Dominica’s Boiling Lake
The Boiling Lake is a volcano-hydrothermal feature located in an area next to the Valley of Desolation in southern Dominica. The lake is roughly 60m in diameter and approximately 15m deep. The Boiling Lake is the second largest feature of its kind in the world with the largest being Frying Pan Lake in New Zealand.
In its normal state of activity the lake is boiling but occasionally there have been fluctuations in water levels and temperatures. Since 1876 there have been at least eight (8) recorded instances of changes in the water levels of the Boiling Lake. One of the more recent changes in lake water levels was noticed between December 2004 and April 2005 and this activity continues into the 21st century. During this period water levels rose and fell several times.
The Valley of Desolation and the Boiling Lake itself are considered sites of interest for locals and visitors to Dominica. They have been part of the Morne Trois Pitons National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does the Boiling Lake empty occasionally?
Research suggests that water levels at the lake are maintained by the bubbles of volcanic gases rising through spaces in the rock beneath the lake. When these gases are absent, the water in the lake is no longer being pushed up and the water level falls. The gases are sometimes absent because vents beneath the lake may become blocked.
Another possible cause for a drop in water level is that the rim around the lake may break allowing some of the water to drain out.
Are changes at the Boiling Lake related to earthquakes?
At present no conclusive link between earthquakes and changes at the Boiling Lake has been determined. Research is ongoing.
Could the geothermal development have affected the Boiling Lake?
No. The exploration, drilling and flow testing that has been carried out in the Laudat area would not affect the Boiling Lake. The lake drained and refilled several times before geothermal exploration in Dominica began and activity at the Boiling Lake in recent times is consistent with activity that has been observed at the Boiling Lake since 1876.
Could geothermal development trigger a volcanic eruption?
Across the many geothermal developments in the world there has never been a case of a geothermal well triggering a volcanic eruption.
Does draining of the Boiling Lake mean that a volcanic eruption will start?
Based on current research the draining of the lake does not necessarily mean that a volcanic eruption will occur. Scientists at the UWI-Seismic Research Centre (UWI-SRC) are continually monitoring all of Dominica’s volcanoes and will communicate any changes in activity to the ODM.
Is there any danger associated with the draining of the Boiling Lake?
Significant drops in water levels at the Boiling Lake may increase the potential hazards to visitors to the Boiling Lake-Valley of Desolation area due to the increased risk of small steam and gas explosions. In 1901 a small steam and gas explosion from the Boiling Lake (which was almost empty at the time), released harmful gases (probably mainly carbon dioxide, a colourless and odourless gas) and killed two people who were at the water’s edge at the time. The Valley of Desolation has seen two phreatic (steam) eruptions within recent history; on January 4th, 1880 and again on July 9th, 1997.
Is it safe to visit the Boiling Lake?
The UWI-SRC suggests contacting the Forestry, Wildlife & Parks Division before visiting the lake at all times. When lake water levels are normal it is generally safe to visit. However, visiting the lake when it is drained may pose some risk. If visiting the lake when it is drained is absolutely necessary, scientists recommend that people exercise extreme caution. Specifically, it is recommended that:
1) No one descends to the water’s edge; absolutely no swimming in the lake and
2) Visitors to the Boiling Lake-Valley of Desolation area avoid approaching the Lake and/or spend as little time as possible at the viewing point on the crater rim.
Is the Boiling Lake being monitored?
The UWI-SRC monitors the Boiling Lake as part of its volcano monitoring programme in Dominica. The UWI-SRC updates the Office of Disaster Management (ODM) when significant changes are observed.