Did you know that the meteorite that caused the dinosaurs’ extinction 66 million years ago, landed only about 1,450 miles from your house? The 6 to 9 mile wide meteorite landed off the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico causing a mega-tsunami which was over 330 feet tall in the shallow Gulf of Mexico. That’s just taller than the Statue of Liberty! In open ocean it would have been over 2.9 miles tall! A cloud of ash and smoke rose and stayed for about a decade blocking most sunlight so that plants died, which caused herbivores to die, which caused carnivores to die. This was the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event.
The Chicxulub Crater is over 110 miles wide and although buried, extends about 12 miles deep. Over half of it is underwater so scientists didn’t know where it was until 1978 when geophysicists looking for petroleum, Glen Penfield and Antonio Camargo, compared two geographical maps showing cenotes and saw an obvious arc of them on the edge of the Yucatan Peninsula. They proposed the first hypothesis of the massive meteor hit. In 1990, scientists drilled into the rock and found evidence that it was real. The impact changed the bedrock and created the cenotes, water-filled sinkholes, on the edge of the crater.
Cenotes are round surface cave entrances filled with freshwater. They are one of the only freshwater sources on the Yucatan Peninsula because most rainwater filters through the soil eating away at the limestone bedrock until it collapses revealing the water filled cavern. The Mayan people of around 1000 AD, used these as their only water source so they were very sacred. Most of their temples and cities were built around them. Divers have found bones suggesting that human sacrifices were made to the rain god Chaak for filling the cenotes.
Now they are a tourist destination where people can snorkel, swim and tour the caves. The history of the cenotes is what makes them special and most people who visit them don’t know that they were created by the meteorite impact 66 million years ago.