The Smoking Hills
June 14, 2015 7:19 PM   Subscribe

Up in Northern Canada, a bit of the Arctic coastline has been smouldering away for centuries.
posted by bismol (17 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, I had never heard of this. How cool.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:22 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Relevant (albeit a product of man's hubris).
posted by belarius at 7:26 PM on June 14, 2015

I thought this was going to be about the B.C. pot heads, northern lights, etc.

Interesting stuff, though.
posted by Andrew Thewes at 7:30 PM on June 14, 2015

How cool.

Glad you like it, 'cause the whole Arctic is scary flammable and getting moreso by the minute as all the methane-filled permafrost melts. Methane burns a lot better than that crummy brown coal. Should be a pretty great show. Bring some marshmallows.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:54 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oh, that's just ol' Sam McGee's place. He always did keep the heat up too high.
posted by darksasami at 8:21 PM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]

There's also the Centralia mine fire, which has been burning for 50 years and may burn for another 250 before it exhausts the available fuel.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:50 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]

Meanwhile, in Australia:
The underground fire is estimated to be at a depth of around 30 m (100 ft). The scientific estimate is that the fire has burned for approximately 6,000 years and is the oldest known coal fire.
posted by robcorr at 9:13 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Interesting. I thought the Burning Mountain coal-seam fire in New South Wales was the oldest known (@ ~6000 years), but the Google Books link above suggests this one may date back even further?
posted by Pinback at 9:21 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Aha! Not quite snap, but certainly lack-of-preview on my part ;)
posted by Pinback at 9:22 PM on June 14, 2015

It could always be worse.

I wonder how long it can smoulder for?
posted by GuyZero at 9:51 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]

These kinds of things really shouldn't be tourist attractions, because they tend to produce a lot of carbon monoxide -- which has no odor and can kill you stone dead faster than you'd believe.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thankfully the Canadian one is super polite and

a) produces a lot of stinky sulphur by-products
b) is at the edge of nowhere
posted by GuyZero at 10:14 PM on June 14, 2015

belarius: "Relevant (albeit a product of man's hubris)."

What did you do to prepare for the expedition? How did you protect yourself?

The hardest part was finding pants big enough to cover my tremendous pair of testicles. Really, my balls are huge. They don't make pants with ball room that large. I had to have them specially made.
posted by Splunge at 11:51 PM on June 14, 2015

Spontaneous burning of bituminous shales at the Smoking Hills in the Canadian Arctic has produced intense acidic fumigations and strongly influenced the local tundra. The burns are of great antiquity. In an area of typically alkaline ponds with pH above 8.0, ponds within the fumigation zone have been acidified below pH 2.0. Elevated concentrations of metals (aluminium, iron, zinc, nickel, manganese and cadmium) occur in these acidic ponds. Soils and sediments have also been chemically altered. The biota in the acidic ponds are characteristic of acidic environments worldwide, in contrast to the typically Arctic biota in adjacent alkaline ponds.

Nature's own acid rain.

I thought this was made illegal in the 1970s. Someone needs to slap a lawsuit on someone.
posted by three blind mice at 12:33 AM on June 15, 2015

Here in Dorset (UK) we get tiny oil shale fires a few times a century along a section of the coastline.

But 6,000 years? You big show offs.
posted by dowcrag at 2:28 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Reminds me of the natural nuclear reactors. Kind of similar, but with fission.
posted by Poldo at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow! I once traveled within 50 miles of these, and I've never heard of them before. Very cool.
posted by Makwa at 7:37 PM on June 15, 2015

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