The crater itself is 225 ft wide and 99 ft deep, and is a fiery molten pit filled with burning methane gas. information about the crater is contradictory. "There's only two really famous things to see in Turkmenistan," Start your Independent Premium subscription today. But in the past seven years, no one else has been allowed in the All rights reserved. It was hard to tell whether Darvaza Gas Crater was Turkmenistan’s leading tourist attraction or a concealed national embarrassment. "That hasn't happened, and I think it's because We tried to find any old incident reports or anything like that, and the department of geology just didn't have anything that dated back that far. The existing Open Comments threads will continue to exist for those who do not subscribe to Independent Premium. bright it lights up the night sky. the edge to their deaths. Kourounis said. "Nobody. 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. I mean it was scary stepping over the edge, but when you're at the bottom, it's just so beautiful. By nightfall, he was the only one there except for his Q&A: The First-Ever Expedition to Turkmenistan's "Door to Hell",, "Diver 'Vanishes' in Portal to Maya Underworld. The Pearly Gates may have Saint Peter, but the Gates of Hell has © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- lots, but many of these things are temporary and not meant to And I'm so far the only person who has actually done that. The choice is yours. Ward spent his time at the Gates barbecuing dinner and drinking ". But his visa was denied by Turkmenistan's government. Heat from the burning methane inside the crater can be felt at its edge. The Door to Hell gas field is said to have been discovered by petrochemical engineers from the Soviet Union in 1971 and a drilling rig was soon established. last. It seems to be a pretty significant store of gas, burning for more than 40 years. For the birds, the Gates is ideal for hunting moths attracted by Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Kourounis with mixed feelings. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. The air heated and was it was the trip to the Darzava Desert - and into the fiery crater He's chased tornadoes and hurricanes, almost been We did find life, but it was sparse. Every now and then you get a random person driving past on a motorcycle, or a truck will go past, or some camels. 230-foot-wide gap. instance, the harness Kourounis wore was made of kevlar, the same I will never ever forget it," he But 'Door to hell': Man dangles himself over molten, gas fuelled crater to, You may not agree with our views, or other users’, but please respond to them respectfully, Swearing, personal abuse, racism, sexism, homophobia and other discriminatory or inciteful language is not acceptable, Do not impersonate other users or reveal private information about third parties, We reserve the right to delete inappropriate posts and ban offending users without notification. It's simply overwhelming. "I'm proud of that. "I'm the guy I guess who knows the most about this crater.". "When you’re dangling in the middle you just feel like a piece of laundry on the line, drying out," the explorer is heard saying while lowered into the pit. It was—"surreal" isn't a strong enough word. in the world, which brought him on a path to Turkmenistan. "One is the capital Ashgabat, which is cool The story behind how it came into existence has been sort of shrouded in mystery, and there's no other place like it on Earth. Are you sure you want to mark this comment as inappropriate? In order to prepare, there was a lot of practice at first. PHOTOGRAPH BY GEORGE VERSCHOOR, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC CHANNELS. So they're doing just fine in that little micro-ecosystem down there at the bottom of the crater. Even if we found nothing, it still would have been a valid result and the expedition would have been worthwhile. We had to get it custom-made out of Kevlar, because a regular climbing harness would just melt under the extreme heat. said David Berghof, who runs the company. reports, thousands of spiders have been seen plunging over Tour companies have also set up permanent camps around the Please continue to respect all commenters and create constructive debates. person has been to the bottom of that crater," he told Insider. above his desk. On the way up, he briefly lost consciousness. crater. the Smithsonian Magazine. "The heat is unbelievable," Kourounis said. How did you protect yourself? were actually the cause - a theory he said geologists have The shimmer from the distortion of it warping the air around it is just amazing to watch, and when you're downwind, you get this blast of heat that is so intense that you can't even look straight into the wind. "It's etched into my brain cells the way that looked at the So when you did go into the crater and collected your samples, what was that like? Outside of our solar system, there are planets that do resemble the conditions inside this pit, and [knowing that] can help us expand the number of places where we can confidently start looking for life outside of our solar system. Kourounis descends into the crater wearing a heat-resistant suit and Kevlar harness. Due to the sheer scale of this comment community, we are not able to give each post the same level of attention, but we have preserved this area in the interests of open debate. being on another planet," he said. The Darvaza Crater found in northern Turkmenistan, known as the 'Door to Hell', is 225 ft wide and 99 ft deep, and filled with burning methane gas. When you go out over, looking straight down, it's literally like another planet almost. The Door to Hell refers to a massive natural gas field crater with continuously burning fire. the glow of the fire. But I've heard from the local Turkmen geologists, who have been there for decades, that the collapse may have happened in the '60s and that it went unlit until the 1980s. He wanted to check David Berghof, who runs STANtours, said much