Travelers might have seen them this weekend as they drove down the Hummingbird Highway: what looked like thin towers of billowing smoke rising from the hills that Belizeans known as the sleeping giant.
And while the uncurious traveler may have chalked it up to some very active fog there are questions tonight about what's really going on in those hills. Residents in the valley of the Sleeping Giant say it started as early as last Tuesday when a blue plume of smoke was initially seen. But it continued this week when despite the heavy rains those plumes of smoke which may have been blamed on bushfires continued unabated.
But what's causing the smoke? Some in the area theorise that it could be some kind of meteorite that's fallen to earth.
But, that's not what the science says.
Our news team spoke to Director of Geology and Petroleum Andre Cho who told us that the rains would have extinguished any forest fires. So, it's not that.
His theory is that it could be quote steam rising from a geological occurrence. And while it would be a strange occurrence in Belize's southern hills it's something he says isn't uncommon in other parts of the world such as the geysers at Yellowstone Park.
Cho and his team, along with villagers from the area will be heading out there tomorrow in the hopes of getting to the bottom of this mysterious smoke. But they say it's a difficult trek and they don't know if they'll be able to reach the smoke's origin point.
The Sleeping Giant is Smoking and No One knows Why
Smoke continues to consume several residential and agricultural communities on the Hummingbird Highway and right now, no one knows what’s causing it. Residents and field workers say that this misty atmosphere near the massive Sleeping Giant is not from a bush fire but something more dangerous. Love News has been following the story and our News Editor, Dale McDougall spoke to Milton Maldonado, who shared pictures of the event — one which many feel is a dormant volcano, something that has never been reported in Belize before.
It came from above!, or maybe below, right now, no one is quite sure. All we know is that the Sleeping giant is smoking.
That is, there's smoke rising from the hills around the Giant - which is off the Hummingbird Highway near Saint Margaret's village.
It's Belize's most compelling mystery tonight, and even social media has been smoking with all the speculation.
Cherisse Halsall has the story from the Giant's valley.
We're here in the valley of the Sleeping Giant, where a mysterious plume of smoke has captured the nation's attention. But was it Geological activity, the result of a lightning strike, or something from beyond?
That was the assumption that Heraldo Rodriguez and his crew were operated under over the weekend when they made an investigative trek.
Heraldo Moralez Mendez, Cattle Foreman "We went with that thought that, well with the fear that there could be something bad there so we went walking, heading for the place but with that fear that there would be something bad like we're talking about some alien."
"You could see the fire that's burning and the smoke. So we couldn't get into the source of it because the fire didn't allow us to get in there."
"So we were only able to walk around. I was able to record a video of where we were walking but we couldn't get into the inside where it started practically where it sprouted."
"Yesterday it rained enough and it wasn't put out the smoke just continues to rise."
"It could be something that, well I thought like this, when I first saw it I thought if a lightning had struck, sometimes that can happen but when lightning strikes sometimes the trees, there are trees that get lit on fire but with this rain that would have been put out."
"You're not able to see what's inside. If there's a hole or something inside because there's lots of smoke and you can't see anymore of what's inside. It could be that a volcano could burst out here or something sent by god we don't know."
And Heraldo's boss Anthony Channona has his own theories, but he's waiting for the scientific geological results.
Anthony Channona, Managing Director, Blue Mountain Ranch Ltd. "Pure speculation, I have no expertise because of the fact that we didn't experience what we consider to be fork lighting, my brother and I hold the theory that speculation that its something space debris or something that fell from space that hit that mountain to cause that fire. The experts will determine exactly what happened, so we are hoping they will be able to get up there and do that."
And if anyone saw a meteor fall it would be these cows, but they're not talking, leaving all the guesswork to human beings.
Anthony Channona, Managing Director, Blue Mountain Ranch Ltd.
"It just shows you Cherisse the power of social media because I shared that video that heraldo did and almost instantaneously the amount of phone calls and national interest."
A ranch hand who works for Channona's neighbor was also on that weekend trek. He told his boss what he saw up there.
Geoffrey Frankson, Owner, Rancho Lomas "Well he saw trees had been burnt but not with fire. The area is obviously very hot so he stayed a safe distance away. But from where he was he could see that there was a lot of heat and of course the steam coming virtually out of the ground from where he could stand, he couldn't quite figure out what it was then he decided he was gonna come to me and talk about it."
