In Karakum Desert, near the 350 people village of Darvaza sits a crater of fire 70 metres (230 feet) wide and 30 metres (98 feet) deep, that’s been burning since 1971. Locals refer to it as the “Gates of Hell”, officially it’s the Darvaza Gas Crater and it’s glow can be seen for kilometres around.
The Gates of Hell were created in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punctured into a massive underground natural gas cavern, which then collapsed, and buried the entire drilling rig into it. Having punctured a pocket of gas, poisonous methane fumes began leaking into the atmosphere. To avoid further environmental damage, Soviet geologists set the hole alight. The thinking was that the fire would use all the fuel in a matter of days, but the crater hasn’t stopped burning ever since.
There are still many drilling rigs and drill sites in the area, as Turkmenistan has the fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world.