Monday, April 11, 2011

Darvaza – the Door to Hell

All Urdu speaking people are well familiar with the word “Darvaza” – meaning a door. In Turkmenistan, the word “Derweza” too means a door. The same is also referred to as Darvaza too, in line with its pronunciation of the same word in Urdu. But the door I am going to talk of is known as the Gate to Hell in Turkmenistan, which is in fact a deep crater which is on fire for the last forty years and the locals have named as the Gate to Hell, for its resemblance to hell in the life hereafter.

The hole is ocated some 260 kilometers north of Ashgabat, the country’s capital and in the middle of the Karakum Desert or the Gara Gum Desert, or the desert of Black Sand. Unlike many big holes in the earth which are naturally found, this hole was created accidently when in 1971, the geologists were exploring gas in the region. During the excavation process, the earth caved in, taking along with it the drilling rig.

The caving in resulted into the formation of this big hole, measuring some 70 meters in diameter and 20 metres deep. In order to prevent the gases to leak out in huge quantity, which could have resulted into a major ecological and environmental disaster, the geologists set the “hole” on fire. They had hoped that the fire would use all the gases in a matter of days, but the gas reservoir continues to burn till date, some 40 years later. The hole has been named as the Darvaza or the Door to Hell by the locals for its similarity with the hell up in the skies.

Although, the fires are not friendly to the environment as their warmth in such quantity my add to harming the ozone layer, but the geologists argue that had the gases been allowed to escape uncontrollably in huge quantities from this reservoir, the potent methane gas would have damaged the ozone layer much more as than what the fire. It may be added that methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential of 72 (averaged over 20 years).