"I called Mr. Andre Cho with a friend of mine to find out more about what he thought was happening."
For his part Frankson believes we're dealing with a steam vent, a crack in the ground that allows water to seep down to hot rocks below. His theory is that that water is evaporating, turning to steam and rising back up.
Geoffrey Frankson, Owner, Rancho Lomas "But it's not under pressure so it won't be a geyser which is what you get in places like Yellowstone park in the states. So this is just steam coming back up from hot rocks."
"Water falling on the rocks and coming up as steam. So something is either heating up the rocks from below or the water is filtering down to the hot rocks and coming back up as steam and I expect that's what the Geologists will have to establish."
Cherisse Halsall: "Sir there's been a lot of talk of volcanic activity and any trepidation for having a property in this area, I know that's very far-fetched?"
Geoffrey Frankson, Owner, Rancho Lomas "Not, at all, this is not a volcanic area there are no volcanoes around here, this is not volcanic soil, none of these mountains are volcanic the mantle is thick Mr. Cho tells me that a thick mantle means that you're not going to get any volcanic activity or eruptions. So there's not going to be an eruption of lava. There's not going to be a volcano."
But, right now, it's all just informed speculation - those real scientific definitives are left up to these guys - the Geology and Petroleum unit - who are going on a fact finding trek up the hill, later this week.
Cho, a scientist refuses to go on the record until he has some facts but we learned that the Ministry of natural resources in the process of hiring a four-man crew, a group that will cut out a path to the site and help to ward off all the wild animals that could threaten the scientists on their way to the top.
And when it comes to that initial trek the media will be barred, at least until such time as the geologists can determine whether the area is safe.
Is it Fire? A Volcanic Eruption? Meteor? Or Steam Vent—Speculation Abounds over the Sleeping Giant Plume
Social media has been abuzz with theories of what is happening in the mountains. Some speculate it is volcanic activity, while others say it is a meteorite that struck in the area. Today, personnel from the Geology and Petroleum Unit of the Ministry of Natural Resources were out at a farm on the Hummingbird Highway to witness the smoke billowing in the distance in the area known as the Sleeping Giant in the Maya Mountains. But the trek to the location several miles from the highway is treacherous and will take up to six hours to get there, so the team, headed by Director Andre Cho, will go back to the office and collaborate with other departments to plan an expedition to the area. News Five was able to get aerial footage of the area. Here is that report from Duane Moody.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Via drone, the billowing smoke is located some eight thousand two hundred feet from the Hummingbird Highway, near the Rancho de la Lomas farm. But it can be seen from a distance – substantial smoke coming through the canopy of the thick lush forest of the Maya Mountains. It started on Saturday and has been smoking ever since.
Dr. Geoffrey Frankson, Resident, Rancho de la Lomas Farm
“My sister was here on Saturday and noticed the steam coming out of the ground. We thought it was just some clouds – there are always clouds coming out of the ground here – and didn’t pay it much mind until we realised that the rest of the clouds had gone and the steam was coming from one particular spot and really quite white.”
A report that it may be a fire was ruled out because it has continued despite the recent rains.
Dr. Geoffrey Frankson
“So I thought well okay, maybe it is a hot spring, but that didn’t quite figure because it is high up in the mountains. That only left steam – nothing else it could be. So what is causing the steam is the problem and that would have to be hot rocks of some kind with water falling on the rocks and coming up as steam. So something is either heating up the rocks from below or the water is filtering down to the hot rocks and coming back up as steam. And I expect that is what the geologists will have to establish.”
Doctor Geoffrey Frankson has been living at the farm for two years, but this was the first time he had witnessed something like this. The Department of Geology was called to investigate and today, they visited the area. Due to the terrain, a trek to the area had to be rescheduled for a later date. However, a number of residents from the area made the trip earlier this week and documented the experience.
Voice of: Resident [Translated]
“You can observe this. We have arrived to the exact point so that you can see. Wow, the heat is burning my feet. You can see the Sibun River over there. Here we walk in a dangerous terrain. Look there is the river. You can see this stone, look how strange it is cut. It is not known, but like it come out as from God.”
Dr. Geoffrey Frankson
“One of the workers here had been up there. He had seen the steam before and he is very familiar with the hills so they had been up and he called me and said he wanted to tell me what he had seen. And we discussed it and I then called Mister Andre Cho with a friend of mine to find out more about what he thought was happening.”
