The Gates of Hell
In every list of the most WTF things on this planet, this doorway to hell is on it. Burning since 1971, it’s 230 feet wide and was caused by a Soviet drilling rig, that accidentally hit a massive cavern full of natural gas.
The ground collapsed, the rig fell in and poisonous fumes started to leak out. To avoid an environmental catastrophe, they lit the pocket on fire, hoping to burn off the gas. 40 years later, it’s still going.
Fire Mountain (Yanar Dag)
Way back in the 13th century, Marco Polo wrote that there were mysterious flames that were found all over this unexplored area. Since then, it’s fostered legends and religions.
These natural flames are attributed to the enormous gas reserves under the ground. While most of the natural flames died out as the gas began to be exported, there’s still a massive wall of flame at Yanar Dag. According to local legend, a shepard accidentally tossed his lit cigarette away in the 1950’s, and started the whole thing.
The Burning Mountain
While we know what’s happening at the surface of Australia lately, not many know that it’s been also burning from below for over 6,000 years. Just under the surface of New South Wales, there’s a coal seam that’s been smoldering, and moving along the mountain at a rate of one meter/year.
While coal seams are pretty common all over, one of this magnitude and duration is really something to marvel over. So while it does bring in a decent share of tourists and whatnot, it’s also caused some ecological damage to the area’s vegetation.
The Fire Temple of Baku
Situated on the Abseron Peninsula, this temple was built over a natural gas vent. Dating back to the 17th century, this place is an amazing sight to behold. At one time it was the site of both Hindu and Zoroastrian worship, but then was abandoned in the late 19th century.
Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site.
From afar, this looks like any other mountain, but up close, it’s kinda frightening. There are tiny flames that dance in the little caves and gaps in the mountainside, fuelled by methane pockets. It’s been this way for over 2,500 years.
It’s said that in the past, sailors have used the mountain’s flames as a beacon. Today, hikers use the fires to brew their tea or roast marshmallows.
It’s also rumoured that this was the mountain that inspired the legend of the fiery Chimera in Homer’s Iliad.
New Castle, Colorado
Coal fires are a pretty common thing all over the world, but one town in Colorado has it’s fair share. There are easily 25 burning fires within 10 miles of New Castle, CO. One of them, has been burning since 1896 when the Vulcan Mine exploded, killing 49 men.
Despite that, the Vulcan was reopened a few years later, until another explosion and fire in 1913 that killed another 37 men. Sadly, that didn’t deter people from using the mine and more died during WWI, when they were mining for sulphur.
Now, it just burns alone.
Eternal Flame Falls – Chestnut Ridge County Park
Orchard Park, New York
Honestly, of all the hot places on this list, I’ve got a burning desire to check this one out in person. Seriously, pardon the joke and look at this.
At the heart of this waterfall is a small flame that’s fed by a natural gas pocket. Given its location, sometimes it goes out. But there’s always a hiker with a lighter, who puts the flame back into place and leaves it for the next person.
There’s a ghost town in Pennsylvania that’s been sitting on a toxic coal fire since 1962. Despite several attempts to extinguish it, the fire remained. In 1981, a 12-year-old boy fell into a 150-foot hole that just opened up, and by 1984, residents were asked to relocate. The town was abandoned and condemned by 1992. What makes this place more surreal, is that all the buildings were torn down, and all that’s left are empty streets, seeping smoke.
Chamchamal Fire Well
While we’ve seen a waterfall with a flame behind it, seeing water that’s actually on fire is a new one. But given that this area is so rich with oil and natural gas, it’s not surprising.
This well was dug 2 years ago, and somehow, it caught fire. It’s been consuming 2,200 litres of gas per day, and causes the water around it to boil continuously.
The Smoking Hills
Inuvik, Northwest Territories
Sitting right on the Arctic Ocean, these red-striped rocks have been burning for centuries. First noticed by Irish explorer Robert McClure in the 1800s when he came to the Canadian arctic to find the remains of the Franklin Expedition, they’ve been a sight to see ever since.
This area is loaded with oil shales and brown coal, that tends to ignite when exposed to oxygen when the hills erode and burn further.