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Skaistkalne Karst Sinkholes EarthCache

Hidden : 05/14/2009
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Geocache Description:

Karst is special process, which takes place under ground level. Although karst processes go on in the whole world, there are few places where we can see characteristic exposures of this process on the ground level. These are called Sinkholes and karst lakes. Skaistkalne is one of the unique places in Latvia, where it is possible to observe earth transformation which are made by karst process.

Area which is rich in sinkholes and occupies more than 100 ha in Skaistkalne district is a natural preserve with name “Skaistkalnes karsta kritenes” and its territory is protected by the government. This area is included in the list of the protected areas in Europe (Natura 2000).

Karst processes take place underground, in locations rich in water melting rocks, like gypsum, limestone, dolomite and others. It requires soluble, waterproof rocks and underground water to create a karst process. In addition, the water must be in motion, it must to circulate in underground strata.

While washing the rocks water forms underground cavities, cracks, underground lakes. When the holes become big enough, soil falls down in emptiness and creates a crater named Sinkhole.

Karst processes in Latvia take place in rocks about 50 meters deep, making Sinkholes in excess of even 10-meter depth. Karst process is slow. It takes dozens and hundreds of years. Therefore, it is almost impossible to forecast expressions of this process. Karst Sinkholes can develop rapidly - in one moment, or in few days, or during melting upper phase of minerals for a few millimeters a year, hundreds of hectares falling down so slow that it is not even noticeable and do not have effect on forests, buildings or people.

Sinkholes itself are biotopes - places suitable for rare plant and insect evolution. This is one of the reasons why for the park's visitors it is forbidden to climb down in Sinkholes - not to stamp them down. In addition, the climbing down in Sinkholes is dangerous. Perhaps, under Sinkholes, there are some additional spaces to fall down.

Researchers explain and the location of this phenomenon in Skaistkalne district by a unique characteristic of underground process, typical only for this area . In particular, water current from Iecava river overflow to Memele river. The distance between the two rivers is just few kilometers in this area. Moreover, the level Memele river at this stage is at least about 5 meters lower than Iecava river. This difference in water levels gives space for some water overflow through the underground layers. Unusual water movement is probably the reason why this area is formed in Karst lakes and the deeper Karst Sinkholes in Latvia.

And now – let’s go! Road from Skaistkalne to Kurmene. Sign „Lauku maja „Krastmalas”” (N 56 23.456 E 024 40.490). There you must turn off from the main road to another road to reach a path to sinkholes.
Mechanic transport vehicles I suppose to park here: N 56 23.313 E 024 41.626.
Next you must go by foot or bicycle. Here will be the objects to look for:
1) N 56 23.337 E 024 41.626
2) N 56 23.388 E 024 41.599
3) N 56 23.439 E 024 41.572
4) N 56 23.508 E 024 41.753
5) N 56 23.356 E 024 41.686
6) N 56 23.290 E 024 41.627
And here is the first question – is there a sinkhole at the last coordinates?

Next you must go to Skaistkalne village and look for newly created sinkholes in the place, where people can not be sure, if their homes will not disappear underground the next day.
1) N56 22.789 E 024 38.317 – once here was a grain barn. It was in Y1923 when one end of the grain barn disappeared underground. People say, that after two weeks when this happened, parts of board and straw were discovered floating in the Memele river.
2) N 56 22.733 E 024 38.264 – this is the last and latest sinkhole. It was created in July 3, 2008. This sinkhole is still changing its shape every day, it means that the Karst process is still going on.
3) N 56 22.716 E 024 38.148 - sinkhole created in June 16, 2003. A farmer who used to keep his cows in this field, once decided to place here a 4 t barrel of water for his stock. The next morning the barrel was disappeared underground. Since one end of the barrel was still visible and it was a good barrel, the farmer wanted to save it. Unfortunately, while a saviour transport was discovered, the barrel disappeared in the sinkhole completely.

And here is the second question – how many of these last three sinkholes are filled with water?

To register this cache as found you must do the following:
1) Answer on both questions and send me the answers to the e-mail. You can register the cache after my approval;
2) Take a photo with you in front of any of last three sinkholes and add it to your log.

Welcome to the first Latvian Earthcache!

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