El Zacaton Facts

El Zacaton Facts
El Zacaton is the world's deepest known sinkhole (filled with water). It is located in Mexico's north-eastern state of Tamaulipas, near the Sierra de Tamaulipas. It reaches 1,112 feet and is the only sinkhole out of five in Rancho La Azufrosa to have any water flow. El Zacaton is named after zacate grass islands that free float and move around due to wind. Because of the depth of El Zacaton it has become a popular diving spot. World records have been set in El Zacaton for diving by men and women. There are many endemic microorganisms in El Zacaton, and three new bacteria species have been discovered on the rock walls beneath the water's surface.
Interesting El Zacaton Facts:
There is another possible sinkhole deeper than El Zacaton located in Italy. It is known as Pozzo del Merro and reaches more than 1,286 feet deep. However it has not been determined if it is a sinkhole or a near vertical cave, so for the time being El Zacaton remains the deepest known, water-filled sinkhole on the planet.
El Zacaton is considered to be a major landmark in Mexico.
NASA has used the El Zacaton sinkhole for research purposes when testing their robotic hardware to be used in space exploration of the moon of Europa.
El Zacaton is part of Sistema Zacaton - a karst field. In this region there are over 20 unique features including the sinkholes, springs heated by volcanic activity deep underground, caves, and travertine formations.
Although some people believe that El Zacaton was only discovered in the past several decades, it was actually recorded by the viceroy of New Spain in 1795, and before then it was known by the indigenous people that existed long before the Europeans arrived.
In 1993 Dr. Ann Kristovich set the world depth record for women when she dove to 554 feet in El Zacaton.
In 1994 two men set out to reach the bottom of El Zacaton. Jim Bowden and Sheck Exley both made the dive, with Jim Bowden reaching 925 feet. Sheck Exley reached between 879 and 906 feet and died, likely from HPNS (high pressure nervous syndrome). Neither man reached the bottom of El Zacaton.
Before the use of robotic equipment nobody knew exactly how deep El Zacaton was.
In 2007 NASA reached the bottom of El Zacaton with the DEPTHX robot, allowing for its true depth to be known. NASA's ability to reach such deep levels of El Zacaton also allowed for the discovery of the new bacteria species.
At El Zacaton's water level the sinkhole's lake is 116 meters wide but at deeper levels the lake increases in size.
The water of El Zacaton has a slight sulphur smell to it because of the mineral content.
The floating islands of El Zacaton are covered in tall grass known as zacate. These islands can reach between 3 and 10 meters in diameter. If they grow large enough they may eventually cover the entire surface of El Zacaton. These floating islands are considered extremely rare.

Related Links:
Deepest Places Facts
Animals Facts