Northern Cape sinkhole offers up underground mysteries

A 300m long sinkhole in the Northern Cape that opened up after heavy summer rains is revealing some interesting discoveries for inquisitive locals and adventurous spelunkers.

Sinkhole
The 300m long sinkhole in the Northern Cape, caused by heavy rains has cave explorers intrigued. (Image: Hendrik van Hunks, Facebook)

Brand South Africa reporter

The sinkhole, situated on the Mount Carmel farm, close to the R31 road between the towns of Kuruman and Daniëlskuil, Northern Cape, was formed two weeks ago by rainwater erosion.

While the ravine may look insignificant compared to something like the Grand Canyon in the US, it appears that what lies beneath the surface, at various openings along the ground, may offer up some new, significant discoveries.

Spelunking

Two South African spelunkers (cave explorers) Karin Human and Gerrie Pretorius visited the site recently, attempting to explore beneath the surface.

“[We] climbed 4m down into the first hole in the ground,” Human told travel news website, News24 Traveller. The two climbers were able to explore a narrow passage inside of a cave, the walls of which Human said were smooth, “almost like boulders in a river, there were no sharp edges.”

Northern Cape sinkhole
The 300m long sinkhole in the Northern Cape, caused by heavy rains has cave explorers intrigued. (Image: Hendrik van Hunks, Facebook)

On the boulders, the team discovered formations of crystals, created over thousands of years, collected from a combination of groundwater and mineral build-up.

Human was able to move further through the narrow cave passageway, discovering a larger cave chamber and another 1m wide connecting passageway.

The explorers say there is flowing water in the cave, moving to an underground reservoir further beneath the surface.

The team hope to explore further along the ravine with better equipment at a later stage, intending to map the underground area topographically to get an idea of its full area size.

The Cape of Caves

This Northern Cape region is known for its karst topography, namely land formations caused by the dissolution of soluble rocks, including limestone, dolomite and gypsum. Underground drainage systems gradually create sinkholes and caves in the rock over thousands of years.

In a South African Broadcasting Corporation news report, experts have noted that while the area is full of these formations, this latest opening is described as “monster hole [with rain] water continuing to flow into it, creating small waterfalls.”

Watch footage of the waterfalls at the Mount Carmel site below:

Boesmansgat, meaning in English “Bushman’s Hole”, is also a natural sinkhole and, at almost 300m, believed to be the sixth-deepest freshwater cave in the world. It is less than 10km from the new Mount Carmel opening. Boesmansgat is home to a number of cave diving world records.

View from the drone

drone footage
The 300m long sinkhole in the Northern Cape, caused by heavy rains has cave explorers intrigued. (Image: Hendrik van Hunks, Facebook)

Meanwhile back at Mount Carmel, aerial photographer Hendrik van Hunks filmed the surface size of the new sinkhole using a camera-drone.

Watch the footage below:

Continued rain at the site have spiked fears that the ravine may, over time, reach and destroy the nearby R31 road. The Department of Roads and Public Works have closed off the road until a full survey of the area can be completed, and a workable solution found to stem this bizarre, yet perfectly natural occurrence.

Source: News24

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