The First Man to Descend into Turkmenistan’s Door to Hell

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Image: George Kourounis

Kourounis says “we” because of course he was not alone. Indeed, the expedition party to Turkmenistan comprised six people: Kourounis, two riggers in charge of the rope system, an expedition coordinator, a logistics manager, and a microbiologist to collect samples from the crater’s edges – and analyze anything Kourounis retrieved from its lowest extremity. Together, they orchestrated the inaugural manned expedition into Darvaza’s depths. None of them, though, would have been able to save Kourounis had something unforeseen happened.

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Image: George Kourounis

Unsurprisingly for such a treacherous task, parts of the journey down into the Door to Hell were fraught with danger and fear. As Kourounis explains, “At the very end of the descent, things started to get a bit crazy. My air quality alarm started to go off as I got close to the largest flames. That wasn’t so bad, though, because I had my own air supply with me; the real issue was that after about 15 minutes into the descent, I started to run low on air.”

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