Postcard from Doug: A visit to Darvaza’s burning gas crater in Turkmenistan
“Unusual” is a word we often use to describe Turkmenistan. One of the most unusual excursions in this unusual place is a spectacle you can witness on a visit to the Kara Kum desert north of Ashgabat.
On one of my recent visits to Turkmenistan I had the opportunity to drive up to Darvaza, a burning gas crater set on fire by Soviet engineers in 1971. Some locals call it the “Door to Hell.” The story goes that some oil-drilling equipment was swallowed up by a huge sink hole, which was filled with gas. Engineers decided to burn off the gas to make the cavern safe for more drilling. It has been burning ever since.
I camped overnight not far from the rim of the crater, and made two visits to the edge, once when it was still light out, and again late that night in the pitch dark.
There were wonderful views of the stars, but the highlight was a pillar of light originating from the depths of the crater all the way up into the heavens. What an unusual and captivating sight!
Approaching the crater’s rim I not only got a clearer view but also felt the heat emanating from the gas burning all over the bottom and walls of the inner crater. At the edge, it’s easy to get lost staring at the flickering flames of the huge pit, just as it is when sitting around a campfire.
This is such a strange and eerie site and experience that it shouldn’t be missed. Go this year and see it for yourself!
(Top photo: Darvaza’s gas crater in Turkmenistan. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes)
PUBLISHED: January 8, 2015