Search Results : geomorphos

Hidden Beach, aka Beach of Love, reopens

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Hidden Beach, aka Beach of Love, reopens
Sep 012016
 

Mexico’s famed Hidden Beach (Playa Escondida), aka as the Beach of Love (Playa del Amor), has reopened for limited tourism following a three month closure  for cleaning and restoration work.

The beach is on one of the small, uninhabited Marieta Islands, in the Marieta Islands National Park, off the west coast of Mexico, and relatively close to the resort of Puerto Vallarta. It is one of Mexico’s most beautiful small beaches, looking from the air (image) like an “eye to the sky”.

Playa Escondida. Source: Google Earth. Scale: The beach is about 30 m (100 ft) long.

Playa Escondida. Source: Google Earth. Scale: The beach is about 30 m (100 ft) long.

In earlier posts, we considered how Playa Escondida (“Hidden Beach”) was formed and also looked at the not inconsiderable downside to publicizing one of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches.

After a study by University of Guadalajara researchers found that local coral was dying and argued that the beach could support no more than 625 visitors a day (compared to the estimated 2500 who visit it on vacation days), federal authorities closed the beach and prohibited access while they considered how best to regulate future visits.

Mexico’s National Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) has now announced new regulations governing visits to the island and to the beach. It is limiting visitors to 116/day, well below the University of Guadalajara figure for carrying capacity of 625/day/.

In addition, no single group may have more than 15 members. No diving is allowed. Fins, face masks and snorkels are all prohibited. Visits have a strict time limit of 30 minutes. The beach, visted by more than 125,000 in 2015, will be completely closed two days each week for maintenance and monitoring.

Only time will tell if these measures will be sufficient to ensure that this particular gem of Mexico’s hundreds of amazing geosites will still be there for future generations to admire and appreciate.

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How was Playa Escondida (“Hidden Beach”) formed?

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Jun 022016
 

Following on from our look at the potentially disastrous environmental consequences of publicizing Playa Escondida (“Hidden Beach”), one of Mexico’s most beautiful small beaches, we take a look at how this extraordinary beach was formed.

Playa Escondida. Source: Google Earth. Scale: The beach is about 30 m (100 ft) long.

Playa Escondida. Source: Google Earth. Scale: The beach is about 30 m (100 ft) long.

Playa Escondida is on one of the small, uninhabited Marieta Islands, in the Marieta Islands National Park, off the west coast of Mexico, and relatively close to Puerto Vallarta.

playa-escondida

The beach is an “eye to the sky” and is aptly described by travel writer Brandon Presser, as follows:

At the center of Isla Redonda [is] a quirk of nature seen only on the pages of a fantasy novel—a sandy beach carved into the rounded core of the island like the hole of donut. Although completely invisible from the shoreline, a bird’s eye view reveals lapping crystal waters and an empty dune like dazzling colors at the end of kaleidoscope’s funnel.”

The Marieta Islands are formed of volcanic rocks and are an extension of Mexico’s Volcanic Axis.

Just how was this beach formed? Prosser describes two alternative suggestions. The first is that the volcanic rocks were not uniform in composition and hardness but had differences in resistance to subaerial weathering and erosion. According to this theory, the weaker, less consolidated rocks were eroded more quickly than the surrounding rocks to leave a giant chasm in the ground. This chasm was then breached on one side by marine action.

The alternative theory mentioned by Prosser, and the only one mentioned (though without citation) by wikipedia, is that the chasm was formed by human activity, specifically by the Mexican military who undertook bombing practice in and around the islands prior to when the area was given National Park status.

Coastal geomorphologists might argue the case for considering a third theory, involving the formation, first, of the cove on the outer coast of the island, followed by a combination of marine and subaerial action to exploit a line of weakness in the volcanic rocks to create a landform known as a geo (a narrow, deep, cleft extending inland from the coast). This geo may have gradually lengthened over time, by continued cave formation at the head of the geo, with marine erosion at the back of the cave opening up a blowhole, a small opening to the sky. A sequence of collapses and blowhole formation, over time, may have created Playa Escondida, where the interior beach is the base of a former blowhole, where the roof has collapsed and the material subsequently removed by marine action or pounded into beach sand.

