Research team begins study to understand holes found at Mount Ba - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Research team begins study to understand holes found at Mount Baldy Dune

Mount Baldy at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has been closed to the public for over a year. It happened after Nathan Woessner fell into a hole and was trapped under eleven feet of sand for nearly four hours. A team of researchers arrived at Mount Baldy on Monday to begin their research on where and what has caused these collapses in the ground.

Members from the National Park Service, Indiana Geological Survey and Indiana University (from Bloomington and Northwest campuses) will look to answer that question. Assistant Director of the Indiana Geological Survey Todd Thompson says the team will use ground-penetrating radar systems and a geoprobe. These machines will gather images and collect findings.

"This would be somewhat similar to you getting a CAT scan and if you see something in there now you need to try to get a sample of it," Thompson said.

With these devices the team will know what the dunes look like from the inside as well as collect samples of sediment. "The end result of this is we'll be able to build a 3-D model of the dune and essentially be able to look in the inside of it and see where are those collapse features occurring and what are they associated with," Thompson said.

Thompson says research of the dunes is just beginning now because of the difficulty with scheduling. He says it took time to get all the researchers and equipment needed together.

There have been six holes, including the one Woessner fell in, that have been discovered so far at Mount Baldy. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Park Ranger Bruce Rowe says finding the first hole was a surprise. "When the first one formed and little Nathan Woessner fell in, we were shocked because it was something that was unheard of in the Park Service and apparently unheard of in science," Rowe said.

Senior Researcher for the Indiana Geological Survey William Monaghan says one of the challenges of understanding what has caused these holes is studying how the dunes have moved over 500 feet over the last 70 years. "Now the whole shape of the original Mount Baldy from the 1930's is gone. And we see a new Mount Baldy develop," Monaghan said.

The team found the most recent hole on Wednesday. They say it was about 4.5 feet deep. As more holes are uncovered and research continues, the reopening of Mount Baldy does not have any timetable.

"We have to see what science tells us about what's happening before we can even decide that," Rowe said. “We can use the results we get from them to decide what to do with Mount Baldy in the future.”

The research team will have results in 3-6 months. They have to turn in a preliminary report in a year. The National Park Service provided a 90,000 dollar grant to fund this research project.

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