Saturday 3 August 2013

Massive sinkhole opens up in Wallace County, Kansas.

A massive sinkhole, described as 60 m across and 30 m deep has appeared on the land of Kansas farmer Dalton Hoss, roughly 13 km north of Wallace City (pop 57), and appeared sometime in late July 2013 (due to its remote location it was not noticed straight away). The sinkhole has baffled local residents, as it is far from any irrigation project or hydrocarbons extraction operation, two types of human activity widely associated with sinkholes in the American Midwest, and neither is their any sign of liquid in the hole, which typically occurs when subterranean sediments are eroded by water, leading some people to speculate that the hole may be of divine origin.

Part of the Wallace County sinkhole. Wallace County Sherif's Department.

However Rex Buchanan of the Kansas Geological Survey has a more practical explanation for the appearance of the hole. He suggests that the most likely explanations is dissolution of chalk form the underlying Niobrara Formation, causing collapse of the overlying strata into the resulting void. While this is an uncommon event, it is known to have caused the sudden appearance of such holes in Wallace County twice in the past; at Old Maid's Pool in the early 1900s and at the Smokey Basin Cave-in in 1926.

The approximate location of the Wallace County sinkhole. Google Maps.

Sinkholes are generally caused by water eroding soft limestone or unconsolidated deposits from beneath, causing a hole that works its way upwards and eventually opening spectacularly at the surface. Where there are unconsolidated deposits at the surface they can infill from the sides, apparently swallowing objects at the surface, including people, without trace.

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