First person to explore the Darvaza Crater
George Kourounis
First first
Turkmenistan ()

In November 2013, explorer and storm-chaser George Kourounis (Canada) became the first known person to venture into the blazing Darvaza Crater located in a natural gas field in the Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan. Also known as the “Door to Hell”, the fiery feature has been ablaze since 1971, when it’s widely believed that the ground caved in as a result of drilling and the pit was intentionally set alight to burn off the leaking gas. Wearing an insulated aluminium suit and using a custom-made Kevlar climbing harness, Kourounis descended to the crater’s base to collect rock samples. Later lab tests revealed bacteria living on the rocks, proving that life can survive the extreme temperatures which reach in excess of 1,000°C (1,830°F).

The crater is 69 m (225 ft) wide and 30 m (99 ft) deep.

Kourounis' expedition was financially backed by National Geographic and travel company Kensington Tours.