A huge crack that has formed in the foothills of Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains is not a sign that Yellowstone’s massive underground volcano is about to erupt, or anything else more sinister: It’s just something that opened naturally, scientists are saying.
The crack measures 750 yards long and 50 yards wide, reports Mother Nature Network, and was discovered by backcountry hunters who were out hunting for game, not geological mysteries.
The chasm was first reported by SNS Outfitter & Guides, a hunting company, on its Facebook page earlier this week and after that, the news — and the conspiracy theories — have been growing:
The gash appeared over the course of only a few weeks, MNN reports, and shows that large geological events can occur quickly.
Randy Becker, one of the hunters who found the gash, posted several photos to his Facebook page, calling the gash “an awesome example of how our earth is not as stable as you might think. Awesome forces at work here to move this much dirt!!”
But as it turns out, the crack isn’t related to the Yellowstone supervolcano, or anything worse, despite the claims swirling around online about it.
“Apparently, a wet spring lubricated across a cap rock,” an engineer has told SNS. “Then, a small spring on either side caused the bottom to slide out. He estimated 15 to 20 million yards of movement.”
The region has been, through the years, the site of several such landslides, although not nearly the size of the recently discovered chasm, which lies not far from the Yellowstone Caldera.
Episodic volcanic eruptions have occurred in the Yellowstone area — three of them major.
The Yellowstone Caldera itself was created by a massive volcanic eruption approximately 640,000 years ago, and Yellowstone Park itself sits squarely atop one of the biggest volcanoes on Earth, according to National Geographic.
Scientists believe that some kind of eruption at Yellowstone is possible, but the odds of a “supervolcano” that could “plunge the Earth into a volcanic winter — are anyone’s guess; it could happen in our lifetimes, or 100,000 years or more from now, or perhaps never,” the publication continues.