Once regarded as a curse in the community of Indian Walk, the Devil's Woodyard mud volcano is now considered a blessing.
Over $60,000 in fees from visitors have been raised by Princes Town Regional Corporation.
Its been one year since the volcano erupted in Princes Town sending more than 24,000 tonnes of volcanic mud spewing up into the air.
Since its eruption on February 13 last year, the site has attracted thousands of local and international tourists.
Children pay $2 to enter, while adults pay $5. At the time when the fee was being implemented, some villagers felt it should be free.
During an interview, chairman of the corporation Gowrie Roopnarine said the monies earned from the site is now being used to pay utility bills and purchase stationery for the corporation. He said literature on the history of the volcanoes is circulated to the visitors and there are supervisors assigned to the site. Maintenance staff are also paid to keep the site clean.
"This money is what is holding up the corporation," Roopnarine said. He noted that on average more than 200 people visit the site on weekends and even more turn out for public holidays.
"Before when the site was free people used to come and throw their garbage, break the infrastructure. It was a free for all. Now that they are charged a fee, people treat the site better. They do not litter, the place is well maintained and organised. It is by far a better arrangement," Roopnarine said.
Devil's Woodyard is regarded as one of the most recent volcanic sites in Trinidad. Senior Geoscientist at Touchstone Exploration and member of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists Xavier Moonan said that historical records show that the volcano erupted in 1852, triggering the collapse of sprawling trees in the area which is now the playground.
"The frightened, superstitious Amerindian villagers at the time believed that the trees’ destruction was caused by the Devil himself which thus led to its name ‘The Devil’s Woodyard," Moonan said. He noted that subsequent major eruptions occurred in 1888-1889, 1906, 1942, 1969, 1988 and in 1995.
"Over time, these eruptions resulted in approximately 25,000 to 50,000 tonnes of mud being expelled onto the surface forming mounds that were 95m wide," he added.
Saying the eruptions seem to occur within a cycle of 20-30 years, Moonan said, "Subsurface pressures attained such a force that it fractured the surrounding rocks, especially those above the mud chamber. With the seal broken and a large pressure gradient established the subsurface muds were pushed with tremendous force to surface, physically lifting and shifting the playground, pushing and even stacking foot-thick layers of soil and rock on top of each other, deforming the concrete walkway, tilting the tank stands, and establishing laterally extensive surface cracks."
He noted, "Some 24,000 tonnes of mud were extruded at a low radiating angle, leading to the mud flow’s apparent counter-clockwise spiral (almost hurricane-like) appearance. He noted that volcanoes trap gases, hydrocarbons and other liquids over time which try to escape to the surface.
"In so doing subsurface pressures build up slowly over time, very much like a pressure cooker on slow heat. Occasionally small amounts of gas and mud escape producing the field of small cones, 1-2 ft high, that we grew accustomed to recognising as the trademark of the Devil’s Woodyard mud volcanoes," Moonan said.