The Earth is full of holes, and more are appearing every day. If we aren't drilling down, blowing up or generally messing around with our planet then nature is doing its best to do exactly the same.


We are going to take you on a tour of some of the World's biggest and most impressive (or scary) holes in the ground. Honestly, it is more interesting than it sounds...

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Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan

Darvaza Gas crater, Turkmenistan, Central Asia, Asia
Darvaza Gas crater, Turkmenistan, Central Asia Superstock Images
  • Depth: 30 metres
  • Location: Derweze, Turkmenistan
  • Origin: Man-made

In the early 1970s, this natural gas field in Derweze, Turkmenistan collapsed into an underground cavern whilst being drilled by engineers wanting to assess the quality of the gas in the area. Geologists then thought it would be a good idea to set it on fire to stop the release of methane gas poisoning local wildlife, but unfortunately nearly 50 years later the hole is still on fire and burning away quite happily.

The diameter of the crater is 69 metres, and its depth is 30 metres, which is quite a large hole to make by accident if you ask me.

Because of its amazing appearance it has become a popular tourist attraction, and has featured in a fair few TV programmes. It is commonly referred to as the 'Gates of Hell', but in reality it's just an unfortunate set of circumstances and a bit of an ecological disaster.

The "Door to Hell" (also known as the Gate to Hell, the Crater of Fire, or just Darvaza Crater), Derweze, Turkmenistan Giles Clarke/Getty Images

Kola Superdeep Borehole, Russia

Kola borehole. View across the Kola Peninsula, Murmansk region, Russia, towards the tower of the Kola ultra-deep borehole. Kola was a scientific drilling project by the Soviet Union on the Kola Peninsula. The project attempted to drill as deep as possible into the Earth's crust to explore the lithosphere.
Kola borehole. View across the Kola Peninsula, Murmansk region, Russia, towards the tower of the Kola ultra-deep borehole Science Photo Library
  • Depth: 12,226 metres
  • Location: Kola Peninsula, Russia
  • Origin: Man-made

In the early 1970s, in what was then the Soviet Union, scientists decided that they would see how far down into the Earth's crust they could drill. While this seems like a slightly dangerous and utterly pointless idea, the result was an impressive hole that measured 12,226 metres by the time drilling ceased in 1992.

The scientists found that at this depth, the rock started to behave like a plastic due to the decreased rock density and higher temperatures which made drilling any deeper almost impossible. Therefore, this record is one that is likely to stand for a long time.

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The Kola borehole is now known as the deepest artificial point on Earth, but sadly the hole (which is only a relatively tiny 23 cms in diameter) has been welded shut, and all surrounding buildings demolished.

The unassuming entrance to the Kola Borehole after being welded shut, August 2012
The unassuming entrance to the Kola Borehole after being welded shut, August 2012 Rakot13/Wikipedia Commons

China Clay Pit, Cornwall, UK

FJEY3H An aerial view of the China Clay works near St Austell in Cornwall
An aerial view of the China Clay works near St Austell in Cornwall, UK Alamy
  • Depth: 70 metres
  • Location: St Austell, Cornwall, UK
  • Origin: Man-made

The hills surrounding St Austell are known by some as the Cornish Alps, and is home to one of the biggest China Clay mines in the world. In fact one of the few remaining working mines left in Cornwall, a place with a huge mining history stretching back generations.

The mines brought great industry and trade to the area from the mid-18th Century. By the early 20th Century roughly half of the world's China Clay came from Cornwall.

The mines are still in operation today, albeit at a smaller scale. But the landscape is still impressive, and the nearby towns owe their existence and prosperity to this industry. The Eden Project is a good example in that it is built on the site of a disused China Clay mine.

2A1146N Wheal Martyn china clay mine, St Austell, Cornwall, UK.
Wheal Martyn china clay mine, St Austell, Cornwall, UK. Alamy

G-Cans Storm Drain, Tokyo, Japan

Number 1 tank of the metropolitan outer underground discharge channel is seen in Kasukabe, Saitama prefecture, Japan Getty Images
  • Depth: 65 metres
  • Location: Kasukabe, Japan
  • Origin: Man-made

Hidden deep underground in the city of Kasukabe (Japan) is this huge hidden world of tunnels and silos collectively known as 'G-Cans'. Completed in 2006, this facility is able to drain 198 cubic metres of water per second into the Edo River. This is the equivalent of draining an olympic-sized swimming pool in about 12 seconds.

The main job of this cavernous complex of storm drains is to protect nearby Tokyo and the surrounding areas from flooding during tropical storms, a problem that has increased due to the changing climate.

Before the COVID-19 crisis, it was a popular tourist destination. Although due to it's size, it could take 4 hours to have a good look around the whole complex.

