Giant Forest Sinkhole Discovered by Cave Explorers in China

Scientists Discover an Ancient Forest Inside a Sinkhole in China

Scientists believe it might have undiscovered plant and animal species!

When we think of “sinkholes”, the first thing that comes to mind is either the water-filled ones (e.g., the cenotes in Mexico)… or those large gaping holes in cities that appear in disaster movies. But how about a forest sinkhole? 

On 6 May 2022, a team of speleologists (aka cave experts) and cave explorers discovered an ancient forest inside a sinkhole in China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. They abseiled and then trekked for several hours to reach the base, which measures 630ft deep. 

What scientists know so far about this ancient forest sinkhole

forest sinkhole in China

Image credit: NineDragons2

Chen Lixin, leader of the expedition group, said that the sinkhole is home to primitive trees, some of which are as tall as 131ft! There is also dense undergrowth that came up to his shoulders. “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,” he told reporters. 

Fortunately, their team brought a drone that allowed them to document these lush underground surroundings. They were also able to return back up safely during the evening on the same day. 

forest sinkhole in China

Image credit: NineDragons2

The forest-filled sinkhole has three huge caves within its walls. According to Zhang Yuanhai, a senior engineer in the Institute of Karst Geology of China Geological Survey, these could be the remains of its early evolution. 

This giant sinkhole is located near Ping’e village, under Luoxi township in Leye County. Its discovery brings the county’s total number of karst sinkholes to 30. 

Also read: This Giant Snake Rock in Thailand Is a Fascination of Many — Is It an Actual Fossil?

Such natural formations — locally called tiankeng (heavenly pits) — are actually common in the southern parts of China. 

Image credit: wonry via Canva Pro

In fact, this isn’t even the largest forest sinkhole that has already been discovered! Up to this day, that title belongs to Xiaozhai Tiankeng, which you’ll find in Fengjie Tiankeng Difeng National Park

Featured image courtesy of Guangxi speleology research team 702.

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Marcy Miniano
Marcy Miniano

A fast-talking caffeine-dependent wordsmith, Marcy has never been one to shy away from sharing a good story or two. If she’s not in a quiet coffee shop somewhere, she enjoys spending afternoons in a museum or art gallery — whether it’s around Metro Manila or a foreign city she’s visiting. She wishes to retire in a winter village someday, so she can fulfil her lifelong dream of wearing turtlenecks all year round and owning a pet penguin.