El Zacaton is the deepest known sinkhole in the world (filled with water). It is situated near the Sierra de Tamaulipas in Mexico’s north-eastern state of Tamaulipas. It has a height of 1,112 feet and is the only sinkhole in Rancho La Azufrosa with any water flow. El Zacaton is named after the zacate grass islands, which float freely and move around due to the wind. El Zacaton has become a popular diving destination due to its depth. Men and women have set world records for diving in El Zacaton. El Zacaton is home to a plethora of endemic microorganisms, including three new bacteria species discovered on the rock walls beneath the water’s surface.
In Italy, there is another possible sinkhole that is deeper than El Zacaton. It is known as Pozzo del Merro and reaches a depth of more than 1,286 feet. However, it has not been determined whether it is a sinkhole or a near vertical cave, so El Zacaton remains the world’s deepest known, water-filled sinkhole for the time being.
El Zacaton is a significant landmark in Mexico.
NASA used the El Zacaton sinkhole for research purposes while testing robotic hardware for use in space exploration of Europa’s moon.
El Zacaton is a karst field that is part of Sistema Zacaton. There are over 20 unique features in this region, including sinkholes, springs heated by volcanic activity deep underground, caves, and travertine formations.
Although some people believe that El Zacaton was only discovered in the last few decades, it was actually recorded by the viceroy of New Spain in 1795, and it was known long before the Europeans arrived by the indigenous people who lived there.
Dr. Ann Kristovich set the world depth record for women in 1993 by diving to 554 feet in El Zacaton.
Two men set out in 1994 to reach the bottom of El Zacaton. Both Jim Bowden and Sheck Exley completed the dive, with Jim Bowden reaching 925 feet. Sheck Exley climbed between 879 and 906 feet before succumbing to HPNS (high pressure nervous syndrome). Neither man made it all the way to the bottom of El Zacaton.
Nobody knew how deep El Zacaton was before the use of robotic equipment.
NASA’s DEPTHX robot reached the bottom of El Zacaton in 2007, allowing its true depth to be determined.
The ability of NASA to reach such deep levels of El Zacaton also enabled the discovery of new bacteria species.
The sinkhole’s lake is 116 meters wide at El Zacaton’s water level, but it grows in size as one goes deeper.
Because of the mineral content, the water in El Zacaton has a slight sulphur odor.
El Zacaton’s floating islands are covered in zacate, a type of tall grass. These islands can grow to be 3 to 10 meters in diameter. They may eventually cover the entire surface of El Zacaton if they grow large enough.
These floating islands are thought to be extremely rare.