Our Planet is covered in curious geological formations, many of which we still can’t fully explain. Over millions of years, the forces of wind, water, fire, and ice have carved the world’s surface to make it what it is today, and researchers are still finding surprises everywhere. Strange gaps and caverns are some of the strangest things you’ll find and, before you accidentally fall in, it’s time to show you the 15 most mysterious holes on earth!….
15. Mysterious Holes In Siberia
The vast frozen plains of Siberia are some of the most remote and inhospitable places on earth. It’s home to a wide range of mysterious structures, but some of the most unusual are two crater like holes that were discovered in the permafrost.
They’ve led to a number of theories as to what could have caused them. Are they the marks left behind by an alien spaceship? Perhaps the result of a meteor that broke in half before it landed on the ground, or something else entirely? One of the leading theories, and perhaps more surprising than anything else, involves the little that we actually know about permafrost regions like this.
It’s long been known that the frozen ground contains large amounts of gas and carbon deposits, and when it thaws it releases it all into the atmosphere. Could it be possible that, after releasing what it contains, large enough gaps are formed that can cause the ground to sink in on itself? Researchers are now starting to believe this is more likely, and expect to see phenomena like this forming far more frequently throughout the frozen regions on earth.
14. The Hole In Lake Berryessa
Lake Berryessa is one of the largest man-made water deposits in California, but in recent years something truly strange has been happening with the appearance of a gigantic hole that the water continuously pours into. When you see images of it happening, it looks bizarre, but the reason behind this is vital to the protection of local communities.
The lake is held in place by a dam, and provides water to homes and businesses across the region. It was built with a 72-foot diameter pipe in it just in case the water levels rise too high and threaten the integrity of the dam, and in recent years that’s exactly what happens. When you see the water at a lower level, the ‘Glory Hole’ as it’s known, looks like a concrete structure in line with the rest of the dam. When the hole was built in 1957, officials only thought it would be needed every 50 years or so, but the changing climate in the past few years has meant that much more rain is falling than normal, and the hole has been needed almost every year.
Despite channeling 48 thousand cubic feet of water per second, it doesn’t create a strong current towards it so it isn’t considered to be a danger to boaters and other users of the lake. That doesn’t mean you should be overconfident near it, however, because in 1997 one swimmer was sucked into it, and her body was found downstream 3 hours later.
13. Ladybower Reservoir
Ladybower reservoir is used by Severn Trent Water Company to collect and provide water to nearby communities in England and Wales, but with unpredictable rain patterns in the area, occasionally two giant holes begin to suck huge volumes of liquid out of the facility to stop it from overflowing.
Known as shaft spillways, they are located on opposite sides of the reservoir and normally look like construction sites. Each one has a diameter of 78 feet and lead to pipes that drop 66 feet down and join the River Derwent.
The spectacular sight when water levels rise and begin to pour into these holes has led to some venturing much closer to them than would be recommended. Recent images showed two kayakers paddling around them, but things could have ended tragically. The company responsible for managing the dam says that you’d risk serious injury if you were to go into one, and even if you survived the ordeal you’d still need a rescue team to retrieve you because the outlet into the river is covered by grates to prevent people from climbing up them.
12. Dean’s Blue Hole
The Bahamas is known around the world for the beautiful beaches, incredible sea life, and wonderfully warm and clear water, but there’s an amazing structure just off the coast of Clarence town on Long Island… a place called Dean’s Blue Hole.
Blue holes are formed when a sinkhole opens up underwater, and the entrance remains beneath the surface. This one is one of the deepest that’s ever been discovered and descends to around 663 feet. At the top, it takes on a circular shape that’s about 100 feet, but once you go 66 feet deep into it, it opens up into a cavern that’s around 330 feet across.
The water here is incredibly clear and, on a good day, the visibility can be as far as 115 feet. The stillness of the water means that it’s a popular site for freedivers, and is where many of the freediving depth records have been set in the past decade. Since 2008 it has been the location of the annual vertical blue competition that sees divers coming from all over the world to see how far into the depths they can reach on one breath.
11. Holes Appear In Sand Dune
Depending on the desert you’re looking at, sand dunes can be transient features that shift and move in whatever direction the prevailing wind is blowing. Some have been known to loudly hum and vibrate while others, such as the ones that can be found at Mount Baldy in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, hide other secrets that, for a long time, no one had any idea where there.
In 2013, a 6 year old boy was walking across the dunes when suddenly he vanished beneath the sand into a huge hole. The rescue effort took 3 hours to retrieve him after he had ended up more than 11 feet below the sand and sediment.
Since then more holes like this have begun to appear, and it forced authorities to close the park that’s just 55 miles to the southeast of Chicago. For a while, they had no idea what was happening, but after scanning the region with ground-penetrating radar they came across an answer. Old photos had shown the area to once be full of trees, which had since been covered over by the sand. As water seeped through, the debris was decaying and leaving gaps and instabilities in the sand. All it takes is slight pressure from above, and the whole lot can collapse. There’s no fix to this problem, because it’s being caused by the unstable foundations of the dunes, so right now access to the region is strictly controlled.
