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Video: What an Earthquake in Mexico Did to a Cave in Death Valley National Park

A 7.4 earthquake in Mexico last month sent a shockwave to Death Valley National Park where scientists witnessed a sight not many have -- and they caught it on video.

The shaking at Devils Hole, a water-filled subterranean cave on the Nevada side of the park, began about 10 minutes after the temblor struck Oaxaca on March 20. At first, the impact on the water level was subtle, but became more dramatic over the next few minutes. The whole event last about 20 minutes.

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"There are more people that have walked on the moon than have witnessed an earthquake event at Devils Hole," said Kevin Wilson, an aquatic ecologist for the park.

As described by a park news release...

... staff observed algae slough off the walls of the chamber, followed by water bubbles, swooshing sounds and swirling water. The water became turbid and the smell of sulfur filled the air. The water level ranged more than 5 ft. in total (~2.5 in either direction) throughout the event. The rising water level increased causing waves to rush along top of a shallow shelf and crash against the adjacent wall.

Wilson believes there is no long-term damage to the pupfish that populate the hole. In all, there are only around 100 of the endemic and endangered Cyprinodon diabolis, or Devils Hole pupfish. This U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service video from 2011 explains more about the desert species:


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About the Author

Zach Behrens is KCET's Director of News, Region and State, working on digital and on-air news products that relate to Southern California and beyond.
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