KASUKABE, SAITAMA, JAPAN - 2016/06/01: GCANS Metropolitan Area Outer Underground Discharge Channel is an underground water flood control project. It is the largest underground flood water facility in the world and was built to control the overflow of Tokyo's rivers during Japan's monsoon seasons. GCANS has five large containment silos connected by six kilometers of tunnels. Its most famous feature is the large cistern with giant pillars that resemble an underground cathedral or temple. The main job of GCANS is to store, then divert, the overflow of water into the Edo River to avoid flood damage. (Photo by John S Lander/LightRocket via Getty Images)
One of the GCANS Silos pictured in 2016 featuring clearly-impressed tourists, Kasukabe, Japan Getty Images

Mir Diamond Mine, Russia

MIRNY, RUSSIA - NOVEMBER 1, 2018: A view of a kimberlite pipe of the Mir diamond mine of ALROSA's Mirny Mining and Processing Division (MPD). Alexander Ryumin/TASS (Photo by Alexander RyuminTASS via Getty Images)
A view of a kimberlite pipe of the Mir diamond mine, Siberia, Russia Getty Images
  • Depth: 525 metres
  • Location: Mirny, Siberia, Russia
  • Origin: Man-made

In the freezing cold landscape of Siberia lies one of the deepest holes in the world. And it's full of diamonds!

The Mir mine (AKA Mirny mine) has been in operation since the 1950s, when some generous souls decided to share their discovery of kimberlite diamond pipes with the state (communism, see). 70-odd years later there are still plenty of diamonds to be mined, and plenty of time to drill deeper than the current depth of 525 metres.

Kimberlite diamond pipe Peace, Mir Mine, Mirny, Yakutia, Russia
Kimberlite diamond pipe Peace, Mir Mine, Mirny, Yakutia, Russia Getty Images

Xiaozhai Tiankeng

Xiaozhai tiankeng, S-China, near Chongqing
Xiaozhai "Tiankeng" (collapse of a river cave roof), seen from the southern rim. Chongqing Municipality, China Brookqi/Wikipedia Commons
  • Depth: 662 metres
  • Location: Xiaozhai, China
  • Origin: Naturally occurring

This is the World's deepest sinkhole, estimated to be between 511 and 662 metres deep. The Heavenly Pit (The 'Tiankeng' part of it's name) has been known to local people for thousands of years, and is now becoming a popular tourist destination.

During the rainy season, a waterfall can form in the mouth of the sinkhole, taking water down into the Difeng cave below, and then off into an underground river that eventually meets the Migong river 8.5km away.

Recently a team of scientists have announced plans to scan the sinkhole and the huge maze of caves in the surrounding area. This will hopefully shed more light on how the hole was formed.


Bingham Copper Mine, USA

F02WA7 Bingham Canyon Mine, also known as the Kennecott Copper Mine, Utah, United States of America.
Bingham Canyon Mine, the deepest open-pit mine in the world, Utah, United States of America Alamy
  • Depth: 1210 metres
  • Location: Utah, USA
  • Origin: Man-made

This big ole' mine is believed to be the largest man-made excavation, and deepest open-pit mine in the world. This amazing place is over 1km deep, 4km wide, and holds National Historical Landmark status in the US.

But the impressive stats don't stop there. In its 114-year existence it has managed to produced the most amount of copper from any mine in history, at an estimated 19 million tonnes plus.

With such a huge operation over such a long period of time, the environmental impact of such a mine is obviously pretty negative, but the company that runs the mine has been making efforts to clean up the area in recent years.

USA, Utah, Salt Lake City
Trucks at work in the Bingham Copper mine (AKA the Kennecott Copper Mine), Salt Lake City, Utah, USA Getty Images

Batagaika crater, Sakha Republic, Russia

The Batagaika crater is a thermokarst depression in the Chersky Range area of Russia
The Batagaika crater is a example of a thermokarst depression, as is located in the Chersky Range area of Russia Alexander Gabyshev/Research Institute of Applied Ecology of the North
  • Depth: 100 metres
  • Location: Siberia, Russia
  • Origin: Naturally occurring

Known by locals as the 'doorway to the underworld', the Batagaika Crater is an example of a 'mega slump', or 'thermokarst' depression, where the permafrost below is thawing and leading to the ground above to collapse.

The crater is believed to be the biggest example of a permafrost crater in the World, and is growing all the time. As it does so, it reveals many ice-age fossils in the mud surround the crater, plus ancient forests below.


It is estimated that the crater is currently growing at a rate of 10 metres per year, so who knows what might be uncovered here in the future.


James CutmorePicture Editor, BBC Science Focus

James Cutmore is the picture editor of BBC Science Focus Magazine, researching striking images for the magazine and on the website. He is also has a passion for taking his own photographs