Fake News: Massive Sinkhole NOT Growing In The Smoky Mountains, NOT To Become Second Grand Canyon

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fake News: Massive Sinkhole NOT Growing In The Smoky Mountains, NOT To Become Second Grand Canyon

Is a massive sinkhole growing in the Smoky Mountains and will it become a second Grand Canyon? No, that was an April Fools' Day joke but this massive hoax just keeps on getting bigger and bigger even days after April 1st has passed.

The joke was published on April 1, 2018 by Visit My Smokies under the title 'Massive Sinkhole Growing in the Smoky Mountains to Become "Second Grand Canyon"' (archived here). The prank article opened:

This morning, the National Park Service confirmed the existence of a growing sinkhole in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. According to a press release from park officials, the sinkhole is not dangerous but it will eventually rival the Grand Canyon in size. We have summarized the National Park Service's official announcement below.

Discovery of the Sinkhole

As described in the press release, the sinkhole was first noticed on March 26, 2018, when volunteers from the Trails Forever crew were working in the national park's backcountry. The crew members were returning from a picnic lunch about a quarter of a mile away from their worksite, when they found that all of their equipment had been swallowed up by a gaping hole in the ground.

Geologists from the National Park Service were alerted immediately, and after a visit to the site in question, the pit was identified as a sinkhole. Located near the Bone Valley Trail, the hole was around 0.7 mile long, 0.13 mile wide, and 0.2 mile deep at the time of its discovery. Since then, the sinkhole has grown exponentially. At the time of the press release, the crater was 2.4 miles long, 1.64 miles wide, and 0.51 mile deep. The area surrounding the hole was already closed to the public for trail restoration work, so park officials opted to delay making an announcement until all of the data had been analyzed.

But at the end of the article it noted:

For the latest information on the Great Canyon, don't check back here. This entire story has been an April Fools' Day joke! As far as we know, there aren't any massive sinkholes hiding in the Smoky Mountains. To learn real facts about the national park, check out our guide to 9 Things You'll Only Find in the Great Smoky Mountains.

But people who only saw the summary on social media were easily fooled, especially the days after when no date indication was visible anymore:

Massive Sinkhole Growing in the Smoky Mountains to Become "Second Grand Canyon"

This morning, the National Park Service confirmed the existence of a growing sinkhole in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

So far the story has racked up an impressive 130,000 engagements on Facebook and just keeps on getting bigger and bigger. Kind of like a huge sinkhole, in fact...

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  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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