Sinkholes have received a lot of media attention recently. They serve as a powerful reminder of how quickly nature can take away what it has given us. Sinkholes are natural wonders that can be found all over the world. You will come across many sinkholes as an explorer, each with its own quirks. Some have underground water sources or entire forests, while others are basins filled with soil. Although impressive, sinkholes can be dangerous and cause significant damage if they occur in populated regions.
Sinkholes can be as beautiful as they are dangerous, with eerie blue holes, dazzling swimming spots, vast underground caverns, and falling pits. Let’s explore ten of the world’s most famous sinkholes.
Related: 10 mysterious cave temples
10 Qattara Depression, Egypt
Northwestern Egypt, especially the Matruh Governorate, is home to the Qattara Depression. The depression is a part of the Western Desert of Egypt. Beneath the Qattara Depression, which is submerged, are salt flats, dunes, and salt marshes. The interaction of wind erosion and salt weathering led to the formation of the Qattara Depression.
In smaller but comparable depressions about 12 miles (20 kilometers) to the west of the depression are the oases of Siwa in Egypt and Jaghbub in Libya.
9 Dahab blue hole, Egypt
One of the best-known sights in Sinai and a must-see in Egypt is the Blue Hole in Dahab. It is located on the Red Sea coast of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, a few miles north of Dahab. Experienced divers and tourists from around the world come to the Blue Hole to explore.
The first section of the Blue Hole is 20 feet (6 meters) deep and is known as “The Saddle”. It is followed by an 85-foot (26-meter) long tunnel, known as “The Arch,” whose ceiling rises to a height of 180 feet (55 meters) and whose bottom extends to the sea-facing side of the hole at approximately 394 feet (120 meters). The depth on the sea side ranges from 3,280 to 9,650 feet (1,000 to 3,000 meters).
Famous for free diving due to its convenient shore access and lack of current, the Blue Hole is considered to have the highest number of diving fatalities worldwide, with an estimated 130 to 200 divers killed in the last years. Unknown factors, such as why the Blue Hole is the most dangerous dive site in the world, doesn’t change the fact that it’s not a place for beginners to play.
8 Macocha Gorge, Czech Republic
The Moravian Karst cave system in the Czech Republic contains a sinkhole known as the Macocha Abyss, often called the Macocha Gorge. The sinkhole is the deepest of its kind (light hole type) in Central Europe at 454 feet (138.5 meters). It is a tourist destination highly appreciated by the locals, especially speleologists and highly qualified technical divers.
Macocha and the beautiful green region that surrounds it has a mystical, even magical feel. In the same way that Prague is home to the infamous Nuselsk Bridge, this place is where suicides take place. Over the last century, dozens of people have decided to take their lives here.
But the uplifting effect of the natural environment will enchant you. Everywhere you look there is beautiful foliage, which is truly calming. The upper and lower bridges offer views of the chasm. The lower one is 300 feet (92 meters) above the bottom of the chasm and offers a clear view of the bottom, while the upper one looks down from a height of 453 feet (138 meters).
7 Cennet-Cehennem, Turkey
The names of two sizeable sinkholes in the Taurus Mountains of Mersin Province in Turkey are Cennet (Heaven) and Cehennem (Hell). Due to their staggering size and distinctive features, sinkholes are becoming popular tourist destinations.
The enormous pit known as Cennet ökügü (Heaven) is 820 feet (250 meters) long, 360 feet (110 meters) wide, and 196 to 230 feet (60 to 70 meters) deep. It is accessed via a 426-step limestone staircase, making it a strenuous visit. Trees with nesting birds cover much of the pit floor. The entrance to the cave, where there is a cave chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary dating from the 5th century, is heralded by a cool breeze. The church is rectangular and faces east and west. It has six arched windows on its longer sides. A four-line inscription on the gatehouse on the western side says that a devout man named Paulus erected the church in honor of the Virgin Mary.
A vault surrounds the apse and the monks’ quarters on both sides. Frescoes depicting Christ and his apostles adorn the apse. A trail leads to a sinkhole following a cold underground stream that emerges from the cave behind the church. An ancient Hellenistic-era temple of Zeus is situated at the far end. On the stones of the north wall are the names of 130 priests who served during the Hellenistic and Roman times. The Doric-style temple was transformed into a church during the Christian era.
The location of Cehennem (Hell) is about 75 meters (245 ft) northeast of Cennet. A nearly circular daylight well is 197 feet (60 meters) wide and 394 feet (120 meters) deep. It is believed to be smaller due to its lesser circumference, but it is deeper and the locals found it quite frightening. This may be the origin of the name “hell”, and the chapel is undoubtedly the cause of the name “heaven” for the other well. On a steel ladder, it is also possible to visit this hole, but this is not recommended for the typical tourist as it is quite risky.
