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Approximately 224 km north of Sydney, just off the New England Highway, in New South Wales, Australia, is a hill that has been burning for the last 6,000 years. The fire burns underground, at a depth of about 30 meters, fueled by a coal seam that runs through the sandstone. The aborigines called the mountain Wingen, which means 'fire', and used its heat for warmth in the winter months, for cooking and for the manufacture of tools. They believed that the mountain was set on fire by a tribesman to warn others when the Devil carried him off deep into the earth. European explorers and early settlers knew of the Burning Mountain but they thought the smoke coming out of the ground was volcanic in origin. It was not until 1829 that a geologist identified it as a coal seam fire.

burning-mountain-australia-2

Photo credit: NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service

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