Hanging on: Farouk Khan,
left, and Robin Castro stand
next to exposed roots and
lowered trunks of trees along
the bank of the sinkhole.
Sinkhole in Carapal
...Bois canot, coconut, mango and other trees still remained standing—but at a lower level
It is a strange occurrence to Trinbagonians when on waking one morning we find that a portion of our land has begun to sink.
You read about sinkholes occurring naturally in places such as Florida, USA, where the terrain is composed of limestone, sometimes to the extent of loss of property. Entire houses have gone down with the land in these cases. This never happens here in our country.
In Rancho Quemado, South Trinidad, where there is a mix of extensive agricultural estates and oil fields, this most unusual terrestrial movement happened.
One morning Robin Castro went onto the estate in Carapal Extension, only to find a large area that was level the day before had sunken significantly. Bois canot, coconut, mango and other trees still remained standing—but at a lower level.
After some time, the land dropped still further—by as much as 25 feet in some places. Robin and his brother explored the area and found no evidence of landslide, just a clean drop in the earth entailing a block 200 feet long by 25 feet wide, and more in some places.
In Carapal Extension, estates are a mixture of cocoa, citrus, fruits, corn, vegetables and other crops. Members of the community coexist with nearby oil wells, this industry also supporting the economy of the area. It is said that the oil-rich terrain is what gives the cocoa its rich flavour. Robin pointed out: “If I just dig a hole in the ground outside my house, I get oil.”
Besides making a name for itself as a cocoa farming and oil rich location, Carapal Extension boasts of an abundance of active springs. Some have been harvested as the only potable water sources in remoter parts of the area, while others provide a free flow of water to form streams distributed over the landscape. According to the local saying, “there is a spring for every mile in Carapal”.
The cause of the sinking land has not been established as yet, but one can deduce from local conditions that well drilling and the occasional blow out, active springs and/or a combination of these have contributed to the dramatic drop in the level of the land.
Some tree roots such as mango and bois canot remain exposed along the “new” bank, where hitherto they were rooted well inside the earth. Trees that grew directly on top of the sunken area still remain standing intact, only at a lower level.
Meanwhile, life goes on as usual in Carapal Extension, as the Castro families continue to plant their staple crops on and around the area, oil wells continue to pump that precious liquid gold, and springs continue to gush clear, cool water from the aquifers of these rich southern parts.