MICHIGAN CITY, Ind.
(AP) - Scientists are still confounded 13 months after a then-6-year-old boy
was nearly buried alive in a popular sand dune in northwest Indiana, saying
they found a sixth hole this week as they moved high tech gear into place to
try to conduct further testing on what is causing the holes.
who are the principle investigators arrived Monday and hope to use radio
waves and core samples they collect in the next week to amass enough data to
eventually build a three-dimensional map of a section of the 126-foot-high
Mount Baldy to see if they can determine what is causing the holes.
spokesman for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, said Mount Baldy will
remain closed until more is known.
“We want to let the
science do the talking before we do any management decisions as to whether
to open Mount Baldy,” Rowe said. “We have a great desire to reopen it. It’s
one of the most popular areas in the lakeshore. But we want to make sure we
understand what’s going on from a geological standpoint so we can make the
The geologists say
what they are finding out is changing what they thought they knew about the
properties of sand dunes.
Northwest associate geology professor Erin Argyilan was at Mount Baldy
conducting a wind study on July 12, 2013, when Nathan Woessner of Sterling,
Illinois, became trapped more than three hours and couldn’t believe he had
fallen into a hole.
because everything I knew about dunes led me to confusion. There’s no way
that something like this should have happened. I’ve never read or heard
about voids in dunes,” Argyilan said.
One of the working
theories is that the holes might be related to decaying trees or rotting
man-made structures that the dune has covered over the years, although
Argyilan said other possibilities have not been ruled out. But she said they
have heard about smaller holes being reported at Oregon Dunes National
Recreation Area in far western Oregon and officials there say they are from
assistant director of the Indiana Geological Survey, said that didn’t make
sense to him at first.
“Because where does
the tree go? If it’s buried inside this dune and it rots, isn’t there still
a mass there? It’s got to go somewhere,” he said.
Argyilan is using
data compiled last year by crews using ground-penetrating radar to check out
anomalies in the dune to see if trees or structures are to blame.
The latest hole,
about 7 inches wide and about 4 1/2 feet deep, was discovered Wednesday in a
spot where Thompson had previously stepped while moving equipment.
Most of the holes
have been smaller. Argyilan estimates most of the holes have been about 2
inches wide. She said the hole found Wednesday was the deepest they’ve
found. The previous deepest was about 3 feet deep.
The holes are
difficult to measure, though, because by the time scientists return to
measure them they have begun to fill with sand, Argyilan said.
Thompson said the
$90,000 study, funded by the National Park Service grant, calls for an
initial report in three months, a preliminary report in six months.
and a final report
in a year.
It’s too early to
say whether there is any way to fix the problem, he said.