Museums in the Caribbean
January 20, 2011
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Natural Wonders of the Caribbean: Pitch Lake, Trinidad & Tobago

We continue our tour of the Caribbean’s Natural Wonders with a visit to Pitch Lake, Trinidad & Tobago!

The extraordinary sight of the Pitch Lake of Trinidad and Tobago is situated in La Brea in the southwest peninsula of the island of Trinidad.

There are only a handful of sites in the world where asphalt rises from the depths and collects in pools on the surface, and the Pitch Lake is the most important commercially. It has fascinated explorers, scientists and the public since its discovery by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595. Raleigh himself used the asphalt to caulk his ship. The Asphalt Lake is at present an oval, lake-like outcrop composed of an oil, clay and water (mud) mixture. Among the many legends attached to it, one relates the tale of an indigenous tribe that was engulfed as punishment for eating hummingbirds, in which the souls of their ancestors were believed to repose. It is estimated to be more than 5,000 years old and has produced close to 20 million tons of asphalt in the past 100 years. The asphalt from the lake is used in the paving of roads and for roofing.

Until very recently no one suspected the pitch could harbour life, but now astrobiologists have discovered microbes growing in the asphalt.

When to go: The hotter the sun, the more liquid the pitch becomes and more dangerous!

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