Leaping lizards! Is this the wormhole to Satan's pad that has opened for the impending Judgment Day? Not quite. Gawk in terror at "The Door to Hell," a charred mouth of fire in the desolate Karakum Desert of Turkmenistan. (Video after the jump.) The 350 inhabitants of nearby Darvaza (also called Darvaz, or Derweze) must spend every single night in their yurts thinking up minor sins to repent for.
Or more like they're probably just counting their duckets. This blasted pit is a valued stop on the Turkmenistan tourist circuit, so much as it exists, for both its wild appearance and bizarre history. The hell door has been burning for decades. While reliable information about its origins is scarce (where is National Geographic when you need it?), it seems that in the early '70s either geologists or Soviet oil prospectors (which could be one and the same) tapped into an underground lacuna filled with natural gas. The ground collapsed and poisonous gas started leaking out. To get rid of it, someone threw a match down there and waited.
And waited, and waited. This thing is still burning about 40 years later. So leave your propane and propane accessories behind if you ever travel to Darvaz; the grilling opportunities are plentiful and free. (More great pictures are available here and here.)