Sink Holes in Florida by Nelia Gay

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A massive sink hole in Florida which had been filled in back in 2013 has opened up again. This brings back nightmarish memories of when it swallowed a man two years ago. In February 2013, a sinkhole first formed under Jeff Bush’s bedroom in the town of Seffner, Florida, as he turned in for the night. He screamed out for help to his brother, Jeremy, who ran into the bedroom to see that Mr. Bush and all his furnishings had vanished into the earth. His remains were never recovered. Days after the sinkhole took Jeff Bush, another one opened up three miles away.
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Hillsborough County sent an engineer to evaluate possible future dangers, but authorities don’t believe any residents are in danger. This week authorities said the hole, which had been filled in, has reopened. Hillsborough County, on Florida’s West coast, is part of an area known as “sinkhole alley” that accounts for two-thirds of the sinkhole-related insurance claims in the state. Sinkholes are a common problem in Florida according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, because Florida lies on bedrock made of limestone or other carbonate rock that can be eaten away by acidic ground water. This causes voids to form that collapse when the rock can no longer support the weight of what’s above it.
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Property insurance to cover sinkholes is very expensive and mostly unavailable because of the fear that sinkholes will occur almost anywhere. There is a map that shows the possible sinkhole patterns and the sinkhole corridor that travels along the state. Our insurance agent talked us into canceling our sinkhole coverage last year, and we understand why. If you look at a Google map of our property from Devil’s Den to the North just outside the edge of our property, you can see a dark green line where trees are greener because of the river beneath them. The underground river gives to us and takes away. We have wonderful drinking water, because our well is near the underground river.
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Devil’s Den near Williston, Florida, is a sinkhole that has been made into a delightful spring for snorkeling and scuba diving. It is a natural wonder that has been transformed into a world class tourist attraction and one of North America’s most prehistoric locations. This underground spring inside a dry cave has been home to many extinct animal fossils dating back to the Pleistocene Age. It’s an ancient domed cave with clear blue water approximately 200 feet across, surrounding a central rock formation, that must have dropped into the cave leaving an opening from above. The opening allows an entrance into the cave down a narrow staircase into 70 degree water. Devil’s Den has been described by visitors as dreamlike, serene, and out of this world; but it is a sinkhole.
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There was a drowning victim in July, 1995, identified as Steven Dismukes, 28, after his body was recovered from Devil’s Den. The man diving with him told investigators that he noticed he was missing. Cave divers from the National Speleogical Society found him in about 35 feet of water. A preliminary investigation showed that both men were certified open-water divers, but it did not appear that either diver was certified for cave diving. No one is allowed to swim outside the cave area, and all dangerous areas are marked off or fenced off for safety. Apparently the divers decided to pull down the fence which blocks off the cave section at Devil’s Den. They did not have the proper training or equipment to cave dive.
On cold winter mornings you can see steam like smoke rising from the opening — so it was named Devil’s Den by early settlers. The water is crystal clear and you can see ancient rock formations with stalactites and fossil beds dating back 33 million years. The hole to the surface was originally a smaller hole through which visitors could squeeze to reach the water. Now it’s much easier to get inside, however, you will need to stand in line during busy seasons. They let only a small group inside at a tine, one by one.
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For an experience to last a lifetime, be sure to include a visit to Devil’s Den on your next Florida vacation and take your underwater camera for some unreal shots. You can take your own scuba and snorkeling gear or rent full scuba equipment at Devil’s Den. For more specific information on rules, pricing and open schedules, be sure to visit Devil’s Den on the web before you go.
Photography by John Crichton.

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