With that impressive blaze behind you, there’s no doubt this photo will get some followers. The feed goes live from the crater’s edge when your foot slips. The toxic gas scorches your lungs and the deadly pit rises to meet you.
Brace for impact and make your peace. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Shrouded in lost paperwork and eternal flames, the Darvaza crater is a monument to miscalculations and nature’s fury.
Located in central Turkmenistan, a massive sinkhole formed when an alleged Soviet oil drilling project hit a gas cavern in 1971. To stop the poisonous methane gas (CH4) from escaping further, scientists set fire to the crater, estimating the flames would die down after a few weeks.
Fifty years later, the fire still rages, an attraction known to locals and tourists as the Door to Hell. But if you slipped into the crater, could you survive the fall? What should you wear? How long until you burn?
In November 2013, geologist and adventurer George Kourounis became the first human to journey deep into the Door to Hell. Wearing a custom Kevlar suit designed to resist fire and reflect heat, he rappelled into the flaming void, touching the floor of the crater and living to tell about it.
This scientist commissioned the special equipment he needed to survive. While most probably can’t afford this setup, follow these steps and you might get through this hell on Earth.
Step 1: Keep Your Body Limp
With a drop-off of almost eight stories high, or about 102 feet, falling off the edge of this fenceless crater could be fatal. According to a 2011 report, people who fall from over 30 meters (99 ft) die 100 percent of the time.
But if you try this modified parachuting technique developed by the United States Army, your chances of surviving such an impact increase. Cover your head, then bring your knees and feet together.
Bend your knees slightly and point the balls of your feet downward. Stay focused out to the horizon, not the ground. As you hit the crater floor, tightly wrap your arms around your body, hugging your elbows close and land on your side.
This will keep you safer from brain damage and paralysis. With your knees loose and slightly bent, you might redistribute your weight enough from the impact so you walk away instead of crawl.
Step 2: Remain Calm
When three filmmakers crashed into the Kilauea Volcano in 1992, the survivors were stuck along a steep rock wall that crumbled as they attempted to escape. Trapped in this hellscape for over 24 hours, the crew went without food or sleep until they were eventually evacuated one by one.
By keeping calm and waiting for the rescue team to appear, this group barely managed to survive. But the Darvaza crater is a human engineered disaster attracting extreme tourists from all over the world.
With so many people wanting to document their trip to hell, chances are you’ll never be completely alone. If you find yourself at the bottom of this crater, keep your composure and grab the attention of people above to contact the proper authorities.
Step 3: Keep Covered
While a T-shirt and shorts seem practical at the surface, in this furnace, exposed skin could kill you. This heat will dehydrate your skin into leather.
Keep your skin covered in protective gear and wear a mask with goggles to shield your face and eyes from any floating particles. And leave your contacts out, or they could melt into your eyes.
Step 4: Avoid Gas Pockets
Take comfort however, because long before you burn, it’s more likely that you’ll choke out from the noxious fumes. With all the char and hot air coming in through every breath, your lungs will roast from the inside out. Whether you’re walking or crawling, find the coolest areas possible before these deadly contaminants cut off your oxygen completely.
Step 5: Keep Your Arms Straight
Mountain climbers train for years before facing cliffs this steep. That’s time you don’t have. But if you employ their experienced techniques, you might be able to hoist yourself back to the top.
Keep your arms straight to allow your bones to take the weight, otherwise your muscles will tire quickly and give out. Push your hip against the wall as you grab the overhanging rock.
Look for handholds that will allow you to rest for a moment. Giving your body the time it needs to recoup could be the difference between coming home or falling back down. With the ability to shift your weight at this angle, you might be the second person in history to climb out of this pit alive.
You’ve kept your calm and your arms straight, and now the door to hell slams behind you. But the winds rise and wrap around the licking flames. As this fiery column gains speed, how will you survive this fire tornado?
- “Q&A: The First-Ever Expedition To Turkmenistan’s “Door To Hell””. 2014. nationalgeographic.com.
- “3 People Die After Falling Into Volcanic Crater “. Ghose, Tia. 2017. livescience.com.
- “Snowmobiler Survives 1,500 Foot Fall Into Mt. St. Helens”. Speik, Robert. 2020. traditionalmountaineering.org.
- “How To Fall 35,000 Feet And Survive”. 2010. Popular Mechanics.
- “3 DEFY DEATH IN VOLCANO CRATER”. Service, New. 1992. chicagotribune.com.
- “CAMERAMAN LIFTED OUT OF VOLCANO”. 1992. Deseret News.