10. Guatemala Sinkhole
No matter where you live, there’s always a slight risk that a sinkhole could open up beneath your home or street and swallow up everything above it. Luckily these events are quite rare, but human activity can, on some occasions, make it far more likely.
This image was taken of a sinkhole that opened up in the streets of Guatemala City in 2010, and as you can see the 300 foot deep and 60-foot wide crater took everything with it. Sinkholes aren’t that uncommon in the city, after all, it was built in a place where the first few thousand feet of ground is made up of volcanic debris that can be eroded more easily than normal earth, but this particular hole was much bigger than anyone thought possible.
After investigation, though, it began to appear increasingly likely that it was the result of construction works. It happened soon after a rainstorm that saturated the ground with water and would have disturbed the top layer, but it’s thought that either a burst water pipe of drain pipe had been releasing water into the cavity for far longer. It had slowly been carving the hole out, and just needed an extra push to open it. Luckily, when it happened, there were no people above it… because if there had been they wouldn’t have stood a chance.
9. Sinkhole in Louisiana
This video was recorded by John Boudreaux, a resident of Bayou Corne in Louisiana, and as you’ll see it shows how quickly a sinkhole can open, and how destructive it can be.
He and his friends had noticed the trees moving in a telltale way, and they were sure a sinkhole was about to open up beneath the flooded ground. Sat on a boat, they trained their camera on the area and waited for the inevitable to take place. At first, they’re moving so slowly it’s not even clear what’s happening, but they start to sink at a much faster rate and it hardly seems real. The water starts raging, and the trees begin to plummet into the gap that’s opened up beneath them, and in just a few moments they’re gone without a trace.
Sinkholes are surprisingly common, and there are more than 6,500 insurance claims for damage caused by them each year in Florida alone. No records are kept of the total number across the US, but it likely numbers in the hundreds of thousands if you include ones that aren’t reported… so next time you feel the ground shake and brace yourself for an earthquake, just make sure you’re not actually experiencing one of these opening up instead!
8. The Dead Sea Holes
The dead sea is so named because the water has such high mineral concentrations, but in recent years changes in the environment have led to a series of giant sinkholes opening up on its shores.
The sea is actually shrinking at a surprisingly fast rate of about 3 feet a year because water is being diverted away from the rivers that feed it. The consequence of this is now making it dangerous for visitors and raising questions about whether people should even be allowed to go there at all.
As the salty water recedes, fresh groundwater wells up through the ground and dissolves the layers of salt that have been deposited by the sea over thousands of years. This creates large cavities beneath the surface, and once they breach through the top layer a sinkhole is formed. There’s no pattern to where they appear, and efforts are underway to try and predict where the next ones will form. Without the ability to do so there’ll be an increasing danger that someone will be sucked in… and if they are there’ll be virtually no way to rescue them.
7. Udachnaya Pipe
The Udachnaya Pipe is a deposit of diamonds in the Sakha Republic in Russia. It’s just outside the Arctic circle and since it was first discovered in 1955 it has become the third deepest open-pit mine in the world.
Owned and controlled by Alrosa, a Russian diamond company, it descends more than 2,100 feet beneath the surface and is one of the most productive diamond mines in the world. It’s estimated to contain in the region of 225.8 million carats of diamonds, which equate to a weight of 45.16 tons, and with current technologies, more than 10.4 million carats are retrieved every year.
When you see the mine in all its glory from aerial shots, you can see how astonishingly huge it is. The ridges along its walls are purposefully designed to provide road access for vehicles into the central pit of the mine, and with current progress, operations should be able to continue for at least another 20 years. When all the diamonds have been removed, however, no one quite knows what will happen to the hole. It’ll likely just be left there, rather than being filled in, and will remain a testament to the extent we as a species will go to acquire the things we deem most valuable.
6. The Forest Of Guangxi
China’s forest of Guangxi is a huge region covered with a thick canopy of trees, but when a giant sinkhole opened up in the ground, researchers were desperate to take a closer look. What they’d find when they got there in 2018 was what they described as a ‘world class’ geological wonder.
The sinkhole leads to a huge underground cavern that has an estimated volume of 236 million cubic feet. The expedition team carefully lowered themselves the 387 feet to the cave floor and measured the structure as being 328 feet wide and 656 feet long. In it there are stone corridors, halls, craters, stone pillars, and strange rock formations called cave pearls which are formed by water that passes over small pieces of stones over centuries and smooth them into perfect spheres. They also discovered a shaft that led from the cave into an underground river, which itself led to the nearby Panyang River.
Discoveries like this are vital to understanding what lies beneath the surface of our planet, and it’s thought that the crust could be more like a honeycomb than being made up of thick rock. There could potentially be thousands of caves of this size underneath the surface across the world, and we’d have very little chance of knowing about them until it’s too late.
