‘Burning Mountain’: The mysterious underground fire that has been burning in Australia for 6000 years

A view of Australia’s burning mountain, the center of the oldest and most mysterious underground fire

In a national park four hours’ drive north of Sydney in Australia, fires have been raging out of control – and at least they’ve been doing it 6000 years old.

known as burning mountain Or “Burning Mountain,” this mysterious underground fire is the oldest known on the planet. Some scientists estimate that it may be much older than we currently think.

The fire is located under Mount Wengen in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Wingen means “fire” in the language of the local Wanaruah people, the traditional guardianship of the earth. His enthusiasm is underground It’s a coal fire, one of thousands of fires burning anywhere, all the time, all over the world.

Once these fires are lit underground, it is almost impossible to put them out. slowly but intensely They travel through layers of coal, a naturally occurring layer below the Earth’s surface.

“No one knows the size of the fire below burning mountainIt can only be inferred.” He says ScienceAlert Guillermo Ryan, Professor of Fire Science at Imperial College London in the United Kingdom.

“It would probably be a ball about 5 to 10 meters in diameter, and its temperature would reach 1,000 degrees Celsius.‘, he explains.

visited rin burning mountain In 2014, it was on his field trip list.

Beneath this white and red earth is a gigantic ancient fire (Beruthiel / Wikimedia, public domain)
Beneath this white and red earth is a gigantic ancient fire (Beruthiel / Wikimedia, public domain)

Unlike a typical fire, Coal seam fire burning underground, which means there is no flame and looks more like a barbecue ember than a typical charcoal fire. It is not to be confused with the more dramatic coal gas fires, which have been known to set fires to waterways.

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Wenjin mountain fire is currently raging around 30 meters underground and moving south at a speed of about 1 meter per year.

The natural park in which it is located is open to tourists who have little evidence of its existence Smoke, white ash, and earth warm to the touch, discolored yellow and red rocks, and a sulfur smell emanating as if from underground from the minerals beneath the mountain that had been cooked up by an underground fire. Something, however, is almost invisible to a poorly trained eye.

But even though it is now almost invisible, the path the fire took can be seen upon closer investigation, using Recently burned areas covered with ash and devoid of plant life.

Reserva Natural, Burning Mountain in Australia
Reserva Natural, Burning Mountain in Australia

“In front of the fire where you did not reach, you can see this beautiful eucalyptus forest. Where the fire is now there is absolutely nothing alive, not even grass,” Rin says. “And where the fire broke out 20 or 30 years ago, the forest is back, but it’s a different forest, the fire formed the landscape.”

Many coal seam fires, especially those in India, China and the United States, are caused by human intervention, such as coal mining. for example The infamous blaze beneath Centralia, Pennsylvania, the now deserted city that inspired Silent Hill, which It has been burning for nearly 60 years.

But that’s just the blink of an eye compared to thousands of years ago Burning mountain.

Who set the fire?

Interestingly enough, no one is sure why it turned on first.

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The first documented European sighting was in 1828. When a local worker announced that he had discovered a volcano in the area of ​​Mount Wengen.

One year later, in 1829, Geologist Reverend CBN Wilton concluded that the alleged volcano was in fact a coal seam fire. Since then, measurements have shown that the course of the fire covers about 6.5 kilometers, Which indicates that it lasted for at least 6000 years. But other than that, no official investigation has been conducted in the area.

The site is considered sacred by the traditional guards, the Wanaruah people, who used it for cooking and for making weapons. Their original stories tell of a widow whose tears set a fire, or the torch of his family’s “evil” warrior under a mountain.

According to Wren, natural causes are the most likely source.

Mount Wengen painting by Emma Macpherson, 1833-1915 (Wikimedia Commons)
Mount Wengen painting by Emma Macpherson, 1833-1915 (Wikimedia Commons)

“anthropogenic interference cannot be ruled out, but it is most likely natural causes,” explains. “It could be a massive fire of lightning that ignited a bulge. Or it could be self-heating ignition.”

Self-heating ignition occurs when the coal contact is close enough to the surface for the coal to be exposed to oxygen. If there are enough sunny and hot days in a row—something we’ll see more of with climate change—the surface of the coal gets hot enough to heat the next piece in the seam, eventually causing ignition.

Studies show that The self-heating point of coal can range from 35 to 140 degrees Celsius.

Perhaps most remarkable is that the exact age of the fire is also unknown. The researchers found evidence that the fire itself may have been burning for much longer.

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It’s not just about 6000 years old, but at least 6000 years old.”Rin says. “It could be hundreds of thousands of years old.”

Underground coal vein, Burning Mountain Nature Reserve
Underground coal vein, Burning Mountain Nature Reserve

This guide is unpublished and has not been peer-reviewed. So it should be taken with caution. But it adds to the mystery of this little-studied fire.

How long will Mount Wengen burn? Nobody knows that either; It is not known how far the coal seam extends or where it goes next. At the moment, there is no shortage of oxygen supply.

“As the fire progresses, the mountain heats up causing it to expand and crack, allowing oxygen in for the fire to advance. The fire produces its own chimney and its own oxygen supply,” Highlights.

“It can burn for thousands of years without human intervention,” finish.

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