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Why These 7 Eternal Flames Around The World Keep On Burning

The president of Turkmenistan announced plans this year to extinguish the country's famous "Gates of Hell" gas crater. But it's by no means the only one of its kind. We rounded up the eternal flames still burning in all corners of the globe.

Photo of a man taking a picture of Turkmenistan's Gates of Hell gas crater's giant flames

Turkmenistan's "Gates of Hell" gas crater.

On Jan. 8, Turkmenistan’s leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, known for his authoritarian tendencies, announced on television that he had set his sights on the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the “Gates of Hell”, a mysterious vat of flames that has been spewing fire for over 50 years in the Karakum Desert.

The burning crater is one of the central Asian country’s few tourist attractions, yet President Berdymukhamedov has ordered it extinguished once and for all, saying the methane-belching pit was bad for the environment and locals’ health, while also representing a lost opportunity for the impoverished nation to capture marketable gas.

Even If Turkmenistan is set to clean up and close down its “Gates of Hell,” this doesn’t necessarily spell the end for fans of eternal fires. Here are seven still burning from Iraq and Taiwan to the U.S. and beyond.

Baba Gurgur, Iraq

Photo of a tank and soldiers near Baba Gurgur

Soldiers near Baba Gurgur


Baba Gurgur, (بابە گوڕگوڕ) which translates to “Father of Fire'' in Kurdish is located near the city of Kirkuk, in Northern Iraq. This place was known as the world's largest oilfield in the world, until the Ghawar Field was found in Saudi Arabia in 1948, and is home to an Eternal fire, claimed to have been burning for some 4,000 years.

The flames, burning for thousands of years over a small patch of land in the oil field, have inspired legends and hope for locals who believed it had magical properties.

Yanartas, Turkey

Photo of a kid standing next to Yanartas's Mount Chimaera eternal fire

Yanartas's Mount Chimaera eternal fire


Known in Turkish as Yanartas, meaning “Burning Rock,” Mount Chimaera features a cluster of small flames that burn on a rocky mountainside. The dozen little fires are caused by methane gas vents and have been burning for an estimated 2,500 years.

Visitors have reported that at night it looked like “hell itself has come to pay a visit.” This odd geographical site is believed to be where the legend of the chimera, a mythical fire-breathing creature made of goat, lion and a lion serpent’s body, came up.

Eternal Flame Falls, United States

Photo of Eternal Flame Falls in Chestnut Ridge County Park

Eternal Flame Falls in Chestnut Ridge County Park


This eternal flame flickers inside a grotto, just behind a waterfall in Chestnut Ridge County Park in the U.S. state of New York, south of the Canadian border. This fire, visible throughout the year — even when the waterfall freezes over! — is fueled by a natural gas deposit believed to be coming from a natural hydrocarbon seep.

Sometimes, all it needs is a little help from tourists and passersby to be reignited.

The Burning Water ( 水火同源), Taiwan

File:水火同源.JPG - Wikimedia Commonscommons.wikimedia.org

Similar to the eternal flame falls in New York, this eternal flame burns close to water. The Hot Spring Eternal Flame is located in Guanziling in Taiwan and is said to have been started by an earthquake that opened a fissure in the earth. It has been burning for more than 300 years, fueled by methane gas deposits beneath. The fire then escapes from a crack in the rocks near pools of hot springs.

Gates of Hell, Turkmenistan

Photo of a man standing on a rock to take a picture of Turkmenistan's Gates of Hell

Turkmenistan's Gates of Hell


The Karakum Desert burning crater is considered mysterious, but most believe it is the result of a Soviet drilling accident that hit a gas cavern in 1971. The ground then collapsed, and the hole was reportedly lit on fire to prevent natural gas from spreading and has been burning since that day in the gigantic crater.

Turkmenistan has vowed to gather top scientists to figure out how to extinguish the Gates of Hell, although there are no current estimates on how much the operation might cost.

Centralia, United States

Photo of people standing next to a cracked highway from subsurface coal fire near Centralia, Pennsylvania

Cracked highway from subsurface coal fire near Centralia, Pennsylvania


Located in a quiet valley of Columbia County, Pennsylvania, Centralia was once a bustling mining center with a population of roughly 1,000 people. It has since become a smoldering ghost town, after an uncontrollable coal mine fire forced the evacuation of almost all of its residents in 1984. The fire spread from the surface to the underground seams and has kept burning since.

As of 2020, Centralia only had five residents left, who, in spite of being surrounded by smoking rubble, continue living life as normal.

​Murchison, New Zealand

Photo of a man standing next to eternal flames at Murchison, New Zeland

Eternal flames at Murchison, New Zeland


The tiny, isolated New Zealand village of Murchison is home to a perplexing cauldron of smokeless flames, which have been burning since the 1920s. Legend has it that two hunters took a break and sat down in the bush to smoke. One threw away his match, suddenly igniting natural gas which was leaking from the ground right next to him. This bizarre bowl of flames has kept burning ever since.

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Chinese Students' "Absurd" Protest Against COVID Lockdowns: Public Crawling

While street demonstrations have spread in China to protest the strict Zero-COVID regulations, some Chinese university students have taken up public acts of crawling to show what extended harsh lockdowns are doing to their mental state.

​Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling on a soccer pitch

Screenshot of a video showing Chinese students crawling

Shuyue Chen

Since last Friday, the world has watched a wave of street protests have taken place across China as frustration against extended lockdowns reached a boiling point. But even before protesters took to the streets, Chinese university students had begun a public demonstration that challenges and shames the state's zero-COVID rules in a different way: public displays of crawling, as a kind of absurdist expression of their repressed anger under three years of strict pandemic control.

Xin’s heart was beating fast as her knees reached the ground. It was her first time joining the strange scene at the university sports field, so she put on her hat and face mask to cover her identity.

Kneeling down, with her forearms supporting her body from the ground, Xin started crawling with three other girls as a group, within a larger demonstration of other small groups. As they crawled on, she felt the sense of fear and embarrassment start to disappear. It was replaced by a liberating sense of joy, which had been absent in her life as a university student in lockdown for so long.

Yes, crawling in public has become a popular activity among Chinese university students recently. There have been posters and videos of "volunteer crawling" across universities in China. At first, it was for the sake of "fun." Xin, like many who participated, thought it was a "cult-like ritual" in the beginning, but she changed her mind. "You don't care about anything when crawling, not thinking about the reason why, what the consequences are. You just enjoy it."

The reality out there for Chinese university students has been grim. For Xin, her university started daily COVID-19 testing in November, and deliveries, including food, are banned. Apart from the school gate, all exits have been padlock sealed.

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