The sinkhole that swallowed a Seffner man in his bedroom this week has stunned the public and called attention to the unusual, deadly phenomenon.
But residents of southwest Florida know about sinkholes. Infact, at Myakka River State Park, an ancient one is a national tourist attraction and mystery.
Known as the Deep Hole, the ancient sinkhole attracts visitors daily, though access is granted by permit only.
The Deep Hole is odd enough on its own, but what draws visitors is the number of fat alligators that inhabit it. It's infested with 'gators.
Scientists aren't sure why so many congregate at the sinkhole.
There may be 100-200 gators floating, sunning and swimming at the sinkhole at a time. Vultures, coyote, water birds and other wildlife also visit there.
But there are so many alligator, that the creatures are visible from Google satellite images of Deep Hole. (See adjoining photo or click on link here.)
Although the Deep Hole is open to the public, there are restrictions for visitors, adding to the drama and adrenaline of a visit.
Up to 30 humans are permitted to visit the sinkhole daily, which is in the 7,000-acre Myakka wilderness preserve.
What people encounter is a flat, wide hole 142-feet deep that pocks the endless swampland. The hole is surrounded by marsh and clay.
During the wet season, the hole is part of a larger tea-colored waterway, according to the ADM Exploration Foundation, which sent divers to explore the hole locals once believed was bottomless.
In the dry season, the receding waters strand many fish that are easy prey for the alligators that occupy the Deep Hole, according to the foundation.
Diving the Deep Hole is rare and dangerous. (See the YouTube video with this article.)
The ADM Exploration Foundation reported finding a large mound of well-preserved decaying plants and fish at the bottom of the 142-foot deep sink hole. According to the foundation:
"As the divers explore the bottom of the sink, they note the large amounts of decaying plant matter and an astonishing number of dead, decaying fish lying within the debris mound. The zero dissolved oxygen, coupled with the cold, 57-degree water and extremely high hydrogen sulfide gas, create a perfect time capsule of preservation. What would normally take only a few weeks on the surface to decay, most likely would last months, if not years, deep within the sink. Ascending to the surface, the divers find themselves returning to the present day, leaving the newly discovered, entombed time capsule below, guarded by a hundred prehistoric sentinels."
More on the Deep Hole
To find out more about exploring the mysterious Deep Hole or to visit, contact the park office for more information at (941) 361-6511.
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