Exploring a Sinkhole
Sinkholes are often in the news today. In 2013, a massive sinkhole swallowed up a resort in Florida in 2013. In Fukuoka, Japan in 2016, a huge chunk of the road was swallowed up. In October 2018 in China, a group of explorers went to the edge of a massive sinkhole. Their reason for being there was to get inside to see what caused the sinkhole and to see what was located under the earth. When they got to the bottom, they couldn’t believe what they saw.
How Do Sinkholes Occur?
Sinkholes occur when the surface of the ground collapses. Usually, the cause is natural. If there is an area rich in carbonate rock such as limestone, the groundwater can dissolve the rock over time, causing spaces in the ground to form. As the process continues, the spaces become very large. While the land may seem sound, it could be a ticking time bomb. Depending on where the sinkhole occurs, they can be deadly.
Not All Sinkholes Occur Naturally
While many sinkholes are natural, there are some that are associated with industrial activities such as mining. Installing underground piping can also cause a sinkhole. When the water begins to pour, it can create a hole. Over time, the leaks will erode the rock causing sinkholes. There are cases where the caverns under the ground can grow so fast that they can surface overnight.
Dangerous With a Purpose
When sinkholes occur suddenly in highly populated areas, they can cause great destruction. These giant holes can swallow roads and buildings, killing many people. While they are dangerous, sinkholes give scientists a chance to investigate the ecosystem deep under the Earth which is a place that has gone mostly unexplored. Sinkholes have been appealing to explorers and climbers for years. Thrill seekers also enjoy descending deep under the ground. These people have headed to the places where the deepest sinkholes have occurred such as Florida, Michigan, Lebanon, and Japan. More recently, explorers and adrenaline junkies headed to rural Fengshan County, located in South Central China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. The area is known for its many caves and sinkholes.
An Amazing Place
Fengshan County has over 50 caves that are over 20,000 square feet. About 20 of them are over 100,000 square feet. Places such as the Shuiyuan Cave in the village of Poxin and the Yuanyang Cave in the east are very popular tourist attractions.
The Chinese Sinkholes
In China, the sinkholes can reach sizes of over 100 feet. These deep holes are called tiankengs which translates to sky holes. Experts believe that there are less than 100 in the entire world. One of them is Nongle, which is located in the village of Haiting in Fengshan County.
On October 4, 2018, a team of 19 researchers from China and Britain went on an expedition in the depths of the Nongle tiankeng. The Zhang Yuanhai from the Chinese Academy of Geological Science’s Institute of Karst Geology and Andy Evans of the International Cave Association are the ones who headed the exploration. The group did this often, but they were amazed by what they had found.
Entering the Sinkhole
The sinkhole occurred when a section of rock about 12 feet thick collapsed and opened up a vast cavern. The explorers had to use a single rope technique that allowed the explores to cascade in a vertical line into the sinkhole. The scientists baffled by secrets found hidden in giant sinkhole.
What They Found
When the explorers got to the bottom of the sinkhole, they found a vast cavern that stretched close to 400-feet under the ground. The cavern was 650-feet long, and the entrance to the cavern was 330-feet wide. The cave is the biggest of its kind in the world. The explorers believe that the cave covers 236 million cubic feet. This is large enough to fit Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza twice. One of the explorers named Yuanhai says that there are steep slopes in the cave. There are also separate structures inside that were called the basement, the hall, and the corridor. They used 3D scanning to find a cave hall. This one was 165-feet wide by 500-feet tall. This one was called the courtyard.
Naming the Cavern
Yuanhai confessed to journalists that his team was not the first to find the cave. It was actually a group of explorers from Hong Kong. The group wanted to give the original founders credit, so they called the cavern, Hong Kong Haiting Hall. Experts hope that the discovery of the cavern will give them a better understanding of the unique landscape in Fengshan County. People from all over the world have been able to view the footage taken in the cave to get a rare glimpse of what lies below the Earth.