Because it’s not enough that sinkholes are swallowing boats, consuming buildings and eating vacation resorts, the black holes of the Earth’s crust have now turned their attention to our classic automobiles.
A cavernous sinkhole opened up on Feb. 12 beneath the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky, devouring eight Corvettes and delivering a chilling message to Corvettes that no place is safe, not even a museum in their honor. (As an aside: Did you know there was a National Corvette Museum? There is! It’s a nonprofit facility located in Bowling Green, about an hour north of Nashville and 90 minutes south of Louisville.)
The sinkhole opened up in the Skydome area of the museum shortly before 5:45 a.m. on that February morning, when no one was in or around the building, according to the museum. When firefighters showed up, they found a hole roughly 40 feet wide (almost the same length as three 2014 Corvette Stingrays lined up bumper-to-bumper-to-bumper) and about 25 to 30 feet deep.
Eight Corvettes went into the sinkhole nearly three weeks ago, six of them owned by the museum and a pair on loan from General Motors. The museum said in a statement that it would make sure the area was stabilized before fishing the cars out, which meant checking to see if the floor could support the cranes and and other heavy equipment needed to lift the cars.
This week, the retrieval process began. The first fallen automobile rescued from the ravenous maw, a 2009 ZR1 “Blue Devil,” was lifted out on Monday morning. That was followed by a 1993 40th anniversary “Ruby Red” in the afternoon.
On Tuesday, a third car was saved: the 1962 black Corvette, the oldest vehicle of the bunch. (Much of Tuesday was dedicated to the Corvette, which was a trickier save because a five-ton slab of concrete was resting on part of the front, the museum said.) The three cars were said to be in good condition.
All three cars are already on display in the museum’s exhibit hall, and officials said they will be joined late next month by the remaining five vehicles.
Bowling Green is smack in the middle of area known for its karst terrain; karst areas are the spots where sinkholes are most common, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Roughly one-fifth of the country is karst territory and is therefore susceptible to a sinkhole, though the USGS says most sinkhole damage occurs in southern states including Kentucky. (This map shows where karst is common in the U.S.)
You can watch a livestream from inside the Skydome right here. In the meantime, here’s a video of the first vehicle recovery, in case you want to see what it’s like to be suspended over a sinkhole containing several Corvettes:
Chevrolet announced last month that it would oversee the restoration of the damaged vehicles.
“The vehicles at the National Corvette Museum are some of the most significant in automotive history,” Mark Reuss, executive vice president of General Motors Global Product Development, said in a statement.