A Central Wyoming crack which has emerged almost over night has prompted fears of volcanoes and earthquakes, but authorities insist there is no reason to feel alarmed.
The gaping hole measures around 50 yards in width, and its length, of 750 yards, is the equivalent of 6 football fields. Initially, on October 1, hunting guides noticed just a tiny gash in the ground, when they were searching for antelopes and passed through the area, located around 40 miles south of Ten Sleep.
However, several weeks afterwards, when they returned to the Bighorn Mountains and crossed that rural region again the fissure in the ground had reached shocking proportions.
“I think the reason it’s so fascinating is it’s so big. And it doesn’t make any sense, where it happened it’s just like the ground opened up, and the size of it is just huge”, explained Sy Gilliland, owner of SNS Outfitter & Guides.
It appears that no one witnessed it as began forming at the end of September, which makes the gash even more mysterious, spurring debates regarding its possible origins.
The Facebook post mentioning the discovery has been shared more than 8,000 times, and the staggering sight has triggered a series of fatalistic theories, suggesting that volcanic or seismic activity may be at play.
Given that speculation was rife regarding the so-called “mini Grand Canyon”, scientists have immediately sought to calm down the population, by explaining the real source of the giant crack.
According to an engineer from Riverton, Wyoming, it seems that in fact the gash appeared due to groundwater accumulating across a cap rock, and making the hillside less stable.
Following heavy rainfall, another smaller spring formed on both sides, and the moisture of the soil was heightened even more.
Therefore, the bedrock became weak and destabilized, eventually causing a landslide, corresponding to approximately 15 to 20 million yards of movement.
This is how the giant crack emerged, so it’s not related in any way to seismic activity, but in fact it’s closely linked to excessively rainy weather, according to Seth Wittke, Wyoming Geological Survey’s manager of groundwater and geologic hazards and mapping.
As experts revealed, gravity and rainy spring weather are the only culprits, since there have been no earthquakes reported in the region, and no fracking or other types of drilling take place within a 20-mile radius.
Luckily, since the giant gash is on public land, at a safe distance from populated areas, and enclosed by a private cattle ranch, there are no homes or other structures which could be damaged by this erosion.
However, authorities insist that locals should still keep at a safe distance from that area, because the formation is highly unstable, and might collapse even further.
For now, the Wyoming crack can only be analyzed from afar, since it will continue to be considered as an active landslide, until the soil manages to steady itself again.
State geologist Tom Drean has said that such occurrences are in fact frequent in the area, but usually they have less significant proportions, and are more common during spring.
Also, as he emphasized, Wyoming is known as a “geologic wonderland”, with fascinating formations such as the Old Faithful geyser and Grand Teton, so this new addition isn’t that much surprising after all.
Image Source: Facebook