If a crater has insides that are glowing red with a heat that reaches nearly 800 degrees Celsius (1400 degrees Fahrenheit) but only measures 80 cm (31 inches) across, does that qualify it as a “gateway” to hell or is it more of a window or possibly just a peephole to hell? When it comes to entrances to hell, does size really matter? That’s one question people are asking in Urumqi, China, where construction workers found a fiery hot hole in the ground that incinerates tree branches placed close to the opening.
Why would Hellmouth open in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang in northwestern China? It might be because the city is in the Guinness Book of Records as the most remote city from any sea in the world, with the nearest coastline being 2,500 km (1,600 mi) away. Or Urumqi might be homey to the residents of hell since it’s one of the most polluted cities in the world, with a year-round heavy haze of sulfurous air choking the over 3 million people who live there.
Geologist Hu Tan says the little gateway to hell in Urumqi is actually a gateway to an underground coal bed that has spontaneously combusted. That’s also the opinion of fire expert Chen Long.
Primitive mining and extinguishing techniques caused coal to burn deep under the ground. Operators didn’t seal the mines properly after business discontinued and this leads the underground fire to burn towards the surface of the earth.
The hole will be sealed off but there’s no guarantee the fire will be extinguished or that more flaming craters will open nearby.
As possible gateways to hell go, the 80 cm Urumqi is nothing compared to the “Door to Hell,” the Darvaza Crater in northern Turkmenistan which measures 69 meters (225 feet) wide and 30 meters (99 feet) deep and is kept flaming by natural gas reserves.
And it’s nowhere near as deep as the Well to Hell, the Kola Superdeep Borehole in Russia whose drill reached 12,262 meters (40,230 ft) but brought up no hellish artifacts or nor released voices of the damned, despite rumors by an American religious television network.
While the keyhole to hell is capped in Urumqi, the search for the gateway will undoubtedly continue.