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

  • Jam Sta Rosa / AFP via Getty

    Photos of the Week: Ute Muster, Snow Leopard, Highway Acrobat

    A dog exhibition in Bishkek, a Kali Uchis performance in Texas, a demon-king burning in India, attacks on Kurdish sites in Syria, unrest in Haiti, the Masham Sheep Fair in England, and much more.

  • Tomacrosse / Shutterstock

    A Photo Trip to the Bungle Bungles

    Spectacular karst sandstone formations in Western Australia’s Purnululu National Park

  • Dolores Ochoa / AP

    Anti-austerity Protests and Strikes Shut Down Quito, Ecuador

    Demonstrations have roiled Ecuador’s capital city for more than a week, after the government eliminated a long-standing subsidy, doubling the price of fuel.

  • Ilyas Akengin / AFP / Getty

    Moving an Ancient Town to Higher Ground

    Images from southeastern Turkey, where the town of Hasankeyf—continuously occupied for some 12,000 years—is being partially relocated as the old site is abandoned to a rising reservoir behind a new dam