Tourist money flow from Devil's Woodyard volcano

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.

By Radhica De Silva. Photos by Kristian De Silva.
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