(ORDO NEWS) — First discovered by experts in 1994, the world’s deepest sinkhole is located in Fengjie County, Chongqing Municipality, China.
Xiaozhai Tiankeng, or Xiaozhai Heavenly Pit, is approximately 537 meters in diameter and sinks into the Earth to a depth of 511 to 662 meters.
With nearly vertical walls, this important geological feature has an incredible 119.349 million cubic meters of volume. During heavy rains, you can sometimes see a waterfall flowing down the steep walls of the pit.
The structure is double nested, meaning that it consists of two separate “bowls” separating it into two layers, with each bowl over 300 meters deep.
Difeng Cave, which has a funnel at the top, was formed by a powerful underground river. This river can now be seen deep in the pit, where it carries clear water through the interior systems of the caves.
The river flows for about 8.5 kilometers from the Tianjin underground gorge before reaching dawn at the vertical drop of the Migun River, where the underground water system forms a 46-meter-high waterfall.
In the depths of the Xiaozhai sinkhole, 1,285 plant species have been recorded, creating their own ecosystem.
A rare species of ginkgo biloba tree can be found in this hole, as well as rare animal species such as the clouded leopard, estimated to number less than 10,000 in the wild.
Found in a large karst zone, the sinkhole is composed of Triassic limestone found in thick, clear blocks.
It is believed to have formed gradually over the past 128,000 years, making it relatively young in age compared to other sinkholes in the area.
In fact, there are several sinkholes in China that are commonly referred to as “tiankeng”. The word tiankeng means “heavenly pit” or “heavenly hole” in Chinese and refers to a very specific group of geological structures.
To be considered a tiankeng, a funnel must be at least 100 meters deep and wide, and a river must flow along the bottom.
The entire tiankeng is composed of carbonate rocks, with the exception of two structures, which are composed of sandstone.
The conditions necessary for the formation of tiankeng are very specific, making their formation rare. The rock must be above sea level and be thick, without layers of impurities.
These structures also require heavy rainfall to form, which in turn encourages the formation of underground rivers.
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