gas from similar, smaller gas leaks in the area are rapidly dispersed by the desert wind. "Burning ground" sites where natural gas escaping from the ground has been ignited are found in other parts of the world.

In 2018, the gas crater was used as an overnight stop in the Amul-Hazar automobile rally.[16][17]

In January 2022, a commission was tasked to find a solution for extinguishing the burning gas crater in Darvaza.[18] The commission hopes to either extinguish the Darvaza gas crater altogether, or find a way for the crater to still burn without causing negative impacts on the nearby environment.

Effects on future development of gasEdit

On President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov's April 2010 visit, he recommended that measures be taken to limit the crater's influence on the development of other natural gas fields in the area.[10] At that time, Turkmenistan announced plans to increase its production of natural gas, intending to increase its export of gas to many countries such as Pakistan, China, India, Iran, Russia, and also Western Europe, from its then yearly production level to a new production level of 225 billion cubic metres (7.9 trillion cubic feet) by 2030.[10] In January 2022, President Berdymukhamedov publicly declared that a method to extinguish the fire needs to be found so that the effects on the environment and public health can be curbed.[19]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Президент Туркменистана побывал у газового кратера в пустыне, совершив протяжённый заезд по Каракумам | Политика". Туркменистан, интернет портал о культурной, деловой и развлекательной жизни в Туркменистане.
  2. ^ Soldani, Bianca (2016-06-24). "Turkmenistan's 'door to hell' has been burning for 45 years". Topics. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
  3. ^ Geiling, Natasha (2014-05-20). "This Hellish Desert Pit Has Been On Fire for More Than 40 Years". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2017-01-27.
  4. ^ a b Davies, Elliott (2017-01-26). "I traveled to the middle of the desert to see 'The Door To Hell'". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  5. ^ Bland, Stephen (2014-04-08). "Turkmenistan Has Its Very Own 'Gate to Hell'". Vice.com. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  6. ^ "How the Soviets accidentally discovered the 'Gates of Hell'". BBC. 2020-10-23. Retrieved 2020-10-23.
  7. ^ a b Nunez, Christina (2014-07-14). "Q&A: The First-Ever Expedition to Turkmenistan's 'Door to Hell'". National Geographic. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Turkmenistan hopes 'Door to Hell' will boost tourism". CTV News. Relaxnews. Agence France-Presse. 2014-06-22. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  9. ^ "What a 'hell hole'!". Pakistan Daily Times. 2012-09-14. Archived from the original on 2014-06-06. Retrieved 2012-10-11.
  10. ^ a b c Gurt, Marat (2010-04-20). "Turkmen president wants to close "Hell's Gate"". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  11. ^ M. King, Hobart. "Darvaza Gas Crater". Geology.com. Retrieved 2022-01-16.
  12. ^ Press, Frank; Siever, Raymond (January 2010). Earth. American Geological Institute. p. 22. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  13. ^ Shearlaw, Maeve (2014-07-18). "Dropping in on Turkmenistan's 'door to hell' – in pictures". The Guardian. Retrieved 2017-04-29.
  14. ^ "Turkmenistan's leader does doughnuts next to flaming crater to prove he's not dead". ABC News. 2019-08-07. Retrieved 2019-08-08.
  15. ^ Christina Nunez (2014-07-16). "Q&A: The First-Ever Expedition to Turkmenistan's "Door to Hell"". National Geographic. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
  16. ^ "Turkmen Desert Race" to Kick Off on Sept. 9". Seoul Times.
  17. ^ "International rally Amul – Hazar - Turkmen desert race 2018". Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan.
  18. ^ Turkmenistan plans to close its 'Gateway to Hell'
  19. ^ "The 'Gates of Hell' Could be Closed After Blazing for 50 Years". www.vice.com. Retrieved 2022-01-10.