caver descending into well of hell

Cavers Reached the Bottom of an Ancient ‘Well of Hell’ For the First Time

For the first time ever in September, Cavers descended all the way to the bottom of the Well of Barhout. This well is also known as the Well of Hell. Why? Well, because it is basically a giant hole in the desert that you can’t see the bottom of and where no one has ever ventured. With all of the rumors swirling around about this place, some brave explorers finally decided to find out what’s really down there.

Cavers Went To The Bottom Of The Well of Hell For the First Time Ever

Cave explorers from Oman became the first people ever to descend 376 feet to the bottom of the Well of Hell sinkhole in Yemen earlier this year. If you’re wondering why no one has ever tried it before, it might be because of the terrifying myths that surround it. Many locals believe that it is full of trapped genies and is the gateway to the underworld. Some believe that the pit can suck nearby objects into it, leaving many people to keep far away from its edge. (1)

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“Some say it is where apostates and non-believers are tortured after death,” said one of the cavers Mohammed al-Kindi. “Others believe that their heads would be severed once they’re down there.” (2)

It’s not hard to see why so many terrible legends surround the sinkhole. For one, it is very deep. It is also perfectly circular – eerily-so, you could say. It’s also just out there in the middle of the desert. Its remoteness can also lead to plenty of out-there theories. While no one knows the exact age of the Well of Hell, scientists estimate that it is likely millions of years old.

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What Did They Find Down There?

OCET team member descending down into the Well of Hell
Image Credit: Mohammed Al-Kindi

A group of brave spelunkers called the Omani Caves Exploration Team (OCET) decided to once and for all put many of these rumors and scary stories to rest. They went into the Well of Hell and took a video of their adventure. The team used a pulley system to lower eight of the team members into the depths of the cave while two team members stayed above. Kindi, also a geology professor at the German University of Technology in Oman, said that passion was the driving force behind the adventure.

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“we felt that this is something that will reveal a new wonder and part of Yemeni history.” he said.

So what exactly did they find? Well, as it turns out… nothing out of the ordinary, at least as far as caves and sinkholes go. Waterfalls, snakes, dead animals, stalagmites, and cave pearls. No genies, and certainly no door to the fiery pit of hell.

The team discovered that the water begins to appear through cracks in the walls at about 213 feet below the surface. These create the tiny waterfalls needed to create the stalagmites and cave pearls on the sinkhole’s jagged floor.

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The Cave’s Inhabitants

Beyond just snakes, the explorers also found various types of frogs and beetles down there. There were plenty of dead animals who appeared to have fallen into the pit and then died there. Most of these were birds. The smell of the dead animal’s bodies may have caused the smell that some locals reported wafting out of the hole from time to time. The cavers, however, said there was no overwhelming aroma at the bottom. They collected samples of the rocks, water, soil, and dead animals. They will analyze them to see if they learn any more information about the cave. According to the explorers, they even bottled up the water and drank it, to no poor consequences.

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discoveries at the bottom of the Well of Hell. Snakes and cave pearls
The cavers found odd, almost transparent snakes (see left) and cave pearls (see right) while exploring the cave.
Image Credit: Mohammed Al-Kindi | Atlas Abscura

How Did It Form?

There are different types of sinkholes, but the primary two are collapse sinkholes and subsidence ones. Collapse sinkholes form when the bedrock beneath the surface expands. Eventually, there is nothing left to support the surface ground and therefore it collapses into the bottom of the sinkhole. Subsidence sinkholes form as a result of surface sediments slowly trickling down into small spaces below the surface. This eventually causes depression or sinkhole to form.

It is next to impossible to determine the age of a sinkhole or how it formed unless there are eyewitnesses who record it. Naturally, with the Well of Barhout, there was no one around to write down when or how it happened. Scientists really don’t have much hope of ever knowing the answer to how this 30-foot-wide hole came to be.

Keep Reading: Perfectly preserved ancient Roman mosaic floor discovered in Italy

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Sources

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  1. Cavers discover snakes and waterfalls inside Yemen’s infamous ‘Well of Hell’ in world-first descent.” Live Science. Harry Baker. September 24, 2021
  2. Cavers Reached the Bottom of an Ancient ‘Well of Hell’ For the First Time.” Vice. Becky Ferreira. September 24, 2021
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
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