They're known by the names Soap Holes, Mud Holes, Mud Boils, Turtle-backs, Quickclay, Mud Volcanoes, and Pingles. They're found all over Alberta and parts of Saskatchewan, including the Morrin area north of Drumheller.
"They seem to be kind of an upwelling of groundwater that's pushing up on the soil enough to force the grains apart and create quick conditions," explained Dylan Cunningham, who is a Masters student at the University of Calgary studying the phenomenon. "Like quicksand, but only mud, so really sticky mud and clay."

The study, of which Cunningham is only a part, attempts to discover how and why Soap Holes form and to map their locations around the province.

"It seems kind of like an Alberta problem, with a bit of Saskatchewan in there," outlined Cunningham. "I think that may be due to where the glaciers in the past ice age may have been because we've got all this unconsolidated (material); it's not a rock, it's just a mixture of grains and rocks and stuff like that covering all of the province."

Indeed, Soap Holes have been found all the way from the Peace Country around Grande Prairie to the US border. Cunningham hasn't had any trouble getting affected land owners to co-operate.

"We have heard reports of them losing farm animals, horses and cattle and that, and it causes issues when their combines drive in; we heard of someone having to tow one out after one of its wheels got stuck," he told Drum FM. "Quite often, the land around the area isn't usable because the water that comes out can be saline, so it ends up killing all the vegetation surrounding them."

They've set up a Facebook page with more information on Soap Holes, including contact information for anyone with one of the strange natural oddities on their land.


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