The Earth cracked apart in a forest, and it made a sound

(credit: Wayne Pennington/Michigan Technical University)

With no warning, a hellish rumble announces a crack in the ground, opening to a yawning chasm as the walls spread, crumble, and disappear into the abyss—fortunately, this particular seismic disaster occurs only in cartoons. (And ridiculous movies.) But tone down the special effects a bit and then try to put yourselves in the shoes of some residents of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in October 2010.

Early in the morning, folks just north of Menominee, Michigan, heard a loud noise and felt a shake. In that part of the country, a grain elevator explosion is more likely than an earthquake. But when someone went out to finish cutting up a large tree that had come down in a storm two weeks previous, they found a huge crack had opened up in the Earth. It wasn’t going to swallow anybody whole, but you could probably have lost a cell phone in there.

The “Menominee Crack” was a little longer than a football field, over half a meter wide in places, and approached 1.7m deep. It ran through a forested area that had previously been flat. The crack actually sat atop what was now a six-foot-high ridge, with trees on either side now tipping slightly away from vertical. If you look carefully, you can actually see it in satellite imagery.

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