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Turns out the 50-year ‘Gates of Hell’ blaze was started by “a very big mistake”

Thanks to “a very big mistake,” a huge ass pit fire has been burning in Turkmenistan for the last 50 years. It has been lovingly dubbed the ‘Gates of Hell’ blaze.

Turkmenistan’s ‘Gates of Hell’ has been burning for half a century, thanks to a mistake made by Soviet Union miners.

Since its inception in the ’70s, the blaze buried in the Karakum Desert has drawn tourists from all over the world. We take a look back at the cock-up that started it all.

Darvaza Gates of Hell
Photo: Carolyn Drake

In 1971, the Soviet Union were on the hunt for oil fields to fuel their growing empire. Believing that they had hit the motherload in the Turkmenistan desert, the miners quickly built an oil-rig and got to work.

Once the drilling commenced, however, it became clear that they had made a huge error. The miners were not drilling into an oil source, they’d set up their oil-rig on top of a massive pocket of natural gas. The rig eventually collapsed into the Earth, forming a pit which is now known as Darvaza Crater.

The crater is estimated to be a whopping 70.1 metres wide and 20.1 metres deep, with the implosion causing multiple methane-filled pockets to fall in the area. With riggers and scientists fearful of the methane’s impact on surrounding wildlife and communities, it was decided that the crater would be lit on fire in the hopes that the gas would burn off in a matter of weeks.

Here we are half a century later, with the crater still lit up like a Christmas tree.

Although a series of unfortunate events, the ongoing flame remains a popular tourist attraction and poses no harm to the surrounding community.

Check out the ‘Gates of Hell’ crater here.