The Park Service has to close down portions of parks all the time for wide range of reasons, but this is the first time we have heard of one being shut down because it can swallow a person whole. Officials have announced the indefinite closure of a large sand dune near Lake Michigan known as Mount Baldy after mysterious quicksand-like holes began opening up in the dune. Last summer one of the holes swallowed a 6-year old boy as he crossed the sand, and though rescuers were luckily able to recover the boy at this point no one is sure why the holes have appeared or what can be done to stop them.
The Indian Dunes on the shores of Lake Michigan just 55 miles southeast of Chicago are a popular recreation area and Mount Baldy is a particularly popular spot. But after mysterious holes started forming in the sand, officials closed the area and scrambled to figure out what was going on. According to the Chicago Tribune, one researcher, geologist Erin Argyilan, was working on the dunes last year when she heard the screams of parents saying that their son had vanished into the sand. It took three hours to pull the boy out of an 11-foot hole and instilled in Argylian a passion to figure out what was causing the holes.
Since then multiple other holes have formed but they tend to quickly fill back up and disappear after a day, making research difficult. Researchers were able to examine one hole before it filled, but their equipment wasn’t able to test the depth of the hole, which extended at least beyond the instruments 30-foot limitation. Scientists do know, however, that this isn’t actually quicksand, which is a mixture of sand and water, nor is it a sink hole like the kind that have swallowed homes and entire forests in some parts of the US.
Though they may not have a clear picture, scientists believe that the holes are likely being caused by matter that has gotten buried under the sand, like trees or manmade structures, and this matter has decayed quickly over the wet spring that the area experienced last year, leaving holes and causing gaps to form in the sand. Mount Baldy is particularly unstable because it has been moving at a pace of 4-feet a year as erosion causes the dune to shift landward, causing it to engulf trees and structures as it shifts. One thing is for sure, until researchers figure out what is happening, the dunes are definitely not somewhere you want to take a hike.
Via Live Science
Images via NPS