Mount Wingen has been smoldering for 6000 years without stop. Just below the surface of the earth in New South Wales, a coal seam has been burning and slowly moving south along the mountain at a rate of one meter per year. In its history, the seam has covered a total area of 6.5 km, making it the oldest continuous coal fire in the world.
Coal seams are extremely common across the world, and at any time there are more than 1000 burning. They happen frequently in lesser-developed mineral rich countries, but are often put out within a few days or at most a month. Considering the average duration of a coal seam fire, Mount Wingen’s fiery longevity has become something of a wonder across the globe and tourists have flocked to see the sulfur-tinged smoke emanating from the mountain.
Although Mount Wingen has attracted tourists in droves, it has also caused massive ecological damage to the area’s vegetation. The path of the fire has left a barren and rocky trail, with no traces of life. Most assumed the fire was caused by volcanic activity, but it is now clear coal was ignited by a lightning strike or brushfire thousands of years earlier. The area is administered by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service and is a natural reserve.