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No One Knows Where This Minnesota Waterfall Goes

On the easternmost tip of Minnesota, not far from where the land meets Lake Superior and the United States meets Canada, the Brule River meets its own dividing line.

As the river makes its way to the largest of the Great Lakes, it drops rapidly—800 feet in an 8-mile span. At one point in the journey, the Brule River encounters a large cluster of rhyolite rock and diverges into two rivers with two very different personalities. One is a well-behaved, 50 foot waterfall and the other? Well, the other is the reason this area is known as Devil’s Kettle Falls.

The western side of the split drops into a giant hole, gulping up massive amounts of water and taking them to a place that’s yet to be discovered. The disappearing act has perplexed onlookers and scientists for years. Dyes and ping pong balls have been plunked in with the intent of tracing the path of the water, but were never seen again. While it’s assumed the pothole somehow finds an underground outlet beneath Lake Superior or reunites with its other half, so far the trail remains cold.

Riverbed potholes (or kettles) aren’t uncommon, but they’re usually only surface erosions and not entire channels through which water can flow. Other explanations such as a fault line, a underground cave, or a lava tube have been largely dismissed, leaving the mystery wide open. One (highly unlikely) legend states that someone even pushed a car into the fissure in pursuit of the truth. GPS and cameras are rendered useless once they’re subterranean, and the nature of the chasm makes it impossible for humans to descend and follow the trail. Which means for now, it’s just another one of Mother Nature’s great puzzles.

Since a photo doesn't really do justice to the phenomenon, here are a couple of videos so you can see the Devil's Kettle in action. 

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Human Activity Has Permanently Altered Earth, for Better or Worse (Mostly Worse)
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Modern humans have roamed Earth for just a few hundred thousand years. In the grand scheme of things, that's a very short period. But in that time, we’ve triggered mass extinctions of plants and animals, polluted the planet, and developed nuclear weapons—and our legacy will linger in both nature and the geologic record long after historical records have been lost, according to Ted-ED’s video below.

Modern humans have altered the Earth’s landscape and atmosphere so profoundly that some scientists say we’ve ushered in a new epoch called the Anthropocene, or "new age of humankind," from anthropo (human) and cene (new). Before this, we were living in the Holocene (meaning “entirely recent”), which began around 11,700 years ago and faded sometime around 1950.

The 1950s ushered in both the plastics revolution and the atomic age, both of which permanently introduced chemicals into Earth’s fossil record. Meanwhile, humans have also shaped long-term plant and animal evolution with agriculture, fishing, and hunting. In short, our actions have long-term consequences, even if the human species ends up being a blip on the geologic time scale. Remember that the next time you drink from a plastic bottle, or see a cloud of smoke billowing through the sky.

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This Just In
Spelunkers Discover New Caverns in Montréal's Ancient Cave Network
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An ancient cave system beneath a Montréal park is much more vast than experts believed, the National Post reports.

In 1812, a farmer discovered a cave underneath his property in Montréal’s present-day Saint-Léonard borough. Once used to stockpile ammunition and conceal soldiers during the Rebellions of 1837, the Saint-Léonard cave system in Parc Pie XII is today a tourist attraction and historical landmark. But some speleologists (cave experts) suspected there was more to the natural wonder than met the eye.

Beginning in 2014, two amateur explorers named Daniel Caron and Luc Le Blanc began searching for undiscovered passages in the Saint-Léonard caverns, according to National Geographic. By 2015 they had some leads; in October 2017, they used drills and hammers to break down a cave’s wall to reveal a new cavern.

The stalactite-filled chamber has soaring 20-foot ceilings, and it's connected to a serpentine network of underground tunnels. These passages formed during the Ice Age around 15,000 years ago, when glacier pressure splintered underground rock.

So far, Caron and Le Blanc have explored between 820 to 1640 feet of virgin cave passage, and expect to find even more. They believe the vast network sits atop an aquifer, and ultimately leads to the Montréal water table.

Spelunking the Saint-Léonard cave system is challenging—some passages are filled with water or require special climbing or rock-breaking equipment. The explorers hope that the caves will be easier to investigate during the dry season, and that the receding waters will allow them to reach new depths below Montréal’s surface.

[h/t National Post]

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