Incredible images of the world’s most beautiful sinkholes, from Oregon to Croatia through the Bahamas
These gaping gaps are certainly a sight to behold.
MailOnline Travel has scoured the globe for dazzling images of the world’s most breathtaking chasms – from stunning marine sinkholes to dizzyingly colossal land shafts.
Our journey into the world of inky black cavities takes in the largest sinkhole in the world – Xiaozhai Tiankeng or Heavenly Pit – a monster in China that at some point reaches 2,172 feet into the earth.
Red Lake in Croatia, Europe’s largest sinkhole, is also on the list. It is 1,732ft deep and contains 565,034,667 cubic feet of water.
Our marine sinkhole picks, meanwhile, include the deepest known underwater sinkhole – the Dragon Hole in the South China Sea – the epic Great Blue Hole in Belize and the beautiful Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas.
Notable sinkholes in Oregon, Australia and New Zealand also occur. Drill down – and marvel.
The deepest known underwater sinkhole (or blue hole) is ‘the Dragon Hole’ in the South China Sea, an epic 300.89 m deep chasm discovered in 2016
Close to the town of Imotski in Croatia, Red Lake is a whopper, the largest sinkhole in Europe and the third largest in the world. There are two notable features: red cliffs 247 meters high and a lake 281 meters deep, giving it a total depth of 528 meters. Cave fish, crabs, frogs and insects stay in the lake, which contains 565,034,667 cubic feet of water. Adding to the vastness of the sinkhole is 800m (2,624ft) cave channels
In the world of maritime sinkholes, the Great Blue Hole in Belize is one of the most glamorous. It took the top spot on the Discovery Channel’s list of ‘The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth’ and is home to an exotic array of fish, including midnight parrotfish and Caribbean reef sharks. The ‘Big’ in the title, meanwhile, is no exaggeration – this hole is 1,043 feet (318 meters) wide and 407 feet (124 meters) deep
Welcome to Darvaza Crater – or Door To Hell – a fiery crater in Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert that has been burning since 1971. No one can say for sure how this glowing sinkhole originated, but a persistent explanation is that it is the result of giving soil far below a Soviet oil rig, and scientists ignite escaping gas to burn it, perhaps not realizing how big the underground reservoir. Turkmenistan has the world’s sixth largest natural gas reserves …
The world’s largest known sinkhole – Xiaozhai Tiankeng or Heavenly Pit – is located in southwest China. It is 2,054 feet (626 meters) long, 1,762 feet (537 meters) wide and between 1,677 to 2,172 feet (511 to 662 meters) deep. Visitors can descend to the bottom via a staircase of 2,800 steps and must keep their eyes open for cloudy leopards, which have been seen on the site
Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas is the world’s deepest blue saltwater hole, with a depth of 663 feet (202 meters) and visibility up to 100 feet, www.deansbluehole.org. It says, “Due to its enclosed nature, the wind does not reach it and there are no big waves, making it an ideal place even for beginner swimmers. Blue holes usually look like ponds, but Dean’s blue hole is different in many ways. It is connected to the Atlantic Ocean through a cove on one side and framed by cliffs and white sandy beaches on the other ‘
Not all sinkholes are wild and forbidding. Umpherston Sinkhole in Mount Gambier, Australia is decorated with a beautiful sunken garden, laid out in the late 19th century. Visitors can appreciate the size and depth – 20 m (65 ft) deep and 50 m (164 ft) wide – from the viewing platforms, discovermountgambier.com.au points outwards and then walk into the sinkhole, along the terraces and behind the hanging vines. It adds: ‘The possum colony appears at dusk and enjoys fresh fruit (no bread please)’
There are more than 5,000 sinkholes – some as deep as 25ft – spread across the western shore of the Dead Sea, with more formation as water is transferred to be processed into drinking water and for surrounding industries, shrinking this unique body of water. They are generated by rainwater that flows underground and creates unstable cavities, which can collapse in unpredictable ways
A drone shot from a sinkhole on the edge of the ocean at Broken Beach in Nusa Penida, Indonesia. There is a good description of how it is there – very hot, but spectacular – on beforeyoupack.net
A deep sinkhole was formed after a limestone cave collapsed on the Nullarbor Plain in Western Australia. There is a huge maze of tunnels and caves beneath this hot old landscape
The Pacific seems to be drained through a gigantic bottomless hole on the Oregon coast. The hole – large enough to swallow a large boat – resembles an alien planet. However, the seawater levels in the Pacific are completely safe, because the hole – called Thor’s Well, and sometimes the “gateway to hell” – is actually about 20 feet deep. However, it is a remarkable sight – and it attracts hundreds of tourists every year eager to see the incredible phenomenon in action. At high tide, the water flows spectacularly from the well, an event that will always delight spectators
In western Bosnia and Herzegovina, numerous collapsed sinkholes are covered in greenery
A photograph of the bottom of the Cehennem sinkhole in the Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey. It has a depth of 128 meters. Cehennem means ‘hell’ in Turkish, while the neighboring sinkhole is called Cennet, meaning ‘heaven’. The latter can be viewed up close via a staircase of 300 steps. Although there is no access to Cehennem, there is a viewing platform
An explorer descends into New Zealand’s deepest vertical shaft: the 600-meter-deep Harwoods Hole
WHAT ARE SINKHOLES?
A sinkhole is a hole in the ground created by erosion and drainage of water.
They can range in size from a few meters in diameter to the size that can swallow entire buildings.
They are a natural phenomenon, but the process is often amplified by human processes and interference.
There are two basic types of zinc hole that are separated by how they form.
Slowly developing ones are known as a subsidence sinkhole and those that appear suddenly are called a sinkhole with collapse.
The sudden holes that grab headlines are the latest and can cause destruction and even death.
Often these are soluble rock, such as limestone, which becomes moist and erodes quickly.
This then leads to a rapid loss of land and a sinkhole is created.