“Let’s talk about what your farmhand said he saw.”
Dr. Geoffrey Frankson
“Well he saw trees had been burnt, but not with fire. The area was obviously very hot so he stayed a safe distance away. But from where he was, he could see that there was a lot of heat and the steam coming virtually from out of the ground from where he could stand. He couldn’t quite figure out what it was which is when he decided he would come and talk to me about it.”
There is no information at this time to suggest any sort of volcanic activity and an expedition to the area is being scheduled in the days ahead. After doing some online searching, Doctor Frankson believes that it is a steam vent.
Dr. Geoffrey Frankson
“Well I looked up steam vents because I assume that’s what it was – I still think that’s what they’ll find – and they said yes, that’s what happens when you get a crack in the ground and water seeps down to hot rocks below. If the mantel is thin enough, it might be as far as the magma itself, but in any case, it’s a lot of heat down there. When water seeps down there and meets enough heat, it will evaporate and turn to steam and come back up. But it is not under pressure so there won’t be a geyser which is what you get in places like the Yellowstone Park in the states and so on. So this is just steam coming back up from hot rocks. This is not a volcanic area, there are no volcanoes around here; this is not volcanic soil – none of these mountains are volcanic. The mantel is thick, Mister Cho tells me, and a thick mantel means that you are not going to get any eruption. So there is not going to be an eruption of lava; there is not going to be a volcano.”
Investigation Commences into Sleeping Giant Anomaly
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Petroleum and Mining informs the public that the Geology and Petroleum Department, in conjunction with the Forest Department, has commenced investigations into the cause of the event occurring in the area of the Sleeping Giant, near St. Margaret’s Village, Hummingbird Highway.
At present the cause or source of the plumes is unknown. The investigations will be concluded during the next few days and at that time the public will be informed as to the cause and any actions to be taken.
The ministry advises the public to cease visitation to the area in the interest of safety until the joint investigation is concluded as there may be natural hazards and other safety risks that need to be determined.
One of our most popular “neighbors” and focal points on Marabou Ranch is Sleeping Giant Mountain (Elk Mountain to locals). One of the most iconic peaks in Routt County, he’s well known for his spectacular canvas during a sunset. The Yampa Valley is rich in history and stories from the Utes who lived here before the fur trappers stumbled into the valley. Some say the Giant is responsible for the “Yampa Valley Curse,” which makes people yearn to return to the valley. There are many stories linked to the story of the Sleeping Giant, but here is the one believed to be the real tall tall by long time locals. Rusty De Lucia, a long time local resident believes that the one told to her by Kingo (Charlotte Perry of Perry-Mansfield) as a young girl is the real one.
“The Gentle Giant
Many years ago there lived a gentle friendly giant. He loved life and the people of the Yampa Valley and was always ready to protect anyone who lived here from any danger. The people knew he was their friend and would always take care of them.
As the story goes, the giant was told that he would be granted eternal life and always be allowed to live in the Yampa Valley as long as he never harmed another living thing.
One day a bad giant ogre came to the Valley and started to terrorize the people. The Giant was very worried about their safety and lured the Ogre up to Steamboat Lake where he fell into the quicksand.
The people were relieved and happy that the Bad Ogre was gone and the Giant had saved them.
But – because the Giant had broken his oath not to hurt anyone, even though it was a very bad Ogre, he had to be put to sleep.
The whole valley came out for a ceremony to put the Gentle Giant to rest. They surrounded the base of the giant with rattlesnakes so that he would not be disturbed.
To this day, the giant rests and the rattlesnakes protect his peace.”
Re: Smoke Rises On Sleeping Giant Hill
#550955 06/19/2104:32 AM06/19/2104:32 AM
Sleeping Giant, Speculation and Sci-Fi Fantasy Abound
Tonight, the Sleeping Giant is still smoking - and, still, no one can say for sure why.
In fact, it seems that the smoke may be increasing, visible even from the George Price highway.
Tonight we take a dive into speculation, both wild and outlandish, as we ask what's really happening with the southern giant.
It's been almost a week since smoke started rising ominously from the Sleeping Giant.
It's been called an anomaly, one that a joint team from the Geology and Petroleum, and forestry departments will trek up the hill tomorrow to investigate.
But right about now down here in the realm of speculation it might seem like the giant is waking up.