Whatever the explanation, this particular geomorphosite is one of Mexico’s many natural treasures, and one well worth preserving for future generations.

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The downside to publicizing one of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches

 Mexico's geography in the Press, Other  Comments Off on The downside to publicizing one of Mexico’s most beautiful beaches
May 232016
 

In the past couple of years, Mexico’s federal tourism department has included a truly magnificent beach on some of its publicity posters. It is one of those advertising posters that really catches the eye. I first saw a poster featuring Playa Escondida (“Hidden Beach”) in a departure lounge at Vancouver’s International Airport and spent the next hour watching people’s reactions as they passed it. Several people paused and studied the photo, demonstrating its success in capturing people’s attention.

playa-escondida-tourism-poster-2The beach concerned, also known as the “Beach of Love”) is on one of the small, uninhabited Marieta Islands, in the Marieta Islands National Park, off the west coast of Mexico, and relatively close to Puerto Vallarta.

The posters, and resulting publicity, have led to so many tourists wanting to experience the beach for themselves – more than 2500 visitors a day during Easter Week this year – that Mexico’s National Protected Areas Commission (Conanp) has ordered the beach closed for at least three months due to concerns about environmental damage. Conanp has indicated that the local coral reef has already been adversely impacted by tourism.

Conanp’s decision follows a study by scientists at the University of Guadalajara which concluded that tourism has led to the death of coral, accumulation of garbage, and to pollution from hydrocarbons. The study estimated the beach’s environmental carrying capacity (the number of people that could visit the beach without causing lasting environmental damage) to be 625 visitors a day. Given the secluded nature of this beach, its perceptual carrying capacity (the maximum number of visitors that other visitors can tolerate, based on such impacts as noise) may be even lower.

To assuage some of the economic concerns of tour operators, Conanp is making plans to open a different beach on another of the Marieta Islands for tourism at some point in the near future.

During Easter week, there were numerous press reports that boats ferrying people to the Marieta Islands from El Anclote, Nayarit, were often overcrowded and carrying more passengers than their permits allowed. Boat owners, not surprisingly, deny this, and claim that this is yet another attempt to dislodge them from their remaining toehold on Punta de Mita, where a major upscale tourism development forced many fishermen out of their homes about thirty years ago. For details, see the text accompanying our Map of the Beaches of Jalisco.

islas-marietas-playa-excondida

The number of tourists traveling to Playa Escondida increased from 27,500 in 2012 to 127,372 in 2015. While the federal tourism poster was not the only publicity given the beach, it certainly appears to have played a part in increasing public awareness of this scenic geotourism location, ultimately resulting in the need to make it off limits for tourism, at least for now.

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We discuss the consequences of tourism, good, bad and neutral, at length, in chapter 19 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Buy your copy (Print or ebook) today!

Mar 312016
 

The River Atoyac, a river more than 120 kilometers (75 miles) long, in the state of Veracruz, has suddenly dried up. The dramatic disappearance of the river is believed to be due to the collapse of the roof of a cavern in the underlying limestone. This caused the formation of a narrow sinkhole, 30 meters (100 feet) long, that now swallows the river and diverts its water underground.

rio_atoyac-mapa-el-universal

Drainage basin of the Río Atoyac. Credit: El Universal

The collapse happened on Sunday 28 February; residents of the small ranch town of San Fermín heard a thunderous noise at the time. Within 48 hours, the river had disappeared.

The River Atoyac rises on the slopes of the Pico de Orizaba, Mexico’s highest peak. Unfortunately, the cavern collapse occurred only 3 kilometers from the river’s source, leaving almost all of its course dry, with potentially serious consequences for up to 10,000 people living in the river basin who have now lost their usual water supply.

The disappearance of the river will also have adverse impacts on fauna and flora, and jeopardize sugar-cane farming and other activities downstream. The fauna of the river included fresh-water crayfish (langostinos) which were an important local food source.

The municipalities affected are Amatlán de los Reyes, Atoyac, Yanga, Cuitláhuac, Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Cotaxtla, Medellìn and Boca del Río.

The course of the river approximately follows that of federal highway 150D, the main toll highway between the cities of Orizaba and Veracruz.

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Jul 092015
 

The Jalisco state government has released an informative 5-minute video highlighting some of the reasons why Jalisco is one of the best locations in Mexico for farming, business and tourism.

