The jagged crack appears alien to the smooth rolling hills of Wyoming’s Big Horn Mountains, stretching almost a football field wide and seven football fields long. Locals have been calling it “The Crack,” while others have been calling it “The Gash”; no matter what it is being called, it is a powerful testament to the force of mother nature.
If you have been following social media the past few weeks, then you probably have seen the apocalyptic warnings due to this mysterious fissure in the Earth’s surface that has suddenly opened up and caused widespread panic and speculation. Comments on social media range from it being an opening to the underworld to a warning that Yellowstone’s super volcano is finally due to erupt. Geologists have set the record straight: it’s just a slow-moving landslide that occurs frequently in that area, though not normally of this magnitude.
SNS Outfitters and Guides were the first to find this giant crack in the Earth’s surface, which appeared recently on one of the ranches their company uses for guided tours.
Not to worry folks this is just normal geology at work. An engineer from Renton, WY explained that the Big Horn Mountain crack was, apparently “a wet spring lubricated across a cap rock. Then a small spring on either side caused the bottom to fall out.” A cap rock is a more resistant rock which overlies a weaker, or less resistant, rock type.
According to Seth Wittke, a geological manager with the Wyoming Geological Survey, the crack is occurring from moisture in the rocks surface; sounds like agreement across the local scientific community. Wittke said, “A lot of landslides are caused by ground moisture or water and things like that, or in this case, a spring.”
Though beautiful and awe-inspiring, officials have warned people to stay away since it is still an active landslide with some areas being several stories deep. The opening is much like a glacier moving with large crevasses that can swallow millions of cubic yards of land in an instant. One man commented on Facebook that “it made one feel insignificant”; others have said “it’s amazing what mother nature can do, and is still doing.”
An engineer from the town of Riverton, WY investigated the fissure in the Big Horn Mountains and reported that there appeared to be an incredible 14 to 18 million meters of movement. Though this might seem to be an isolated event, it is part of a chain of geologic events happening all over the world.