Another summer likely will pass before visitors can return to Mount Baldy in the Indiana dunes, as scientists try to determine what causes mysterious holes in the sand like the one that swallowed a 6-year-old boy in 2013.
Mount Baldy, which stands 126 feet tall and covers 43 acres, has been closed since Nathan Woessner fell into a hole and was buried in July 2013. At least six more holes have been discovered in the dune since, said Bruce Rowe, a park ranger and public information officer with the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Woessner, who has since fully recovered, was buried beneath 11 feet of sand for 3 1/2 hours before rescuers located him.
The holes are “a new phenomenon in geology, something new to science,” Rowe said.
The National Park Service won’t reopen Mount Baldy until it has reviewed a final report on what causes the holes from researchers at Indiana University and the Indiana Geological Survey, Rowe said. That won’t be until at least through the end of August.
Indiana Geological Survey Senior Scientist Todd Thompson is the lead on the team of researchers looking at the dune. He said he has an idea what is causing the holes, though he said the National Park Service will have to release the findings when they are complete.
Thompson’s team used ground-penetrating radar, dating for soil and sand and long tubes, called geoprobes, pushed into the ground to collect data on the dune. They turned in a report on their findings in February and are on track to file another report in August.
“Personally, it was all new to me,” Thompson said of the holes. “We’re trying to understand it as best as we can.”