Fire in Pico Bonito National Park?

Yesterday, as I drove into town early in the morning, I could not help noticing a strange looking cloud that clung to the mountains. For an instant, I thought it might be a forest fire. But the smoke was very white, and it came from a very green area high in the mountain. Sometimes, local people clear cut a piece of land in the forest for agricultural use. But this was in an area that was too steep. So I took it for granted that it was simply a cloud clinging to the mountain.

However, once I got to the office, I soon heard my colleagues talk about a fire in Pico Bonito National Park. Perhaps the fact that we have been suffering the driest season in history, made me believe that it was a fire in the jungle. However, it still seemed strange. The forest was luxuriantly green. It was high up in the mountain and no clear cutting was visible. As the day came to an end, the smoke emanating from the jungle was much less apparent. And I thought that the forest fire was dying out due to the natural humidity of the tropical rainforest in Nombre de Dios Mountains.

The Honduras army sent up a scouting group to find out what was going on. What they found was quite surprising. It turns out that a fumarole erupted and was throwing steam and gas high up in the air. This of course was much more visible early in the morning when the temperature was cooler, and you could see the steam forming a cloud. So, it was a cloud! No wonder I was confused! This morning a group of specialists, lead by Copeco, the local equivalent to FEMA in the USA has departed to investigate this unusual phenomena. It will be interesting to hear what they found out.

As it turns out, there is a lot of geothermal activity along the Caribbean Coast in Honduras. There are several areas that have natural hot springs that locals enjoy. I have always thought that there must be hundreds of other hot water springs deep in the forests of the Nombre de Dios Mountains. The good news is that there is no fire in Pico Bonito National Park. It also provides an excellent opportunity to investigate and learn more about the natural geology of Honduras.

In the past, I had heard locals claim that Pico Bonito mountain was a volcano and that from time to time fumaroles would erupt from the mountain. I always took it as rubbish, but today I can understand their train of thought. It turns out that this is not the first time a fumarole erupts in Pico Bonito National Park. However, I do not believe that story that there are volcanoes within the mountains there. It is simply not evident. Officially, there are only four volcanoes in Honduras. Two are in the Pacific Coast, one is in Lake Yojoa and other is Pumpkin Hill in Utila.

Although a fault line does run parallel, about 100 miles north of the Caribbean coast of Honduras, it is quite far away. I refer to the Motagua fault line that is where the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate meet. This fault line goes about 100 km north of the Bay Islands and on to the southern end of the Greater Antilles. It was this fault line that caused the devastating quake in Haiti a few years ago. I wonder out aloud if the 4.2 quake we felt on the night of August 18th could have any relationship the Pico Bonito Fumaroles? Of course, this is total speculation on my part. The fact is that Mother Nature always finds ways to surprise us. Planet Earth holds on too many secrets and continues to teach us lessons every day. If only we could listen to them and learn!