October 2015 – WYOMING – The gaping gash in the Bighorn Mountains has been wowing locals for weeks as it continues to grow to over 750-yards long and about 50-yards wide, according to a hunting outfitter group. “This giant crack in the earth appeared in the last two weeks on a ranch we hunt in the Bighorn Mountains. It’s a really incredible sight,” SNS Outfitter & Guides wrote on Facebook.
The group first stumbled across it in early October, but they believe the crack has been developing since late September. “All of a sudden it was just there,” SNS member Sy Gilliland told 9 News. “I think the reason it’s so fascinating is it’s so big. And it doesn’t make any sense. It’s just like the ground opened up.” The hunting organization called in an expert engineer to examine the geological phenomenon after the photo piqued many interests and prompted a barrage of questions. It said the crack was caused by a wet spring that “lubricated” across a cap rock. –NY Daily News
Numerous photos were taken of the crack, which now has steep cliffs and large boulders on the bottom. But it’s not just the size of the crack, it’s how quickly it appeared, and it led to speculation that a volcanic eruption or earthquake was imminent. However, experts apparently don’t believe that’s likely, according to a Washington Post report.
An engineer was sent out to the gash to assess the situation, and he believes that a wet spring lubricated a cap rock, and a spring on either side resulted in the bottom sliding out and creating the crack. Seth Wittke, who is the manager of groundwater and geologic hazards and mapping for the Wyoming Geological Survey, was quoted in the report as saying that such things can happen due to a number of triggers, but moisture in the subsurface causing weakness in the ground above is a very common reason for the bedrock losing stability like this. –Morning Ticker
November 2009 – AFRICA – A crack in the Earth’s crust – which could be the forerunner to a new ocean – ripped open in just days in 2005, a new study suggests. The opening, located in the Afar region of Ethiopia, presents a unique opportunity for geologists to study how mid-ocean ridges form. The crack is the surface component of a continental rift forming as the Arabian and African plates drift away from one another. It began to open up in September 2005, when a volcano at the northern end of the rift, called Dabbahu, erupted.
The magma inside the volcano did not reach the surface and erupt as a fountain of lava – instead, it was diverted into the continental rift underground. The magma cooled into a wedge-shaped “dike” that was then uplifted, rupturing the surface and creating a 500-metre-long, 60-metre-deep crack.
Using sensor data collected by universities in the region, researchers led by Atalay Ayele of Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia reconstructed the sequence of seismic events that led to the crack’s formation. They found that a 60-kilometre-long, 8-metre-wide dike of solidified magma formed in the rift, causing the crack, in a matter of days.
“The ferocity of what we saw during this episode stunned everyone,” says Cynthia Ebinger, a team member at the University of Rochester in New York. While the Mount Dabbahu rift is still hundreds of kilometres inland, Ebinger says it could continue to widen and lengthen. “As the plates keep spreading apart, it will end up looking like the Red Sea,” she says. Eventually it could reach the east coast of Ethiopia and fill up with seawater. “At some point, if that spreading and rifting continues, then that area will be flooded,” says Ken Macdonald, a marine geophysicist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who was not involved with the study. –New Scientist
June 2013 – SPAIN – A newly discovered crack in the Earth’s crust could pull North America and Europe together and cause the Atlantic Ocean to vanish in about 220 million years, scientists say. A new map of the seafloor off the coast of Iberia—the region of Europe that includes Portugal and Spain—has revealed what could be the birth of a new subduction zone. Subduction zones happen when tectonic plates—the large rock slabs that make up the Earth’s crust—crash into one another. The edge of the heavier plate slides, or subducts, below the lighter plate. It then melts back into the Earth’s mantle—the layer just below the crust.
The discovery of this new subduction zone, published on June 6 in the journal Geology, could signal the start of an extended cycle that fuses continents together into a single landmass—or “supercontinent”—and closes our oceans. This breakup and reformation of supercontinents has happened at least three times during Earth’s approximately four-billion-year history. In the far future, Earth’s continents could “look very much like the Pangea,” said study first author João Duarte, referring to a supercontinent that existed about 200 million years ago. So what’s new? The newly discovered subduction zone is located in the Atlantic Ocean about 120 miles (200 kilometers) off the southwest coast of Portugal. It is made up of six distinct segments that together span a distance of about 186 miles (300 kilometers).
The subduction zone is actually a newly formed crack in the Eurasian plate—one of about a dozen tectonic plates that make up the Earth’s crust. The Eurasian plate contains all of Europe and most of Asia. “In this case, the Eurasia plate is breaking in two,” said Duarte, a geoscientist at the University of Monash in Australia. Why is it important? Scientists have long suspected that a new subduction zone was forming near the western margin of the Eurasian plate, off the coast of Portugal. Part of the reason is that the region has been the site of significant earthquake activity, including an 8.7-magnitude quake in 1755 that devastated Lisbon. –National Geographic
October 2013 – PHILIPPINES – A deadly earthquake that struck the Philippines on Oct. 15 created a spectacular rocky wall that stretches for kilometers through farmlands, astounded geologists said Thursday. Dramatic pictures of the power of the 7.1-magnitude quake have emerged as the government works to mend the broken central island of Bohol, ground zero of the destruction. A “ground rupture” pushed up a stretch of ground by up to 3 meters, creating a wall of rock above the epicenter, Maria Isabel Abigania, a geologist at the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said. “Our people have walked 5 km so far and not found the end of this wall,” she said as experts from the institute surveyed the damage.
“So far we have not gotten any reports of people getting swallowed up in these cracks. The fault runs along a less-populated area.” Renato Solidum, head of the institute, said the ground fissures from the quake, which killed 198 people on Bohol and two nearby islands, were among the largest recorded since the government agency began keeping quake records in 1987. –Japan Times
August 2014 – MEXICO – Spectacular footage has emerged showing an enormous crack in the Earth stretching across an arid stretch of northwest Mexico. The giant chasm, located near Hermosillo in the state of Sonora, is around a half-mile long and up to 26 feet deep in some places, Sky News reported. Eerie video footage shot by a drone was posted to YouTube earlier this week.
The camera traces along the trench, catching befuddled motorists standing near its edge. The crack is 16 feet wide in some places and has forced drivers on the local highway to take long detours in order to get around it, Sky News said. It wasn’t clear what caused the massive fissure. Some surveyors said they believed it might have opened in an earthquake that struck the area Sunday; while others mused a leaky levee might have caused the ground to collapse. –NY Daily News