This Is Why Jacob's Well Is So Deadly

Jacob's Well is a pretty neat natural attraction managed by Hays County Parks Department near Wimberley, Texas. The well is located in a larger nature area that attracts fans of normal nature area things. There's hiking and there are picnics, and then there's the well itself. According to Hays County, Jacob's Well isn't really a well at all. It's a massive sinkhole with an underwater cave system that runs 140 feet deep and over 4,300 feet long. The well and cave system are fed by an artesian spring, which is confusing speak for "fancy water," that keeps the water at a perfect 68 degrees, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sounds like a pretty pleasant place to spend a nice afternoon if you happen to find yourself in the middle of Texas.

The location attracts all sorts of people because of its beauty and plentiful activities, from taking pictures of the big hole filled with water to swimming in the big hole filled with water. There's other stuff to do there, but nothing you can't find somewhere else. The well is popular with divers who want to explore the caves. The site also has a reputation as one of the most deadly diving locations on the planet. It might be better to stay out of the water. Jacob's Well isn't your average swimming hole. Divers travel from all over to visit Jacob's Well.

Divers seek out Jacob's Well

It might be an interesting tourist location, but they don't come to splash around near the safety of the surface. These divers court danger. They want the risk that has claimed the lives of many fellow explorers. The draw of Jacob's Well is the same that compels people to skydive or ride roller coasters: It's the terror and it's the adrenaline. These divers want the opportunity to beat Jacob's Well's deadly reputation and reach the surface with a small piece of glory, or else die trying.

And make no mistake: Many had done exactly that — died trying — in Jacob's Well. According to the Houston Chronicle, at least 12 people have met their end in the spring waters of Jacob's Well. That might not sound like a lot, but the same danger that draws divers to the sinkhole also keeps many more (perhaps more sensible) divers out. Well, that and the metal grate that rests 40 feet into the hole. Divers need a special permit to get through it, and not many take on the challenge. The exact number of divers is difficult to discern, but the ratio isn't the only thing that makes this sinkhole one of the deadliest diving locations in the world. The underwater cave system poses rare technical diving challenges that have claimed the lives of even the most thoroughly experienced divers. "It was the forbidden fruit, the allure of doing something dangerous," says Don Dibble, a local diver.

False passageways trap divers

The things that actually make diving Jacob's Well so deadly are the layout and the formation of the underwater caves. (In all honesty, human beings' lack of gills doesn't help.) Oxygen tanks don't last forever. The standard aluminum SCUBA diving tank, according to LiveAbout, should last a diver around one hour on the average dive. Less than you thought? We thought so, too.

The limited capacity of tanks isn't a big deal when you can dive down to where you want to go and come straight up in the event of an emergency. It is a big deal, however, when you're lost inside a long, twisting, confusing underwater cave system. According to Visit Wimberley, the system has multiple chambers with narrow passages into each. The second chamber has what's known as a "false chimney," which is basically a partial tunnel that looks like it goes to the surface but only goes to the last location of many divers' deaths: the end of the line. Add the fact that diving is disorienting. It's hard to tell which direction you're facing in relation to the surface unless it's clearly in sight. Shooting off into a dead-end tunnel isn't a far-fetched way to die.

Divers also sneak in. A pair of divers broke through the grate in 1980 and left a note saying, "You can't keep us out." They'd completely taken the grate apart. When divers refuse to follow safety protocols, Jacob's Well becomes all the more dangerous.