Sinkholes: When the Earth Opens Up

The ground beneath our feet, our cars, our buildings, appears to be incredibly solid. But, rarely, that solid ground can simply open up without warning, dropping whatever was above into an unpredictably deep.hole. Sinkholes can be anywhere from a few feet wide and deep, to two thousand feet in diameter and depth. An undiscovered cavern or deep mine can collapse, allowing the ground above to crater, or a broken water main or heavy storm can erode a hole from below, until the surface becomes a thin shell that collapses at once. Communities built atop karst formations are very susceptible, where a layer of bedrock is water-soluble, like limestone, and natural processes can wear away caves and fissures, weakening support of the ground above. Gathered here are images of some of these sinkholes, both man-made and natural, around the world.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Carmen Jaspersen / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 7/25-7/31

    An alpenhorn performance in Switzerland, a portrait of Vladimir Putin made of spent ammunition from Ukraine, Prince Charles surprised by an eagle, wildfire in California, a sunset in Crimea, and much more.

  • Damir Sagolj / Reuters

    The Abandoned Fishing Village of Houtouwan

    On Shengshan Island, east of Shanghai, China, only a handful of people still live in a village that was once home to more than 2,000 fishermen.

  • Niranjan Shrestha / AP

    Nepal, Three Months After the Earthquakes

    Three months have now passed since massive twin earthquakes struck Nepal, killing more than 8,800 people, injuring more than 22,000.

  • Abhishek N. Chinnappa / Reuters

    The Flying Machines of Flugtag

    Since 1992, Red Bull has been organizing Flugtag (“flying day”) events around the world, where participants build and pilot homemade flying machines off a 28-foot-high flight deck above a body of water. The aerodynamic qualities of many of the creatively built aircraft are questionable, and most do not so much fly as... plummet.

Join the Discussion