And while many believe something fell from the sky or they're waiting for the ground to open up as it did in H.G. Wells the War of the Worlds, right now all we have is smoke, and a fire that cannot be sourced.
Is it a burning bush - with depths unknown? Or do we all just have to hope that our friendly Giant still has his heart
This cellphone video captured today shows the fire at a distance from its origin point and seemingly headed uphill. One neighbor told us, quote: "The winds might be steering it, it seems to be following the ridge rather than spreading out."
7News will be awaiting the descent of the team of experts and we hope to bring you some conclusive answers on Monday.
On June 19, 2021, a joint team comprised of geologists and the engineer from the Geology and Petroleum Department, forest rangers from the Forest Department, and guides/cut men from St. Margaret’s Village visited the area near the Sleeping Giant Mountain range that has been emitting plumes of smoke.
The team found no evidence of any geological activity at the site, and none of the gases normally found at geothermal vents or fumaroles were present. Radiation levels were normal.
The Forest Department found the cause or source of the plumes of smoke to be a deep smoldering detritus fire, possibly ignited from a lightning strike at the site, which occurred around June 8, 2021. The area is located on top of a ridge comprised of Paleozoic non-volcanic basement rocks, and is covered by a thick mat of detritus or decaying organic matter and dead trees which are fueling the continuous slow burning or smoldering. At the time of the visit, the area affected was approximately 100 meters long and 40 meters wide. The Forest Department is monitoring this slow burning fire to determine the best course of action.
The ministry thanks the villagers who took the team to the site for their invaluable assistance.
Re: Smoke Rises On Sleeping Giant Hill
#550989 06/22/2104:26 AM06/22/2104:26 AM
Tonight we know what's causing the sleeping giant to smoke: it's not a rising volcano; it's not a steam vent cracked open in the earth; it's not a meteor from the heavens; not aliens crashed to earth and not an act of God.
It's what's called leaf litter, possibly decades worth of it, accumulated on the forest floor - and then, struck by lighting.
The Chief Forest Officer explained it to us via Zoom today:
Wilber Sabido, Chief Forest Officer "On Saturday, we actually along with the geologists from the petroleum department, five of their personnel and two of ours visited the site that was labeled as smoking and we took about 5 ½ hours to reach the sight, very, very difficult terrain and basically what we found was what we were thinking is that the source of the fire is consistent with a lightning strike, which was about June 8th. the same time that we had a number of lightning strikes occurring or lightning storms occurring throughout the country."
But this wasn't any ordinary forest fire. It's a forest fire with a seemingly endless supply of fuel.
Wilber Sabido, Chief Forest Officer "You basically have layers upon layers, upon layers of leaf-litter of organic matter of the trees and remember this area was also impacted a couple of years back by a hurricane and so you do have basically all of these conditions, basically ripe for like I said any type of ignition."
"Now when we had the rains coming, if you recall right after, they don't necessarily penetrate into the base of that leaf litter and that is what basically caused the smoke to basically form a chimney of sorts, which is what people were speculating over."
But over the weekend residents in the area saw flames.
Wilber Sabido, Chief Forest Officer "We also got a report yesterday evening that the villagers and the people living in the surrounding area saw flames visible from in the distance. So it seems that the smoldering has actually become a fire and the flames are now visible."
"The risk is that given the weather conditions as they are presently and I know over the past couple days, we are experiencing temperatures in the mid 90s, so it means that the leaf litter, the organic matter is becoming drier and drier, and so there's the risk of the fire becoming more intense and spreading and it would move more uphill as to threatening any residents or any communities at the base of the mountain. However, what we want to prevent is any further burning of the natural area and so one of the options that we're looking at is an attack using the helicopters that would basically drench the area that's under fire."
But before that happens - the rains may get there first
Wilber Sabido, Chief Forest Officer "The expectation is that with rains that we are expected over the weekend and in the coming weeks that that will have to dampen the fire and given that it's now exposed so the expectation is thought that if we do not have that system coming through then through the monitoring then we would need to make the ultimate decision of using the means of dousing with a helicopter."
And while the skeptics among figure that the geologists simply got to the mystery too late they say that the mystery is solved and the X-file of the sleeping giant is effectively closed.
Jules Vasquez: "Did you detect any alien life?"
Wilber Sabido, Chief Forest Officer "Not in any way."
