This article is part of a little series we are starting up here at Common Sense Conspiracy about when scientists get it wrong. Meaning, when scientists think they have it all figured out, and then old Mother Nature or whatever you want to call it throws a big wrench in their plans. The spirit of the articles is to point out that for all of our technological advances as a society and all that we understand about this planet and the universe, we still have so very far to go. So, without further ado, we want to tell you a story about “The Door to Hell.” It sounds like something out of a movie or sci-fi novel, but this is 100% factual, and in fact, it can still be seen today.
Talk about an eternal flame. “The Door to Hell,” as it has been dubbed, is a cavern in Derweze, Turkmenistan. The town doesn’t have much going for it except the cavern. With only 350 people living in the area, this is far from a bursting metropolis. In fact, the people there are tribal and continue to live in a semi-nomadic culture. Anyhow, Derweze has bountiful amounts of natural gas in and around it. Back in 1971, Soviet geologists were drilling for it when they tapped into a cavern beneath the surface absolutely packed with natural gas. Excited at the find, they kept on doing their thing, but the ground collapsed, opening a gaping hole in the Derweze landscape over 230 feet wide. An eyesore, sure, but more important was the threat of natural gas seeping out of the cavern perpetually. The scientists scratched their heads and came up with a plan to eliminate the gas and make the area safe.
The plan was simple. The geologists decided to burn the gas off. By their calculations, the natural gas in the cavern should burn off in a matter of days, so they lit it on fire in a controlled environment and watched. It was considered the best option, not only to make it safe, but also because burning it off was considered to be more environmentally friendly than allowing the methane to simply be released into the atmosphere. Everything was worked great, except the calculations about how much natural gas was coming up through the cavern was a little bit off. The fire in Derweze is still burning today. That’s right, 41 years later, the cavern is still burning. It has become just part of the landscape, and the glow from the flames can be viewed for many miles around. While it is quite a raging fire, much like in residential and industrial applications, the fire keeps going but stays controlled, completely dependent on the steady stream of natural gas to keep it going. Over the years, people in the area began to refer to the cavern as “The Door to Hell.” Check out some of these photographs of the cavern.
It was decided that the cavern should be closed off and eliminated back in 2010, but so far, nothing much has changed. Scientists no longer have any guess as to how long it may be before the natural gas supply to the cavern is exhausted.