Science & Technology
Man becomes first to enter 'Door to Hell'
May 6, 2015 | 9 comments
A close-up look inside the flaming depths of the pit. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 flydime
Explorer George Kourounis has become the first person to descend in to Turkmenistan's infamous fire pit.
Located in Derweze, Ahal Province, the burning pit received its nickname 'Door to Hell' due to its ominous appearance and because it has remained on fire for more than 40 years.
Originally thought to be an oil field site, the pit was opened up by Soviet engineers after a drilling rig they set up collapsed in to a large crater. Concerned about the release of toxic fumes they set the gas on fire believing that it would burn out within weeks but instead it remained alight for more than four decades.
Now a popular tourist destination, the pit has attracted large numbers of visitors to the region but to date nobody has proven themselves brave - or foolish - enough to try lowering themselves inside it.
That was, at least, until explorer George Kourounis took up the challenge.
Not to be discouraged by the flaming depths of the pit and spurred on by rumors that the fire was to be extinguished by the government, the 41-year-old, who is no stranger to extreme heats having previously braved volcanoes, donned a special flame-proof suit and descended in to the fire.
While he was there he retrieved samples for scientific study and discovered that there was even bacteria living inside the crater despite the high temperature and methane fumes.
"Since this was something nobody had ever done before there was a lot of uncertainty and questions," he said. "When I actually set foot at the bottom it was an overwhelming feeling."
"I was in a spot where no human had ever been. It was like stepping onto an alien planet."