High on the hills of the Southern Range overlooking the shores where Venezuelans are often smuggled in, lies a volcano that looks unique when photographed from above. It is the Anglais Point volcano which emits a steady multi-coloured flow of mud slurries that reaches 700 feet down to the Palo Seco Beach.
Situated at the back of a cliff, the elevation of the volcano's main vent is 151.8 feet. Records show the volcano erupted twice in the past —in 1906 and in 1960. Over the past year, petroleum geologists have been doing research at the site in a bid to determine whether another major eruption is expected soon. Although there isn't enough evidence to conclude if the eruptions are periodic, researchers said that if the time span for an eruption is half a century, there could be another eruption.
In an exclusive interview with Guardian Media, chairman of the Palo Seco Erin Justice Committee Victor Roberts said the Point Anglais volcano, also known as the Beach Camp volcano, had enormous potential for tourism. The opening of the volcano's cone is roughly about four inches in height and the size of the mudflow is enormous.
He said years ago, thousands of people would flock to the volcano and then go to the Palo Seco Beach.
"Palo Seco Beach was number one. We used to have 2,000 or 3,000 people coming to the beach. Many would bathe in the volcano and then go to the beach to wash off. I have been living in Palo Seco since I was seven and back then people could have accessed the volcano through James Trace," Roberts recalled.
Today James Trace is in dire need of repaving. Roberts said the half-mile stretch at the end of James Trace leads directly to the volcano but an access road was never built.
"Politicians have come and gone promising to develop tourism here and to date, all the promises never materialised," Roberts added. He said there was a drain at Beach Camp which used to go down on the beach but the drain collapsed causing the water runoff to erode the cliff.
"The entire cliff collapsed. We want to get Palo Seco Beach back up and running. The volcano has great potential for the tourism industry and also for the entire community of St Patrick," Roberts said. He also said there was fresh spring water at Beach Camp and facilities to accommodate tourists.
Resident David Lewis said despite the collapse of the road, people have been finding their way through the tracks from the beach to see the magnificence of the volcano.
"I feel great about developing the volcano as a tourist site. Even though the road is bad, plenty of people from all over the country go there. Last week people from Sangre Grande and Arima come down there. If we develop this site it will stimulate development in the community," Lewis said.
He noted that unemployment is rampant in his area and if community tourism was revived there could be opportunities for small entrepreneurs.
Another resident Sandy Paul said even though Palo Seco was rich in natural resources, the community was suffering.
"Nothing is happening in Palo Seco and the only time you hear from the politicians is when elections come around. We want to have the proper infrastructure in our community so that we can utilise our resources and market our community. We have one of the best volcanoes and very few people know about it," she said.
Paul said if the authorities wanted a revitalisation of entrepreneurship, then they would maximise opportunities for community-based tourism.
Because the community is so deserted, Paul said it was a perfect hideout for Venezuelans who arrive illegally in Trinidad to escape the turmoil in their homeland. She said it was not uncommon for the Venezuelans to stay in the forested area for several days until they are picked up by their contacts.
What makes Anglais Point volcano unique?
Compared to other mud volcanoes in the Southern Anticline, Point Anglais is unique. Its multi-coloured slurries and the landscape leading to the conical vents show the magnificence of this natural wonder.
So what causes the multi-coloured look? Senior geoscientist from Touchstone Exploration Xavier Moonan said the oil deposits that come from below the surface of the volcano creates the rainbow effect.
Trekking to Anglais Point takes roughly about 45 minutes if you climb uphill from the beach. As you go up, you can see gullies and ridges created by the erosion of rainwater.
Moonan, who has done extensive research on the volcano, said Point Anglias was recognised as one of many prominent mud volcanoes situated along the Southern Anticline.
"The flow of liquid mud and oil has been going on for millions of years. It is a good tool that geologists use to understand that there is oil below the ground," he explained.
He said the multi-coloured flow has reached the beach, flowing downhill from a steep incline.
"The volcano is surrounded by heavily folded deep-water shales and sand rich turbidites which are millions of years old," Moonan said.
Like many other mud volcanoes scattered throughout the Central Range, Southern Basin and Southern Range, Moonan said Point Anglias volcano was also associated with hydrocarbon accumulations.
"Some of the oil is escaping through the mud volcano. It is a natural process. It is is not a new large mudflow. It is slow bleeding off of subsurface pressures that have been re-establishing itself from the eruption that occurred about 50 plus years ago," he said.
Anglais Point volcano is listed as one of T&T's tourist attractions and every year researchers from across the world visit the natural wonder.