Summary: Message claims that attached photographs depict a gas filled crater that has been burning continually for more than 35 years(Full commentary below).
Status: Photographs are genuine - Description may be true but is largely unsubstantiated
Example:(Submitted, November 2008)
Subject: FW: Door To Hell
Door to hell
This place in Uzbekistan is called by locals "The Door to Hell". It is situated near the small town of Darvaz.
The story of this place lasts already for 35 years. Once the geologists were drilling for gas. Then suddenly during the drilling they have found an underground cavern, it was so big that all the drilling site with all the equipment and camps got deep deep under the ground.
None dared to go down there because the cavern was filled with gas. So they ignited it so that no poisonous gas could come out of the hole, and since then, it's burning, already for 35 years without any pause.
Nobody knows how many tons of excellent gas has been burned for all those years but it just seems to be infinite there.
This message, which circulates via email, blogs and online communities, claims that these spectacular photographs show a large crater filled with natural gas that has been burning continual for three decades. Research indicates that the photographs are genuine and such a burning gas crater does exist, although concrete and verifiable details about its history and current status are somewhat elusive.
The "Door to Hell", is indeed near the settlement of Darvaza as stated in the message. However, Darvaza is located in Turkmenistan, not Uzbekistan. Both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are in the same region of central Asia. Turkmenistan has one of the largest gas reserves in the world.
Although, Darvaza, and Turkmenistan itself, are off the major tourist routes and tend to be visited by only the more adventurous travelers, a number of photographs of the burning gas pit have made their way onto the Internet. The photographs included above appear to be part of a series taken by John Bradley during a trip to the region in 2007. The same photographs appear in a post on EnglishRussia.com and on many other websites. Other photographs showing the pit in daylight hours are available on photo-sharing website, flickr. The following YouTube video also offers views of the burning crater:
According to this version of the message, the fire has been burning for thirty five years, implying that the accident described occurred in the 1970's. Some sources put the date of the initial accident back to the 1950's. Most references claim that the burning pit is the remains of a giant underground cavern that collapsed during exploration and was then purposely ignited as a means of burning off escaping gas. However, there appears to be little information available that provides a detailed description of the cavern collapse and the circumstances surrounding it. Writer and blogger Joshua Kucera notes:
One of the coolest things I did in Turkmenistan was to visit the Darvaza burning gas crater. This is in the middle of nowhere, about a three-hour drive through the desert north of Ashgabat.
It's 60 meters in diameter and was apparently created sometime in the 50s when the Soviets were prospecting for natural gas in this area. Thatís all the guidebook says, and when we got there I asked my guide for a more complete explanation. So, how exactly was this made, I asked. "It was natural," was the answer. So, I still donít know. If anyone has any information Iíd be very grateful to hear it.
I would likewise be grateful to find out more concrete details about Darvaza's burning pit. If you know of such details, please let me know.