Sometimes, scientists do awesome things, like figuring out how to eradicate terrible diseases or discovering wild new species that have been living underwater for thousands of years.
Sometimes, however, they do really, really dumb things.
Like opening the door to Hell.
How Did the Door to Hell Open?
The Door to Hell is better known as the Darvaza gas crater. The crater is located near the village of Derweze, in the middle of the Karakum Desert. So, basically, the best thing that can be said about this terrible manmade disaster is that it’s fairly far from any major city. (I’m sure, however, that the residents of Derweze aren’t thrilled by its presence).
The Door to Hell came about because of the most common of human sins: greed.
Basically, back in the 1970s, people were going crazy over oil. This, unfortunately, hasn’t changed much.
A number of Soviet engineers were searching the Karakum Desert for possible oil fields and identified this area as a potential drilling site. A survey confirmed their suspicions: there was a natural gas pocket found underneath the survey.
The engineers brought in their drilling rig and a bunch of people to check out the site and start the process of extracting the oil
Unfortunately, soon after they began, the ground beneath the rig opened up. A giant crater appeared, and the rig and entire camp were buried.
When Something Bad Happens, Light It On Fire
Needless to say, engineers were not excited to see that a giant crater had broken open near a civilian town. After the crater’s collapsed, engineers thought that the quickest path to recovery would be to light the cavern on fire and hope that gas burned out in a few weeks.
They were, again, really, really wrong.
The crater stayed on fire for the next four decades, serving as a constant reminder of man’s folly and, in later years, a site for cool tourist photos.
In April 2010, the President of Turkmenistan finally ordered the fire be put out and the hole closed. Several years later, the crater was declared a nature preserve.
In 2014, explorer George Kouronis became the first living person to set foot in Hell, when he reached the bottom of the now-put-out crater and gathered microorganisms for a study that had survived the burning.