Darvaza Gas Crater located in the Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan, is one of the most unusual geological features one can visit in the world. The formation may have started burning as early as 1971. A decision was then made by Soviet scientists, to burn off poisonous methane gas, that had been discovered at the site. Unwittingly, they instead created, one of the most unique tourist destinations in the world. It is our 9th stop in the travel series A World Far And Away.
The Darvaza Gas Crater has brought over the years, international interest among geologists, explorers and scientists alike.
The Russian word Darvaza (Derweze in the Turkmen language) means gate. There is also some evidence the village which was named for the crater, may also originate from either Urdu or Hindi.
The village of Derweze, was disbanded on order of the President Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan, in 2004. He considered the settlement to be unsightly for tourists.
This unintended attraction, has brought many people from around the world, that would most likely never visit Turkmenistan.
A famous Canadian explorer for example, by the name of George Kourounis, became the first person to amazingly descend into the crater itself. Using a special heat reflective suit, and a modified breathing system, he was able to walk around, the bottom of the crater for 15 minutes.
His purpose was to collect samples of earth,for later examination. It was soon discovered, that there indeed was bacteria, living in these samples.
The Darvaza Gas Crater is located in the Karakum Desert, which is the 13th largest desert globally and covers some 15,400 square miles. It is renowned as being the hottest desert in Asia.
The area is known for its large gas and oil deposits. In attempting to exploit this resource, engineers discovered the natural gas pocket, that would become the Darvaza Crater.
It was reported at the time, that the ground underneath the drilling equipment, began to give way. The hole that resulted, continued to grow, until it reached its present size.
Another story claims, that the crater that now measures a diameter near 226 foot or 69 meters, just simply appeared either in the 1950’s or 1960’s.
Both versions of the narrative do agree that a decision was made by experts, to use a procedure known as flaring, to consume the excess gas that was leaking from the ground.
The calculation was reasonably considered, that the gas would burn off in a matter of weeks.
Nearly a half of a century later, it is still actively burning. There is no real way to tell, how much gas remains in the area, adjacent to the hole.
The Darvaza Crater is 98 feet (30 meters) deep and can be seen at night from 25 miles away.
The hole itself burns at very high temperatures, so tourists can stand next to it for only a few minutes at a time. More than 50,000 visitors have arrived at the site, in the last 8 years alone.
Up until 2004, as to be expected, various shops and stands sold a variety of merchandise and food items. They were then removed, for an unknown reason. They did interfere with the enjoyment of the natural beauty of the desert and crater.