San Francisco Chronicle –
When a powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck the Mojave Desert on July 5, it rattled the town of Ridgecrest, causing injuries, igniting four fires and cracking roadways and home foundations. One hundred and sixty-four miles away inside Death Valley National Park, it also created 10- to 15-foot waves inside Devils Hole, the sole habitat for the critically endangered Devils Hole pupfish.
Video cameras mounted underwater and at the mouth of the Devils Hole cavern captured the earthquake inside the protected area: the water rising and falling dramatically, splashing the rock walls and turning the clear aquatic landscape into a swirling cloud of debris.
“It was amazing how violent that 7.1 affected Devils Hole,” says Kevin Wilson, an aquatic ecologist who has worked at Death Valley for more than a dozen years. “I haven’t seen anything like it.”
Devils Hole is a natural pool where a vast aquifer breaches the surface, its warm, 93-degree waters descending to unknown depths.
“Divers have been down to 436 feet and did not see a bottom,” Wilson says.
The pool is also home to the only population of the Devils Hole pupfish, a species endemic to Death Valley that’s believed to have been isolated for more than 10,000 years. The most recent spring population count found just 136 of the tiny blue fish, a figure actually higher than most springtime tallies.