5. The Black Hole of Andros
While the Bahamas are home to many blue holes in the oceans, on one of the islands is something far less welcoming, and much more mysterious. It was found on South Andros, and is referred to as a black hole because of the dark color of its water.
It’s been measured to be around 154 feet deep, and rather than being formed by water erosion, this hole has been formed by chemical erosion. This is a place of important scientific interest because the water here is just like what the oceans were around 3.5 billion years ago, and can show us what it was like when the first life forms were beginning to emerge.
Only official science missions are allowed to dive here, and it soon becomes clear why. At a depth of around 60 feet, there’s a 3-foot thick purple layer that’s made up of extremely toxic bacteria that are surrounded by hydrogen sulfide. As you approach it, it looks so dark that at first, you’d think it was the floor of the hole, but beneath it is a whole different world. It’s a boundary that separates the oxygenated water above with the de-oxygenated water below, and it’s this region that researchers are most interested in exploring. It’s not fully clear what is down there, but it’s hoped that improved diving technology will allow teams to explore it more fully than ever before.
4. Son Doong Cave
The Son Doong Cave in the Phong Nha-Kė Bàng National Park in Vietnam was only first discovered in 1991, but after a recent exploration, it’s been found to be the largest known cave anywhere on earth. At 3.1 miles long, 660 feet high, and 490 feet wide, you could easily fit a New York apartment block inside and still have room to spare. More recently a river in the cave has been found to connect with a nearby cave, so it’s now regarded as being much bigger than had originally been thought.
It’s deep within the forest so is very difficult to get to, and has been carved by water from the limestone rock over the past 5 or 6 million years. It contains some of the largest stalagmites ever seen, with some reaching up to 230 feet tall, and enormous cave pearls have been found that are the size of baseballs. The cave also has its own ecosystem with creatures that have specifically adapted to its environment. Efforts have been made to limit the number of visitors to preserve the cave as best as possible, but with current plans being to build a cable car through it, these attempts may ultimately be in vain.
3. Woodstock Mystery Hole
The Woodstock mystery hole is in Portland Oregon and owned and operated by the Universal Church ‘O Fun. Beneath an unassuming frame is a ladder that descends into the opening, but beyond that very little is known about this place.
It’s not thought to have been naturally formed, and while there aren’t any official measurements, it’s thought to be quite deep. Visitors are challenged climb down if they dare, and walk through the labyrinthine tunnels to experience attractions such as the Enchanting Vapours of Encouragement, try to decipher the ancient runes and symbols on the walls, and try their best to open the door that’s never been opened.
Unfortunately, as of 2017, the hole has been closed to all visitors… supposedly because of several people who got lost down there and were never seen again. The venue wasn’t held accountable, though, because before entering everyone had to sign a waiver form that said ‘I, the undersigned, do hereby certify that I must be out of my mind to climb down into a damp, dark hole when I am perfectly safe where I am’. Would you go down if you had the chance?
2. Mystery Hole In Oregon’s Lost Lake
Oregon’s lost lake normally covers an area of about 79 acres, and during the winter is quite shallow and surrounded by pine and willow trees. When you see it like this there doesn’t seem to be much that’s unusual about this place… it’s just like any other lake right? But you’d be wrong… because the true mystery of this place only reveals itself during the summer months.
The level of the lake begins to lower and, at about the same time every year, a giant hole opens up within it that sucks away all of the water. The lake completely vanishes and is soon covered by a flourishing meadow.
But how is this possible? The answer is that there are two large lava tubes that lead from the lake, and it’s through these that all the water escapes. They are always there and don’t just decide to open whenever they please, but they do have a limited capacity that they can drain at any one time. During the fall and winter, when it’s the rainy season, the amount of water that enters the lake exceeds the amount that’s being drained out, so it fills up. When things are drier in the summer, the opposite becomes true, and that’s why the lake seems to magically disappear.
1. The Gates Of Hell
If there ever was a place on earth that’s truly the gateway to the underworld, then there’s a hole in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan that certainly can lay claim to being it.
In 1971 Soviet geologists were searching for natural gas deposits, and drilled through the crust about 4 miles away from the small village of Derweze. They had no idea how much gas they were about to find, and it would turn out to be far more than they could handle. A large cavern opened up, and the drilling rig, along with some of the scientists, fell into the hole. A crater was formed that was 230 feet wide and 65.5 feet deep, and it began to release vast quantities of methane into the atmosphere.
Even back then this was seen as a dangerous problem, so scientists came up with a solution… they’d set fire to it to burn all of the methane, and it would run out within a week. They threw a grenade in to start the fire, but their plan didn’t go as expected. Almost 50 years later, the flames continue to burn and it’s actually become one of the country’s most popular tourist sites. Despite investigations into how to extinguish the flames once and for all, however, no one has any solution beyond letting it burn itself out.
Next time someone lectures you about the amount of methane that’s released to make that delicious steak you’ve ordered, just point them in the direction of this place!
Which of these did you find to be the most mysterious? And did it surprise you that there are so many strange holes on the planet? Make sure to let us know in the comments section!