WTF Fun Fact 12668 – The Gates of Hell

There are a couple of places on earth that are referred to as the Gates of Hell, or something similar. But we’d never heard of the one in Turkmenistan (then again, there’s not a lot of news coming out of Turkmenistan). Apparently, this particular version of the Gates of Hell really needs to be put out – if that’s even possible.

The fire put has been burning for over 50 years and no one is quite sure why. However, in January of 2022, the amazingly-named leader of Turkmenistan, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, announced that he was asking officials to find a way to extinguish it. It’s not only using up natural resources (it’s burning gas deposits) but a giant burning greater isn’t great for air quality either.

According to an interview with Atlas Obscura, an explorer named George Kourounis has actually descended into the firery pit and gathered soil samples But he also found a big problem: “As I was digging into the ground [at the bottom of the crater] to gather these soil samples, fire would start coming out of the hole I just freshly dug because it was creating new paths for the gas to come out of the crater. So even if you were to extinguish the fire and cover it up, there’s a chance that the gas could still find its way out to the surface and all it would take is one spark to light it up again.”

Oh, and did we mention that the origins of the fire are unclear? Locals tell stories of a Soviet gas accident in 1971 and someone trying to light a collapsed rig on fire, but geologists have traced the crater back to the 1960s and the fire to the 1980s.

We may never know exactly what happens because of Turkmenistan’s isolation from the rest of the world. –  WTF fun fact

Source: “The Quest to Extinguish the Flames of Turkmenistan’s Terrifying ‘Gates of Hell’ Firepit” — Smithsonian Magazine