Could Sleeping Giant’s Forests Have Been Better Maintained?
And while there was no alien life, many would say that there should have been human life - in the form of forest officers cutting lines and burning the underbrush and leaf litter on a controlled basis before it came to this: a fire with no quick fix.
We asked the Chief Forest Officer about that:
Jules Vasquez, reporter "How do you answer the criticism that this has happened because there is not regular maintenance of the bush by the Forestry Department. We know that historically how these situations are managed is that you burn lines in the forest to burn up all that underbrush which is the fuel for these large forest fires. But you all haven't done that, so what's burning now is all the fuel that has accumulated over many years."
Wilber Sabido, Chief Forest Officer "The practice that you mentioned just now is one that is absolutely done in pine savannah and grassland areas. It is not a practice that is done in broad-leaf forest. The value of broad-leaf forest because of the sensitive nature of these ecosystems is that you would not want to introduce fire in them, because the value of these forest is in the leaf and organic matter - goes through the nutrient cycling that is important for biodiversity and for the maintenance of these sensitive ecosystems. If we would do burning for instance, we would expose the top soil and then you have the added risk of erosion and siltation into the waterways. So quite right, the practice that you mentioned is one that is done, but not within those types of ecosystems."
The Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management through the Forest Department continues to monitor the fire near the Sleeping Giant mountain range on the Hummingbird Highway. High capacity and high photography resolution drones are continuously being utilized for aerial reconnaissance.
The area impacted by the fire that continues to smoke and smoulder has increased in size up to Wednesday, June 23, at 3:00 p.m. The ministry is concerned about the escalation and potential impact and threat on the forest ecosystem and, therefore, is considering the use of aerial firefighting support to extinguish the fire. The public is assured that the fire poses no threat to human life, settlements, or infrastructure.
The ministry will continue to monitor the situation and provide another update on Friday, June 25.
Re: Smoke Rises On Sleeping Giant Hill
#551180 06/30/2104:35 AM06/30/2104:35 AM
The Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management continues to monitor the fire at the Sleeping Giant Mountain area. For over three weeks now, smoke has been billowing into the sky and can be seen from a distance. But what was once a plume of smoke has expanded to almost three acres of forest. Today, News Five spoke with C.E.O. Doctor Kenrick Williams about concerns over the damage this is causing to the forest.
Dr. Kenrick Williams, C.E.O., Ministry of Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management
“What we’ve seen since that visit on June twenty-first, we have seen some extent in terms of rate of burn; we have seen an expansion of the fire in itself. You would note that instead of a single plume, we have several key areas that are burning. But all in all, the fire is largely contained. What we see is that the rate of expansion of the fire is slower than actually anticipated. I think our chief forest officer indicated that we have up to about two and a half acres burnt. We had anticipated that between Friday and Monday, we would have seen doubled because of the rate that we’ve seen earlier. Fortunately the rate is slower than anticipated. There is some concern to the extent of burn, the biodiversity, the forest ecosystem because of course there is a lot of scarring because the nature of the biodiversity will be affected in terms of the area they occupy. But again, we are really assessing to make sure the extent is not significant that would outweigh the cost of going up there and doing so. Because of the elevation and the terrain of this area, it is very difficult to address this fire by ground support.”
G.O.B. Has Contingency Plan for Burning Forest
The burning detritus is the result of a lightning strike that hit the area in early June. The Forest Department has been filing daily reports from the area. C.E.O. Williams says that while they are looking at a few options for air support to douse the area if the burning persists, they are hoping for a natural solution to the problem.
Dr. Kenrick Williams, C.E.O., Ministry of Sustainable Development
“Given the projected rains over the next couple days; I’ve just spoke to our Chief Met who indicated that we are seeing about one to two inches of rain per day and up to Thursday we expect some increase in showers. So we are banking on that in terms of addressing that issue. We are monitoring this fire on a daily basis so we have our teams going out there; we had an assessment yesterday done to see the rate and the extent. And so based on the rate of the fire and the meteorological forecast, we expect that at least the rains will help us to abate the issue. We are going to continue to monitor and see how that goes. If not we are going to have to bank on air support. We have some air support on hold; we have already engaged two options that we are looking at. We have them on hold – because of course those are costly options – and so because of that we are hoping that the rate is not too extensive so that the cost benefit analysis is that with the rains we are going to address the issue substantially and either it really douse the fire and it reduces the spread.”