The Derweze natural gas crater is a basin 70 metres (230 feet) across located in the middle of the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. The crater, which was created when a natural gas drilling rig and camp collapsed in 1971, is informally referred to by the local people as the ‘Door to Hell’, as for the past 42 years it has been on fire.
The flames were instigated when a Soviet Union drilling team decided that, after their rig collapsed, the best way to deal with the large amount of methane gas spilling out into the environment was to burn it off. Geologists at the time predicted that the methane would combust within days, but four decades later the natural gas continues to blaze, lighting up the surrounding region for miles.
Today, the Door to Hell is something of a tourist attraction, with travellers flocking to the nearby village of Derweze – which has a population of only around 350 people – from all over the world. Typically tour groups venture to the site in the evening, as the crater’s fiery glow is more dramatic in the low light of dusk than during the day, as shown here.