On May 6, 2022, a team of cave searchers descended to the bottom of a giant sinkhole in South China and uncovered a secret primeval forest. Dense ancient trees stretching 130 feet tall and a rare species of bamboo cover the area of the sinkhole, which is nearly 3 football fields long.
Located near the Ping'e village in Leye County of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the sinkhole is locally known as “shenying tiankeng,” or the bottomless pit. It is one of 30 known enormous sinkholes in Leye County, which are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage for its distinctive topography with vast cave systems and karst landscapes.
In China, large sinkholes like this one are known as “tiankeng,” or heavenly pits, and they come in all sizes and shapes depending on the climate in the area according to a statement made by George Veni, executive director of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute to Live Science.
Sinkholes are a natural feature that forms when groundwater dissolves the bedrock to the point that a cave collapses, and they’re quite common across the Guangxi region. "In China, you have this incredibly visually spectacular karst with enormous sinkholes and giant cave entrances and so forth," Veni stated. "In other parts of the world you walk out on the karst and you really don't notice anything."
landscapes, including attractions such as Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico and Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.
Water-shaped landscapes like this are called karst, and they’re often spectacular to see. In fact, many famous natural attractions in the US, such as Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, are an example of karst.
The sinkhole found near the Ping'e village may not have intricate rock formations inside, but it’s massive. The speleological expedition that explored the sinkhole spent several hours hiking through a dense forest full of prehistoric trees before they got to the bottom of this giant karst formation, states Chen Lixin, the head of the expedition to a Guangxi news article.
The researchers point out that the sinkhole may be home to unknown plant and animal species, especially small animals like insects. "I wouldn't be surprised to know that there are species found in these caves that have never been reported or described by science until now," Veni confirmed. And we are excited to learn of these further discoveries. But for now, let’s enjoy a short clip of drone footage taken during this expedition.
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