On a list of cataclysmic geological events it may not rank with the San Francisco earthquake, destruction of Pompeii or the eruption of the Mount Saint Helens volcano ... but by Belizean standards the sudden draining of Five Blues Lake in 2006 was big news. But wait, the story gets better ... much better, as News Five's Janelle Chanona discovered on a trip down the Hummingbird Highway.
Janelle Chanona, Reporting
It could very well be the comeback of the century. Last July, Five Blues Lake became little more than a series of muddy holes following a dramatic drop in the water level. But this is Five Blues today ... the trunks of trees that had sprouted out of the mud are now almost covered with water.
Nearly a year after the disappearing act, early Wednesday morning villagers passing through the National Park noticed that the lake had suddenly filled with water and immediately informed the Forest Department.
David Perrera, Forester, Protected Areas Programme
"There is a lot of research to be done in the area. We would want to have some answers, some technical answers to see what has happened, why the lake has disappeared, and how it came back again."
When Five Blues collapsed last July, the occurrence was hailed as a rare geological event. The most plausible theory was that the debris on the bottom of the lake, much like a plug in a bathtub, had for one reason or another shifted, allowing as much as eighty percent of the water to escape. Villagers later reported that at the same time, a new smaller lake had formed in another area in the park. Giving credence to that theory are new reports which indicate that since Five Blues is back, that smaller lagoon is gone.
Following the latest developments, a team from the Forest Department visited the park last week to see the water for themselves. They recognised right off that they needed help in solving the mystery of Five Blues.
The department will seek assistance from caving experts through the Institute of Archaeology, but the scientist ready to don his SCUBA gear is University of Belize professor Dr. Ed Boles. Boles and his students have conducted several studies in and around the lake, but he too has been left with more questions than answers.
Dr. Ed Boles, Natural Resource Mgmt., U.B.
"As to what's really happening, that's hard to say because it's a karstic system, very complicated, lots of passageways and water movement and I'm not a karst geologist, but I've been putting calls out to try to find someone who'd be interested in looking at this situation. What we plan to do is to monitor the lake and to see what kinds of successional patterns occur as the lake matures, so it's a wonderful opportunity to do that. We conducted aquatic survey right before the lake collapsed so it'll be a good comparison."
"So is the message to the public, look try to enjoy this thing before it goes away again?"
Dr. Ed Boles
"Absolutely and again, one of the beauties of the system is this incredible mystery. We have a story to tell and I hope that if I can attract other researchers in other disciplines to come and look at the system, we can get a more holistic understanding of what's going on."
And what's going includes more than just the movement of water. When Five Blues disappeared, apparently so did much of the interest in the park. Today the site's official office in St. Margaret's Village appeared abandoned; the road and trails to the site overgrown by bush.
"Definitely the park has had some neglect. We are not sure if it's because it dried off since last year, however, we have had to take some measure because the phenomenon disrupted the management plan that we had in place. We had been thinking of developing some other activities, but since then we saw that the lake came back again, so we have to take new steps to see how we will approach it now."
"The water has returned to Five Blues Lake and with it, it's natural beauty. Now all that's left is a steady stream of visitors to enjoy its many attractions."
[Shakes head no] "It cold though."
Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.
According to Forest Department officials, following a series of water quality tests, the public will be informed through media advisories of when the park will be accessible for visits.