A magnitude 7.6 earthquake rattled Mexico's Pacific coast on Monday and
left at least two people dead in its wake. Repercussions of the tremor
extended as far as 1,500 miles north, where four-foot-tall waves began
churning inside a Death Valley cave called Devils Hole, in what the
National Park Service called a "surprising quirk of geology."
Video footage of the phenomenon — which is technically known as a seiche,
when sudden changes are observed in a lake or partially enclosed body of
water — shows a birds-eye view of the cave as its initially still water
erupts into a series of waves that roil and crash intermittently over the
course of several minutes.
Devils Hole is a geothermal pool within a limestone cave, located in a
section of Death Valley near the border of Nevada and California. The cave
itself is hundreds of feet deep, as the park service noted in a news
release explaining the "desert tsunami" recorded late Monday morning, but
its relatively shallow water level is crucial for the endangered marine
species, called pupfish, that live there.
The fish, whose naturally-occurring population totaled just 175 earlier
this year, feed on algae "that grows on a shallow, sunlit shelf" in Devils
Hole, according to the park service.
Because Monday's seiche removed algae that had been growing in the cave,
it will reduce the pupfish's food supply in the short term. But Kevin
Wilson, an aquatic ecologist with the federal agency, suggested that the
creatures may be resilient enough to withstand the temporary shift in
"The pupfish have survived several of these events in recent years,"
Wilson said in a statement. "We didn't find any dead fish after the waves
stopped." An annual count to tally the pupfish inside Devils Hole is set
to take place this upcoming weekend, the park service said.
Monday's earthquake was the first of two powerful tremors that shook
Mexico this week. A second happened further inland near the country's
capital, Mexico City, early on Thursday. It was given a preliminary
magnitude of 6.8, and killed at least one person while causing buildings