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

  • Dan Mullan / Getty

    Baku 2017: The Islamic Solidarity Games

    For the past 10 days in Baku, Azerbaijan, 6,000 athletes from 54 nations competed in 21 sports during the fourth iteration of the Islamic Solidarity Games.

  • Lucas Jackson / Reuters

    The Finale of 'The Greatest Show on Earth'

    After a run of 146 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, known as “The Greatest Show on Earth,” has come to an end.

  • Pascal Pochard-Casabianca / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 5/13–5/19

    The world’s fastest shed in Wales, France welcomes a new president, a portrait of the late singer Chris Cornell on stage in Atlanta, a new eruption of Mount Sinabung, and much more.

  • Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

    Venezuela's Crisis Deepens, Protests Escalate

    Since April 1, daily anti-government  protests across Venezuela have frequently devolved into clashes with riot police, leaving thousands arrested, hundreds injured, and 43 dead.

Join the Discussion