Flames dance out of cracks in its floor and around the sides, and a burning blast of air emanating from the pit shifts with the wind. The extreme heat and the roar of the flames have a mesmerising effect.
"Soviet geologists started drilling a borehole to prospect for gas at this spot in 1971," said Turkmen geologist Anatoly Bushmakin. "The boring equipment suddenly drilled through into an underground cavern, and a deep sinkhole formed. The equipment tumbled through but fortunately no one was killed." "Fearing that the crater would emit poisonous gases, the scientists took the decision to set it alight, thinking that the gas would burn out quickly and this would cause the flames to go out," Bushmakin said.
But they never did, and now serve as a potent symbol of Turkmenistan's vast gas reserves, believed to be the fourth largest in the world.
"Our main task is to create an attractive image of Turkmenistan as a tourism destination," he said.
You know, for kids:
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Mysterious Siberian Crater Found at "End of the World" May Portend Methane Climate Catastrophe
Permafrost in this area is melting in response to the rapid warming of the Arctic. The most likely cause of this crater is a methane explosion. [...] If Dr Kurchatova's explanation is correct, the consequences are profound. It means that there are vertical structures where salt accumulated as methane ices formed in permafrost. Layers of permafrost may have salty vertical zones of weakness in them that will allow sudden release of methane trapped below the permafrost layer as the climate warms. Vast quantities of methane trapped in river deltas in the Arctic ocean on the Siberian shelf may be unstable. This crater appears to be evidence that the methane is not protected by a very slowly melting solid layer of permafrost. Methane bubbles recently observed in the Laptev Sea, reported on by the National Science Foundation, could be the beginning of the release of an enormous amount of subsea methane.
Methane is a way more effective greenhouse gas than CO2, so cue the feedback loops.
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