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The mouth of hell

The mouth of hell

By Natasha Geiling

It has been burning without interruption for 44 years, and although it looks like a volcano, this huge crater of 69 meters in diameter and 30 meters deep that opens in the middle of the great Karakum desert, is actually human work: it was formed in 1971, when a team of Russian engineers and geologists surveying in the former Soviet Republic accidentally poured into a gas-filled cavern, causing it to collapse and creating a hole that engulfed the camp and machinery.

To recover the equipment, the technicians could not think of anything other than to set it on fire and wait for the gas to burn out, but they failed in their calculations: Turkmenistan is home to one of the largest reserves of natural gas in the world, and no one knows when it will be will turn off. At the moment, it has become one of the tourist attractions of the country and of the Silk Road.

SMITHSONIAN


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