The Asteroid That Killed the Dinosaurs Created the Most Beautiful Underwater Caves in the World
About 65 million years ago, the Earth had a little encounter with a 7.5-mile-wide asteroid, now called the Chicxulub impactor. Scientists are still arguing over whether this was the killing blow for the dinosaurs, but what we do know was that it was so catastrophic that it liquidized a chunk of the Earth's crust and created a crater in the Yucatan Peninsula 112 miles wide, then threw up enough ash to cause a global drop in temperature that's estimated to have been between 14 to 18 degrees.
The Chicxulub asteroid was probably the worst impact the Earth has even seen, but it did create one of the most breathtaking natural wonders of the world: the Ring of Cenotes.
A cenote is a giant sinkhole filled with groundwater, and usually starts with acidic rainwater eroding rock below ground level until it forms a deep, subterranean hole. Over time, the roof of this chamber collapses, revealing an underground lake. The Mayans considered cenotes to be sacred openings to the underworld, and made offerings to them (leading archaeologists to find treasure troves of artifacts within them). The Ring of Cenotes, however, takes the cake.
The Ring is actually a semicircle of cenotes with a diameter of around 180 kilometers that traces the rim of the Chicxulub impact crater in a near-perfect circle.
In fact, the Ring's circular shape puzzled scientists for years before they realized that it was evidence of an asteroid crater, but now that the full picture has been revealed, there's a growing movement to recognize the Ring (which includes around 900 cenotes) as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Apart from being an amazing geological formation, the cenotes offer otherworldly beauty: cave divers have brought back videos of underground caverns filled with crystal-clear blue water and all kinds of wondrous rock formations.