Since we were talking about the ocean earlier, I got to thinking about bacteria in extreme conditions!
Darvaza Crater – “Door to Hell”
Figure 1–The Darvaza Carter in Turkmenistan.
The Darvaza Crater, commonly referred to as the “Door to Hell”, has been burning at 1000°C since it was set on fire over four decades ago. It is approximately 225 feet wide and 99 feet deep. When the local government considered filling the methane-filled pit in, a Canadian explorer, George Kourounis, decided that he wanted to investigate the flaming crater. His experience can be seen on the National Geographic series “Die Trying.”
George practiced, prepared, and assembled a team for a year and a half beforehand. They practiced with a rope-rigging system over a river gorge with all his supplies for the excursion: heat-reflective suit, self-contained breathing apparatus, and the climbing harness. The harness was custom-made of Kevlar because a regular climbing harness would melt under the extreme heat.
He even hired a stunt coordinator to light him on fire so that he would be prepared for the flames. That’s some dedication!
Figure 2— George inside the crater.
Once inside the crater, he needed to be aware of checking his air, clearing the ropes, gathering samples, and preparing the video amongst other things. As such, he says he didn’t feel afraid. He described the scenery as a “coliseum of fire.” There was no smoke and the sound was loud like a jet engine.
They found some bacteria in the soil samples that were not present outside the crater. Their presence was sparse, but they were able to survive in such an extreme environment. This may indicate that planets we’ve previously considered to be uninhabitable may contain life.
Charlton, Corey. “See you in Hell: Explorer becomes the first person to descend Turkmenistan’s 1000C pit of fire which has not stopped burning since 1971” (6 May 2015). Available
Nunez, Christina. “Q&A: The First-Ever Expedition to Turkmenistan’s ‘Door to Hell’” (17 Jul 2014). Available