There are about 1,000 mud volcanoes bubbling up on our planet, and around 400 of these are concentrated around the Gobustan State Reserve in Azerbaijan. While usually they sputter along with some sudden explosions in the air, they’ve also been attributed to the deaths of six shepherds and an astounding 2,000 sheep.

article-image(photograph by Claire à Taiwan)

In 2001, one even bursted to 49 feet in the sky. As one local recounted: 

It looked as though an animal was trying to get out of the ground […] There was a big explosion, and a huge flame started coming from the hillside […] The flame was unbelievably big, about three hundred meters high. It was surrounded by dense, black smoke, and lots of mud was being thrown into the air.

And three days later, the flames were still smoldering. Yet ordinarily the mud that moves like magma is calm, or at least only slightly irritable due to the pockets of gas that are beneath the earth. The mud is actually cold, only just above freezing, rather than hot, and the curious phenomenon is sometimes cited as an influence on the development of Zoroastrianism.

article-image(photograph by Rita Willaert)

There might be another reason to keep an eye on the mud volcanoes. Some speculate that there are mud volcanoes on Mars, and with the increasing interest in manned exploration of the Red Planet, perhaps prospective space travelers might want to play out in the Azerbaijan mud. 

MUD VOLCANOES OF AZERBAIJAN, Gobustan State Reserve, Azerbaijan

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