The crater measures a staggering 197 feet in diameter and is nearly 70 feet deep. The hole is known as the Darvaza Gas Crater, or the “Gates of Hell” by locals, and the crater can be seen, and smelt, for miles around. As Bradley reports, “The smell of burning sulfur can be detected from a distance and becomes quite strong as you near the hot edge of the crater.”
So how did this glowing and gaseous crater get there? Unfortunately the burning gates are not a natural phenomenon and the crater is in fact the result of a Soviet gas exploration accident that occurred back in 1971. During drilling, a Soviet rig had fell into an underground cavern and punctured the earth, releasing noxious gas into the air. To avoid an even greater environmental disaster, the Soviets set the natural glass aflame believing it would burn off in just a few days — it has been burning ever since.