Mystery fire in Australia has been burning for over 6,000 years
By T.K. Randall
January 4, 2022 · 4 comments
Ash on the surface near the site of the fire. Image Credit: Wikimedia / Beruthiel
Beneath Mount Wingen in New South Wales lies a fiery inferno that predates modern civilization.
Known as the 'Burning Mountain', this intriguing natural phenomenon has been smouldering beneath Mount Wingen (with 'Wingen' meaning 'fire' in the Wanaruah laguage) for thousands of years.
It is what is known as a coal seam fire, which is a type of extremely slow-burning fire that smoulders underground over a long period of time.
While there are many known coal seam fires in the world, this one is believed to predate them all.
Nobody is exactly sure how long it has been burning for (it was first documented by Europeans in the 19th-Century) however many scientists believe that it might have been going for at least 6,000 years.
The site itself, which is popular with tourists, offers little indication of the inferno beneath it save for some plumes of smoke and deposits of ash and discoloration on the surface.
"No one knows the size of the fire under Burning Mountain, you can only infer it," Prof Guillermo Rein from Imperial College London told ScienceAlert
. "It's likely a ball of around 5 to 10 meters in diameter, reaching temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius [1,832 Fahrenheit]."
As for what started the fire - while most coal seam fires are the result of human intervention, this one is most likely to be naturally occurring, possibly started by a lightning strike or surface wildfire.
As things stand, it could continue to burn for many thousands of years.
Source: Science Alert
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