March 8, 2021

Mountain on Fire: Flaming rocks of Chimaera, Turkey

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Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.54.58 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.56.48 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.57.05 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.57.24 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.57.35 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.57.48 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.58.03 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.58.19 AM Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 8.58.34 AMBy Stephanie Valera

The small town of Olympos in Turkey is known for its treehouse hotels, picturesque Mediterranean beaches and ancient Lycian ruins. But another attraction is making this secluded area a tourist “hot spot” — literally.

In the heart of the Olympos , Mount Chimaera has literally burned for thousands of years. There, at the site called Yanartas (or “flaming rocks”), one can see dozens of small fires which burn constantly from the methane that seeps through the vents in the rocks, according to BBC.

Spread out over 1.2 acres, the “eternal” flames on the sea-facing slope have been used by sailors, since ancient times, as a natural lighthouse, according to the book “Myth and Geology,” by L. Piccardi and W.B. Masse.

In ancient literature, the origins of the flaming rocks of Mount Chimaera are rooted in Greek mythology. Legend has it that Chimera, the indestructible, three-headed, fire-breathing dragoness was slain at her lair by the hero Bellerophon. Being an indestructible dragon, her fire-tongue remains eternally burning.

While the dragon myth has lost ground, the vents do still spew fire (although covering it will extinguish the fire temporarily). The emissions also seem to change seasonally: vents and flames are more vigorous in winter months. This is a common characteristic of such seeps, where gas flux is typically modulated by gas pressure build-up induced by groundwater recharge and changes in atmospheric pressure, according to a November 2008 article published in “Geofluids.”

Chimaera is well-trafficked by hikers looking for Roman ruins and a look into the birth of a Greek myth, according to Atlas Obscura. Hikers and backpackers are also known to use the flames to brew tea.

To see the fires and the ruins, visitors must first go to the entrance at the foot of the mountain and pay an admission fee. A rock stairway to the site has been built so the climb is easily managed. Most tourists visit at night, when the fires are at their most spectacular.

IMAGES: In the slopes of Turkey’s Mount Olympos, a series of flames burst spontaneously from the ground. Called Yanartas (or ‘flaming rock’), the fires have been burning for 2,500 years and are fueled by methane gas issued through vents in the rocks on the side of the mountain. (Flickr/David Holt London)

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