6 Devil’s Sinkhole, Texas
One of the best caverns in Texas and one of America’s legendary iconic sinkholes is Devil’s Sinkhole. The cave is a huge shaft 65 to 98 feet (20 to 30 meters) in diameter that plunges 138 feet (42 meters) into a space with a diameter of more than 328 feet (100 meters). It is the largest and third deepest single-chamber cavern in the state and has been listed as a National Monument since 1985. It is part of a massive network of caverns beneath the Edwards Plateau, which spans western and central Texas . The collapse of an underground cavity caused the formation of the sinkhole.
One to four million Mexican free-tailed bats spend the summer in the sinkhole. Visitors may begin to see a few bats emerge from the sinkhole at dusk, and eventually millions of them will take to the evening sky in a swirling black mass.
5 Sinkhole El Zacaton, Mexico
With a total depth of 339 meters (1,112 feet), El Zacatón is the deepest known water-filled sinkhole in the world. Although the Pozzo del Merro, which is 1,286 feet (392 meters) deep (exact depth unknown), is deeper, it is still unclear whether it is a sinkhole or a near-vertical cave. At least one diver has lost his life trying to reach the bottom, which has never been done.
The most outstanding and well-known element of this karstic landscape is the El Zacatón cenote. More than 20 distinct phenomena can be found in this area, including sinkholes, springs heated by subterranean volcanic activity, caverns, and travertine formations.
Five peculiar sinkholes close to each other but not directly connected include El Zacatón, the deepest of all. El Zacatón is named after the grassy islands of Zacate, which float freely and change position in response to the wind. El Zacatón has gained popularity as a diving site due to its depth. At El Zacatón, both men and women divers have broken world records.
4 Cave of the Swallows, Mexico
The Cueva de las Golondrinas is home to the region’s biodiversity and is ranked among the six most impressive and bottomless underground caverns. Due to the lack of human intervention, it is a component of the Protected Natural Area of San Luis Potosí. A vertical shaft drops 1,220 feet (372 meters), or 1,904 feet (580 meters) from the highest edge, before reaching the cave floor. This type of cave is known as a shaft cave. It is essentially a gaping hole 160 to 205 feet (49 to 62 meters) in the forest floor. The Chrysler Building, the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty would all fit inside if they were standing on your shoulders.
It is high enough for the BASE jumpers (Buildings, Antennas, Spans and Ground) to jump off the edge and free fall for a few seconds before opening their parachute. This place is popular with fans of extreme sports.
3 The Great Blue Hole, Belize
One of the natural wonders is the Belize Great Blue Hole, located off the coast of Belize on the east coast of Central America. It is located not far from the Center of Lighthouse Reef, an atoll about 62 miles (100 kilometers) from Belize City on the mainland.
The Great Blue Hole in Belize is 410 feet (125 meters) deep and more than 984 feet (300 meters) wide. The Great Blue Hole is located on the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, one of the three atolls in Belize. The Hole is part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is shaped like a perfect circle in the middle of the coral reef known as Lighthouse Reef.
The Hole has a huge fan base around the world, and Belizeans are passionate about it being recognized as one of the seven wonders of the world. The Great Blue Hole was named the best place on Earth by The Discovery Channel in 2012.
2 Crveno Jezero Red Lake, Croatia
The karstic phenomenon of Crveno Jezero is recognized worldwide for its magnitude and distinctive characteristics. Some hydrologic measurements were taken at the lake surface in the 1950s, including depth readings at 39 sites.
With 18 large or small dry or water-filled depressions, the Red Lake, less than one kilometer (one mile) west of Imotski, is the largest in the area in terms of visible and invisible areas. Its name refers to the red rocks perched on cliffs that rise more than 820 feet (250 meters) above the ground.
1 Xiaoxhai Tiankeng, China
The world’s largest sinkhole, Xiaozhai Tiankeng, is more than 2,000 feet long, 1,762 feet wide, and about 2,200 feet deep (610 meters long, 537 meters wide, and 671 meters high). Locally known as Xiaozhai Heavenly Pit, it is a karst sinkhole in the Shaanxi Cluster, located in the Shaanxi province of China. Xiaozhai Tiankeng has a distinctive appearance as it is a double-nested sinkhole made up of two bowls. While the other bowl is 1,122 feet (342 meters) deep, the upper bowl is only 1,050 feet (320 feet) deep. A sloped crest separates the two parts.
The locals had known about this feature for a long time, but it wasn’t until British explorers discovered it in 1994 that the rest of the world took notice of it. While exploring its underground cave system, the explorers made multiple unsuccessful attempts. They had trouble navigating the sinkhole torrent. Consequently, the geology of Xiaozhai Tiakeng remains a mystery. Due to the activities of an underground river, which still flows through the sinkhole, this sinkhole was formed above the Dinfeng cave.
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