The more biologists look, the stranger the places they find life. Whether it’s in the boiling mud ponds of Yellowstone or in radioactive seams miles beneath the surface of the Earth, microbes seem capable of surviving just about anywhere. That’s why one team is heading to the deep desert of Turkmenistan to see if life can even thrive at the Door to Hell.
Forget the Belinda Carlisle hit. Hell is a place on Earth, too. Quite literally, in fact. Deep within the deserts of Turkmenistan lies the Door to Hell, as it’s known to the locals. It’s a 230 foot wide boiling pit of flames, mud, and sulphur fumes created from the region’s enormous natural gas reserves, and it’s been burning non-stop since Soviet petrochemical scientists set it alight back in 1971.
However within this burning landscape, a team of researchers led by Canadian explorer George Kourounis, hope to uncover unknown forms of microbes that may help them better understand how and where exoplanetary life might be hiding. But first, Kourounis must first zipline to the center of the crater and descend to its floor to collect samples. Eat your heart out, Steve Zissou.