El Zacatón - the deepest cenote in the world

El Zacatón – the deepest cenote in the world

A cenote is a natural sinkhole, which is formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock, exposing groundwater underneath. Cenotes can vary in size and shape, ranging from small openings to large, water-filled caverns.

Cenotes often have crystal-clear, turquoise-colored water. Cenotes were considered sacred and were important water sources. Today, cenotes are popular tourist attractions, offering opportunities for swimming.

When it comes to cenotes, most people usually think of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Yucatan is home to the Ring of Cenotes, the unique creation of which is associated with the fall of the Chicxulub meteorite, which marked the end of the age of dinosaurs and created a crater with a diameter of 180 km.

The limestone from which the meteorite was made has worn away over time to form the cenotes. There are at least 7,000 cenotes, or underground wells, in the Yucatan where they were sacred sites to the Mayans.

El Zacatón is the deepest cenote in the world

However, the deepest cenote in the world is not in the Yucatán Peninsula. Although Yucatan is mostly associated with cenotes, the deepest cenote in the world is located in a completely different Mexican state – Tamaulipas.

Zacatón is a thermal water-filled sinkhole that is part of a group of unusual karst formations near the Sierra de Tamaulipas. With a total depth of 339 m, it is one of the deepest known water-filled sinkholes in the world.

How deep is the El Zacatón cenote? With a diameter of 140 meters, El Zacatón is 339 m deep which makes it the deepest cenote on the planet and it was NASA was in charge of verifying its depth using a robotic submarine.

The Deep Phreatic Thermal Explorer (DEPTHX), which carried out the exploration, was created by Carnegie Mellon University as part of its tests to go to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons, and the mission was sponsored by NASA.

This robotic submarine (DEPTHX) confirmed that the cenote’s depth was 319 meters, with an additional 20 meters added from the ground to where the water starts. This means that the total depth of the cenote is 339 meters.

El Zacatón - the deepest cenote in the world

Can you swim in El Zacatón cenote?

El Zacaton is located on the private property of Rancho El Nacimiento, so permits and permits are required to visit and dive. Due to its inherent dangers, the dive is restricted to experienced divers or scientific expeditions.

Yes, you can swim in the Zacaton cenote in the world, but it is not recommended because since this cenote was formed by underwater volcanic eruptions over millions of years, the water has high concentrations of sulfur.

If you dive into it, you will come out with a bad odor.

To explore its depths you do have to be a professional diver, as several have died trying. In 1993, Dr. Ann Kristovich descended 168 m, and the following year, Jim Bowden set a record of 282 m deep but did not find the bottom.

The body of another diver, Sheck Exley, was found 3 days later, and it was said that it was due to high-pressure nervous syndrome (HPNS), which caused him to have a seizure due to complications with his oxygen tanks.

It is difficult to dive into El Zacaton. This cenote is not exactly a pleasant place for diving. This cenote is a cave indeed, so after a certain depth, there is absolute darkness because a beam of light can no longer pass through.

Besides, there are nooks, because after 150 m tunnels begin to form that connect the cenote with the complex system of underground caves that run throughout the municipality, and it is not simply going up or down.

The surface of the waters may seem calm, but the currents are deceptive.

The water here is not pure and crystal, since the ranch where the cenote is located is called La Azufrosa and that gives the idea that what is left over there is sulfur, which gives density to the water but also makes it cloudy.

How to get to El Zacatón cenote?

Surrounded by steep rocks, El Zacatón is located in the Rancho La Azufrosa, about 2 hours from Tampico, in a place known for its eco-tourism, geological formations, lagoons, and a wide diversity of flora and fauna.

The Zacatón is connected to 4 other interconnected cenotes that surround it:

  • Poza Verde
  • Caracol
  • Pilita
  • Poza Azufrada

All these cenotes are also open to the public.

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