Eternal flames are often intentionally ignited as a symbol of religious, historical or even sporting significance. Jewish sanctuary lamps, the John F. Kennedy Memorial or the Olympic flame come to mind (not to mention that insipid Bangles love song). However, there are also plenty of natural blazes burning around the world, some of which have been flaming for 6000 years. Some were sparked by lightening, volcanoes or spontaneous combustion. Many are perpetually fueled by pockets of coal, oil or natural gas. This is the hot stuff that inspired mythological creatures and biblical tales, spouting like raging dragons or hell on earth. They make fascinating, mysterious, oddly beautiful features, and often compelling tourist attractions. Here’s a hot list of 11 natural eternal flames you’ve probably never heard of, but should.
1. Chestnut Ridge Park, New York
It’s a bit of a mystery how this eternal flame keeps alight behind a pretty waterfall in Shale Creek Preserve. Ethane and propane have been identified as the fuel source, but scientists are perplexed by where the gas is coming from or what ignited it. The rocks underneath the park don’t seem to emit sufficient heat to spark a flame or keep it burning, especially considering its watery environment. The best guess is that Native Americans set it aflame thousands of moons ago but more research is required to figure out how it sustains itself. Regardless of the science behind it, this flaming waterfall is a beautiful natural contrast to see.