Fire is nature’s deadliest force, so what do you do when it becomes unstoppable? Atlas Obscura pulled together some of the most fascinating manmade and natural eternal flames around the world. But visitors beware: get too close to these fiery beauties and you just might get burned.
The Gates of Hell, Turkmenistan In 1971 a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punched a hole into a massive underground natural gas pocket, forcing the ground to collapse and erupt in flame, swallowing the drilling rig whole. This crater still sits alight, forever known as the Gates of Hell.
Coal Mine Catastrophe, Pennsylvania A rich vein of coal sits in Cenralia, Pennsylvania, one that would be immensely profitable if it wasn’t, say, constantly consumed in flames. Unfortunately, in 1962 this coal mine erupted in fire, and despite numerous attempts, hasn’t stopped burning since. The entire town was condemned in 1992, but that hasn’t stopped nine steadfast residents from still calling the area their home.
Smoking Mountain, Ethiopia What’s worse than an insufferably hot and politically unstable desert? One that houses the world’s longest lava lake. This massive pool of liquid fire maintains the delicate balance between hot and cool, ensuring that the molten rock stays, well, molten. Though largely inaccessible (there are no trees, few roads, and the local population isn’t always enthusiastic to see foreigners), this rare still-active volcano has nonetheless become a popular destination for self-proclaimed adventure travelers.
Chimaera Flames, Olympos, Turkey In Greek Mythology a Chimaera was a fire-breathing beast, and visiting this mountain, it’s not hard to see why. Flames literally spring up directly from the rock, due purportedly to either the area’s natural gas emission or volcanic activity. Though they can be temporarily extinguished by dirt, the flames reignite on their own when uncovered.
Curtain of Fire, Hawaii (http://atlasobscura.com/place/curtain-of-fire): The world’s most active volcano, this Hawaiian beast defies volcanic expectations by remaining flat. Instead of erupting, it maintains a constant flow of lava, causing the top shell to crack and shoot out a wall of sheer fire into the sky.