Don't get too serious down with the etymology. But if you got name for a place like the door to hell. It would be better to look something like a crater of volcano. In that way we can all agree the name fits well. The door to hell, otherwise, known as the Darvaza Gas Crater isn't exactly a natural phenomenon. Nature merely provided the raw materials for what humans managed to turn into a decades-long environmental freak show. While it's origin is somewhat shrouded in mystery. The science behind it is not!
The Real Story About Its Origin
It was 1971, when a group of Soviet Petroleum Geologist set out to explore the Karakum Desert. A desert which occupied the 70% land mass of Turkmenistan. Mostly, geologist were looking for oil deposit. However, the region is also rich in natural gas. Well, oil and gas are both the results of the same geologic process. The very slow, very intense compression have triggers organic material over time.
Although there has never been an official report about the events that followed. Most believe that during the initial exploration of the area. The geologists were so encouraged by the estimates of how much natural gas there was. And then they quickly set up some drilling rigs. Without even noticed they drilled right over a big cavernous pocket of natural gas. And it collapsed soon after the operation began.
The Darvaza gas crater has been burning continously since 1971.
Ground Collapses and Make a Big Burning Hole
The ground gave way taking with their equipment. Creating an enormous sinkhole more than 60 meters in diameter in 20 meters deep. Miraculously, no one is reported to have been killed. But there was another problem. Natural gas is composed primarily of methane. A colorless, odorless gas that is not that toxic. However, when displays with oxygen. It easily makes you hard to breathe when its nearby. What we like so much about methane in the first place? It loves to explode—it can create a combustible mixture in the air at levels as low as 5%.
Plus, eventhough we had yet to pick up on the fact that global warming back then. It's worth pointing out that methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. That's why, in some oil and gas drilling operations where natural gas is released. If it can't be captured—it's just burned off in a process called flaring. Yes! this still releases tons of CO2. But, carbon dioxide is way less bad than methane.
The Choice that Last Only for Weeks Not for Lifetime
Anyway, those soviet scientists were left with a choice. [1.] One is continue to let the dangerous methane vented to the atmosphere. Putting the local population and environment at risk. [2.] And the other is to light the crater on fire burning of all the gas. In what scientists predicted. It would take a few weeks.
They chose the latter and 42 years later the crater is still burning today. The door to hell has become something of a tourist attraction. Creating an eerie glow that can be seen at night from kilometers away. It releases terrible smell that has nothing to do with natural gas. Which remember has no smell but is instead produced by hydrogen sulfide in the ground. If you want to visit the door to hell. You probably have some time because the fire will continue to burn. Until all the natural gas deposits feeding the flame have been combusted. And no one knows when that's gonna happen?