of the available If he stayed any longer he to take in the view one last time. methane gas in Derweze, Turkmenistan. When you first set eyes on the crater, it's like something out of a science fiction film. believe the Gates and two other nearby craters formed as a result Kourounis said. Most of the material Kourounis used was custom made. That's about two-thirds the size of a football field. Explorer George Kourounis braves the fiery 99 ft deep Darvaza Crater to collect soil, Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile. ground couldn't support the weight of their equipment and Occasionally, he "I could see my teammates getting smaller and smaller and he was attached to. We had a couple of little tourist outfits come by. confirmed. fire. It's fascinating, it's visually stunning, and there's a lot that we can learn about this place. He had an buried alive in avalanches, and even went inside volcanoes. George Kourounis is a braver man than most. when the crater was dug up, and when and how it was put on fire.". Want an ad-free experience?Subscribe to Independent Premium. "For many Central Asia travelers Darvaza has become the highlight The fence and his role in popularizing the place has left everywhere.". Once reaching the bottom, Mr Kourounis collected soil samples in the hopes of leaning whether life can survive in such extreme conditions, and whether or not life could survive in similar conditions on other planets. But it is literally wide open. The story that has been circulating on the Internet is slightly different from what I was told by the local geologists. Due to the methane underneath, the four days. assignment to finish and was quickly running out of air. The expedition site is the giant, methane-burning, Darvaza Crater found in North Turkmenistan, and Mr Kourounis entered it in order to discover whether extreme life forms on other planets can exist. bringing a TV crew in.". They hoped it would only take a couple weeks, but it's been also outfitted with his own internal supply of oxygen. crater to carry out further tests. The sound was like that of a jet engine, this roaring, high-pressure, gas-burning sound. The common urban legend of the place is that it collapsed in 1971 and was set on fire by Soviet scientists shortly afterward. Is the place open to visitors in general? The Gates of Hell (also known as the Door to Hell ... or the odd that they have real toilets there now. For Probably a bit like a small volcano, and quite unexpected to You can also choose to be emailed when someone replies to your comment. Exactly. material used in bullet-proof vests, so it wouldn't melt. ‘The Door to Hell’ is also known as ‘Gates of Hell’, the ‘Gas Crater of Darvaza’, ‘Derweze Crater’ and the ‘Darvaza Crater’. Returning to the Gates years later, Kourounis said he found it At certain times, according to Turkmenistan's Darvaza Crater—created more than 40 years ago when the ground under a Soviet drilling rig gave way—has been burning for decades. Are you sure you want to delete this comment? The expedition team works into the night, searching for life inside the fiery crater. Turkmenistan's Darvaza Crater—created more than 40 years ago when the ground under a Soviet drilling rig gave way—has been burning for decades. Getting permission, getting all the logistics in order, getting the team assembled, getting the [National Geographic] Expeditions Council on board. You can find our Community Guidelines in full here. We did find some bacteria living at the bottom that are very comfortable living in those high temperatures, and the most important thing was that they were not found in any of the surrounding soil outside of the crater. There's poisonous gas His harrowing plunge is featured on the National Geographic Channel series Die Trying, which airs tonight, July 16, at 10 p.m. EDT. Kourounis said. It allows our most engaged readers to debate the big issues, share their own experiences, discuss real-world solutions, and more. weight, they designed a pulley system that would lower Kourounis As he descended, Kourounis watched the flames around him grow The ground gives way to a seem to stick," he told Insider. beer. Using 2,000 pounds of sand as a counter To Ward, the desert felt both alone and still. collapsed. The heat coming off of it is scorching. Unlike the description in most other guidebooks, they Once a part of the ancient Silk Road, Turkmenistan fell upon the Well, we were hoping to find signs of microbial life-forms that are thriving in the hot, methane-rich environment. A view no human has ever had before.". smaller," Kourounis said. I don't know exactly what happened. has value to the country now as their little flaming Disney I’m still unsure. - in November 2013 that made Kourounis something of a minor expedition took a year and half to be approved. Kourounis, who's based in Toronto, talked with National Geographic about his experience in Turkmenistan. You feel like you're being baked in There were a few moments that I just literally had to stop, look around, and drink in the spectacle of where I was. government allowed the team to set up camp at the the Gates for "Stepping off the crater walls and putting all your weight on the What did you think you were going to find in terms of the sampling, and what did you find? Everything is glowing orange from the fire. celebrity. and farther away the farther down I dropped. Which version of the story is true remains a mystery. said. Kourounis and his team realized cool air dropped into the center "It's not exactly the South of France,", Like us on Facebook to see similar stories, Trump orders review of auto parts firm pension cuts, Bladerunner humpback sighted off Cape Hauy in rare appearance in Tasmanian waters, Microsoft may earn an Affiliate Commission if you purchase something through recommended links in this article, We Put EveryPlate To The Test, Here's What Happened, Starting At $2.99 Per Meal, Here's Why EveryPlate Is Such A Steal.

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