CaribbeanPhotosTrinidad & Tobago

Is Pitch Lake more than a puddle of asphalt?

By March 11, 2020 No Comments

Today’s photo of the day is over looking the entire Pitch Lake

You bet it is! Pitch Lake in southwest Trinidad is the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world, around 10 million tons, and covers 100 acres with depths up to 250 feet. It is a popular tourist attraction, as it should be. When you visit check out the small museum upstairs and then have a guide take you out onto the lake for 30TT (around $5 US). I recommend using Amena, since she did a wonderful job showing us around and explaining everything, such as:

Holding a piece of pitch

The History

The native Amerindian legend says the lake was formed when the people were celebrating a victory over a rival tribe and they got carried away in their celebration. They proceeded to cook and eat the sacred hummingbird which they believed possessed the souls of their ancestors, so their winged God punished them by opening the earth and conjuring up the pitch lake to swallow the entire village with the lake became a permanent stain and a reminder of their sins.

In written history, the Pitch Lake was discovered by Sir Walter Raleigh in his 1595 expedition and he immediate recognized he could use the asphalt to caulk his ship. In 1887, Amzi Barber, an American businessman known as “The Asphalt King”, secured a 42-year lease from the British Government for the Pitch Lake and used it to asphalt the roads of the eastern seaboard of the USA.

This pitch is next to the parking lot and has pushed up to the surface naturally

The Geology

The origin of Pitch Lake is related to deep faults in connection with subduction under the Caribbean Plate. It is believed that the lake is at the intersection of two faults, which allows oil from a deep deposit to be forced up. The lighter elements in the oil evaporate under the hot tropical sun, leaving behind the heavier asphalt.

What I loved most about walking around the huge area that looks like a school playground black top is that it is not just flat. The area is made up of different natural sections and each one is like a low rise dome and the edges go down to the next section and that valley is filled with water. It give the area a very unique look and I think Pitch Lake was well worth the drive down to see it!

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