Cave Explorers Just Discovered Hidden Forest Beneath a Sinkhole in China

Sophie Hirsh - Author
By

May 19 2022, Published 12:57 p.m. ET

It sounds like something out of a fantasy novel, but it’s true — in China, a hidden forest has been discovered beneath a sinkhole.

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Not only does this sound absolutely magical, and not only are the photos and footage of it breathtaking, but the experts who discovered this hidden treasure believe that unknown species could be lurking in the forest.

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A hidden forest has been discovered in China.

As reported by Xinhua, China’s state press agency, a cave exploration team came across a massive karst sinkhole in Leye County, located in south China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, in May 2022.

A karst is a landscape in which the bedrock has partially dissolved, which can create sinkholes, which are large holes in the ground with no natural drainage, as per the NPS and the USGS.

The explorers spent hours hiking more than 100 meters downwards to get a good look at the sinkhole, as per The South China Morning Post (SCMP).

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Zhang Yuanhai, a senior engineer from China Geological Survey’s Institute of Karst Geology, told Xinhua that at the bottom of the sinkhole, which is 306 meters long, 150 meters wide, and 192 meters deep, explorers found a “well-preserved primitive forest.”

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Chen Lixin, who led the expedition down the cave, told Xinhua that in the untouched forest, there were ancient trees as tall as 40 meters (about 131 feet), as well as “dense shade plants” that were about as tall as an adult’s shoulders.

Interestingly, other sinkholes that have been discovered in the region have been found to contain various insect and plant species that experts had had previously thought to be extinct, SCMP reported. So, who knows what wonders will be found as explorers continue to investigate this new sinkhole.

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“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,” Chen Lixin stated, via Esquire Middle East.

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Sinkholes are actually quite common in China.

While all this may sound mystical and otherworldly to many, this is actually the 30th sinkhole of its kind in southern China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, according to SCMP.

In fact, cave expert George Veni, of the National Cave and Karst Research Institute (NCKRI), told Live Science that karst topography, which is abundant in China, is vulnerable to sinkholes, caves, and other related phenomena.

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"Because of local differences in geology, climate and other factors, the way karst appears at the surface can be dramatically different," Veni told Live Science.

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"So in China you have this incredibly visually spectacular karst with enormous sinkholes and giant cave entrances and so forth,” he explained to the news outlet. But in many other areas with karst topography, people walking by might not even notice sinkholes.

“Sinkholes might be quite subdued, only a meter or 2 in diameter. Cave entrances might be very small, so you have to squeeze your way into them," he added. But in China's Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, sinkholes clearly tend to be larger and more majestic than anywhere else in the world.

This hidden forest is a much-needed reminder of just how incredible and beautiful nature can be — especially when it is untouched by humans.

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