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In NPR's podcast and transcript For 50 years, 'The Gates Of Hell' crater has burned. Now officials want to put it out

NPR's Scott Simon speaks to George Kourounis, Royal Canadian Geographical Society's explorer-in-residence, about the possible closing of "The Gates of Hell," a natural gas field in Turkmenistan.

SIMON: You sound like you like this place.

KOUROUNIS: Twelve people have stood on the surface of the moon, but only one person has been to the Gates of Hell. And I was very fortunate to be able to go there. And I even have the Guinness World Record certificate above my desk to help commemorate that. So I get a kick out of that every time I see it.

Question: Exactly what "Gates of Hell" Guinness World Record did Royal Canadian Geographical Society's explorer-in-residence George Kourounis receive?

"Twelve people have stood on the surface of the moon, but only one person has been to the Gates of Hell." Exactly what Guinness World Record did Royal Canadian Geographical Society's explorer-in-residence George Kourounis receive?

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According to the Guinness Book of World Records site, George Kourounis holds the record as the first person to reach the bottom:

The first person to reach the bottom of Darvaza gas crater is George Kourounis (Canada), and was achieved at the Darvaza gas crater in Darvaza, Turkmenistan on 6 October 2013.


More details from the same website.

In November 2013, explorer and storm-chaser George Kourounis (Canada) became the first known person to venture into the blazing Darvaza Crater located in a natural gas field in the Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan. Also known as the “Door to Hell”, the fiery feature has been ablaze since 1971, when it’s widely believed that the ground caved in as a result of drilling and the pit was intentionally set alight to burn off the leaking gas. Wearing an insulated aluminium suit and using a custom-made Kevlar climbing harness, Kourounis descended to the crater’s base to collect rock samples. Later lab tests revealed bacteria living on the rocks, proving that life can survive the extreme temperatures which reach in excess of 1,000°C (1,830°F).

The crater is 69 m (225 ft) wide and 30 m (99 ft) deep.

Kourounis' expedition was financially backed by National Geographic and travel company Kensington Tours.

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