On Friday, July 5th, at 8:20 pm, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake rocked a wide area of Southern California.
The quake struck outside of Ridgecrest, but it was also felt about 150 miles to the east, at Devils Hole, a detached 40-acre area of Death Valley National Park that is across the California border in Nevada. That shaking is shown in a remarkable video released by the National Park Service.
The clip shows water violently sloshing around, rising and falling 10 to 15 feet, according to a park estimate. The video captures two angles, one looking into the cave and the other underwater inside it.
Devils Hole is a part of the desert uplands and spring-fed oases that make up the Ash Meadows complex, a national wildlife refuge.
This is not the first time that a distant earthquake has been felt inside Devils Hole, a water-filled limestone cave.
In January 2018, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake in the Gulf of Alaska shook the cave from about 2,000 miles away, as did a similar sized quake that rocked western China in 2008.
“It’s a really unique place in its relationship to earthquakes,” said Kevin Wilson, the park’s aquatic ecologist and manager of Devils Hole.
Water in Devils Hole is incredibly deep—so deep, divers have not been able to reach the bottom and the exact depth remains unknown, Wilson said.
Even at great distances, earthquakes affect Devils Hole because they force groundwater up into the cave, a phenomenon known as seismic seiche.
“Devils Hole is a window into the groundwater," Wilson said. "The earthquakes displace the water, so it will rise up quickly and then drop."
Still, Wilson said that the underwater shaking and frothy white water spilling out of the cave's mouth were "unlike anything I've seen here in my career," Wilson said. "The 7.1 quake walloped Devils Hole."
The water inside the cave is the native environment of the Devils Hole Pupfish, a critically endangered species.
Park officials train cameras on the area to monitor the fish remotely.
In a statement posted with the video, the park says that fish were luckily spared. "The fish seem to be in good condition with spawning behavior occurring," they wrote.
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