Home Uncategorized This fire in Australia has been burning for 6,000 years

This fire in Australia has been burning for 6,000 years

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The world’s oldest continuous fire has been burning beneath an Australian mountain since around 4000 BC. 

You’ve probably heard of the coal seam gas fire that blazes uncontrollably beneath the now-abandoned town of Centralia in Pennsylvania, US – the town that the creepy video game and film Silent Hill was based on.
But,
while it’s been disruptive, this fire has only been burning for the
past 53 years – a relative blink of an eye when you consider that in
Australia a similar blaze has been smouldering for an estimated 6,000
years, long before the country was settled by Europeans.
Visible
only as some foul-smelling steam, the coal seam blaze is contained 30
metres below the surface of Mount Wingen (which means “fire” in the
local Aboriginal language) or Burning Mountain, located in the state of
New South Wales. And it’s officially the oldest fire on the planet, that
we know of at least.
No one is sure what first ignited the coal seam fire, but according to the stories of the traditional Wanaruah people, it’s been used by Aboriginal groups for thousands of years for warmth, cooking and to help make tools.
It
was first discovered by European settlers in 1828, when it was falsely
assumed that the heat was caused by volcanic activity. 

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According to Sarah Zhang from Gizmodo,
the ignition: “Could have been a lightning strike, forest fire,
spontaneous combustion, or even Aboriginal burning practices could even
have been the initial spark.”
While it’s not a very habitable
area, the region has now become something of a tourist attraction, with
its surface temperatures of around 350 degrees Celsius and the smell of
acrid sulphur being released.
But although it’s a pretty novel
thing to see, coal seam fires like this one aren’t rare, in fact it’s
estimated that around 1,000 are burning around the planet at any one
time. 
And it’s likely that many of them will continue to do so
for a long time to come. Because, as Guillermo Rein, an expert on
subterranean fires from the University of Edinburgh at Scotland told Andrew C. Revkin for the New York Times, they’re pretty much impossible to put out:
“Smouldering
fires, the slow, low-temperature, flameless form of combustion, are an
important phenomena in the Earth system, and the most persistent type of
combustion. The most important fuels involved in smouldering fires are
coal and peat. Once ignited, these fires are particularly difficult to
extinguish despite extensive rains, weather changes or firefighting
attempts, and can persist for long periods of time (months, years),
spreading deep (5 meters) and over extensive areas of forest subsurface.
Indeed, smouldering fires are the longest continuously burning fires on
Earth.”

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