The first expedition to the “Door to Hell” in Turkmenistan, central Asia, had a Greek scent.
More than four decades ago a crater opened up in the desert of northern Turkmenistan, likely the result of a drilling mishap. The Darvaza Crater, known as the “Door to Hell” is still burning. Allegedly, Soviet scientists set it on fire to burn off noxious gases, after the ground under a drilling rig collapsed.
A few months ago, in November 2013, Greek-Canadian explorer and storm chaser George Kourounis, on an expedition partly funded by National Geographic, was the first person to explore the crater, which is 65 meters wide and 30 meters deep.
He collected soil samples, seeking to learn whether life can survive in such tough conditions and whether life could survive in similar conditions elsewhere in the universe.
“The place has always fascinated me. 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. It is very unique, in that there’s no other place where there is this pit of burning methane that’s being ejected from the ground at high pressure. It’s fascinating, it’s visually stunning, and there’s a lot that we can learn about this place,” said Kourounis to National Geographic.
The Greek-Canadian explorer needed a year and a half of preparation and planning. He was wearing a heat-reflective suit, a self-contained breathing apparatus, and a special climbing harness, as a regular one would just melt under the extreme heat.