Ellen Phiddian Reveals Whether Giant Sinkholes Can Be Predicted

Since I was a kid, I’ve had an irrational fear of sinkholes thinking I could find myself being swallowed up by one if I strayed too far off the beaten path. 

Turns out I was well within my rights to be concerned with Cosmos Magazine journalist Ellen Phiddian confirming my worst fears. 

“A couple of years ago, I walked up to the pizza place at the end of my street. I stepped onto the nature strip, ready to cross the road, and the ground opened up underneath me. I plunged downward for a terrifying moment, but only for a moment. In the end, I went in up to my knees,” she said. 

“I got out of the sinkhole and continued on to pick up my pizza. It was a significantly muddier journey than I’d intended, but other than that, I was fine. My sinkhole mishap was barely a sinkhole. Just a bit of subsidence caused by a burst water main.”

The Spooky Science and Spectacle of Sinkholes:

According to Ellen, while this sinkhole was fairly harmless, bigger, scarier sinkholes the size of buildings can open up without warning and make all of our nightmares come true. 

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Most sinkholes are believed to start in a similar way, starting small and growing bigger and bigger. 

If you’re hoping to avoid finding yourself in the centre of a sinkhole and being swallowed up by the earth, you’re probably wondering whether it’s possible to avoid them. First you have to understand how they start. 

According to experts, a sinkhole usually starts when the earth or rock in the ground starts to become unstable which is often caused by groundwater dissolving rock.

Cosmos Magazine journalist Ellen Phiddian dives head-first into the science of sinkholes, revealing how they happen, how common they are and whether they can be predicted.

Put your thinking caps on, folks. Huh? Science Explained is here, the twice weekly podcast brought to you by LiSTNR and Cosmos. Hosted by Cosmos’ very own science journos, this is the podcast that will answer all of life’s questions – in just 10 minutes. Hear it on the LiSTNR app now.