BITUMEN in its various forms is widely distributed in nature, as natural gas, petroleum, maltha, asphalt and other solid forms. Of the deposits of asphalt which are of great industrial importance there are two which have attracted world wide attention, the so-called Trinidad Pitch Lake and the Bermudez Pitch Lake, the name lake being applied to them very naturally, as they consist of a great expanse of more or less mobile character, covering many acres, and resembling in many ways a similar expanse of water. It is proposed, in the following pages, to give an account of these remarkable deposits, the manner of exploiting them and their industrial applications in highway construction.
The Trinidad Pitch Lake
The Island of Trinidad lies off the north coast of South America, between 10° and 11° of latitude and 61° and 62° longitude. It is bounded on the north by the Caribbean Sea, on the east by the Atlantic, on the south by a narrow channel, into which flow the waters of the northern and most westerly mouths of the Orinoco, and on the west by the Gulf of Paria, the two latter bodies of water separating it from the mainland of Venezuela.
It is of an irregular rectangular shape, with promontories extending from its southwestern and northwestern corners which are several miles in length, between which and the mainland are the narrow straits known as the Dragon's and Serpent's Mouths. These promontories from a large portion of the northern and southern boundaries of the shallow rectangular Gulf of Paria, whose outlets to the ocean are through the Dragon's and Serpent's Mouths. The island has an average length of 48 miles and breadth of 36, containing about 1,750 square miles, and being about one fifth the area of the state of Vermont. It is, as a whole, a flat country, with a high and striking mountain chain descending abruptly into the sea along its northern shore, and with low central and southern ranges of less importance. Its coasts are naturally abrupt on the north, consist of low bluffs on the south and are flat on the east and west. The only harbors are on the western coast.