The video can be viewed on Facebook: Esto es Jalisco. This is Jalisco.

Following opening shots showing some of the diverse landscapes of the state, including the Piedrotas at Tapalpa, the majestic Volcán de Colima (whose summit is actually in Jalisco, not Colima) and the Horseshoe Falls near the Dr. Atl park on the northern edge of Guadalajara, the video’s subtitles (in English) turn to techno0logy and innovation. Jalisco is the first state in Mexico to have a Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology. The state capitol Guadalajara is the center for MIND (Mexican Innovation and Design Center) and was chosen by MIT for the establishment of a Creative Digital City.

Map of Jalisco state

Map of Jalisco. Copyright 2010 Tony Burton. All rights reserved.

The city also has major cultural and sporting attractions, from libraries to golf courses to hosting international events in the Expo Guadalajara to concerts and its own international film festival. It also hosts the world’s second largest book fair (after Hamburg). Its industrial activity ranges from agro-processing (including tequila) to pharmaceuticals, information technology, automotive and aerospace firms to renewable energy enterprises.

Foreign investment in Jalisco has risen by an average of 17% a year for the past decade, with foreign firms finding the state’s geographic position advantageous for serving central Mexico and with excellent trade links to Asia and the U.S.

The state’s leading coastal resort is Puerto Vallarta, but tourism is also important in the state’s interior. Jalisco has five places with Magic Town status: Lagos de Moreno, San  Sebastian del Oeste, Tapalpa, Mazamitla and Tequila.

Jalisco currently accounts for 6.6% of national GDP and the state government clearly expects this contribution to grow in coming years. This professionally-produced video is an excellent visual introduction to one of Mexico’s most important states.

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30 top geotourism sites in Mexico (Geo-Mexico special)

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May 142015
 

Mexico has literally thousands of geotourism sites (locations where the primary recreational attraction is some phenomenon of geographic importance, such as a coral reef, mangrove swamp, volcano, mountain peak, cave or canyon. Many of Mexico’s geotourism sites are geomorphosites, where the primary attraction is one or more ”landforms that have acquired a scientific, cultural/historical, aesthetic and/or social/economic value due to human perception or exploitation.” (Panniza, 2001)

Here is a partial index (by state) to the geotourism sites described on Geo-mexico.com to date:

Baja California Sur

Chiapas

Chihuahua

Colima

Hidalgo

Jalisco

México (State of)

Michoacán

Morelos

Nayarit

Nuevo León

Oaxaca

Puebla

Querétaro

Quintana Roo

San Luis Potosí

Sonora

Tamaulipas

Veracruz

Reference:

  • Panizza M. (2001) Geomorphosites : concepts, methods and example of geomorphological survey. Chinese Science Bulletin, 46: 4-6

The art of Mexican volcanoes

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Apr 162015
 

An art exhibition entitled “Mexican Volcanoes” is opening in Mexico City next week. The show opens on Tuesday 21 April, at noon, at the offices of the Mexican Society for Geography and Statistics (Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía y Estadística) at Justo Sierra #19, in the Historic Center of the city. The Society is one of the world’s oldest geographic societies, having been founded 18 April 1833. (The Royal Geographical Society in the U.K. was founded in 1830; the National Geographic Society in the USA was founded in 1888).

Invitacion frente

This exhibition, which will close on 29 April, is being arranged by Lewinson Art, a Mexican art firm that specializes in promoting artists via a virtual gallery and exhibitions. Artists were invited to submit works (paintings, drawings, engravings, photographs) relating to the subject “Mexican Volcanoes”.

Detail of lithograph by Casimiro Castro of Railway near Orizaba, Veracruz

Detail of lithograph by Casimiro Castro of Railway near Orizaba, Veracruz, with Pico de Orizaba in the background

Historically, Mexico’s volcanoes have been especially fertile ground for Mexican artists, from the great landscapes of José María Velasco to Casimiro Castro and the colorful and energetic “aerial landscapes” of Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo).

dr-atl-paricutin

Dr. Atl (Gerardo Murillo): Paricutin Volcano

Artists represented in this interesting exhibition include:

Agustín Aldama, Mercedes Arellano, José Luis Briseño, Rosi Calderón, Argelia Castañeda, Becky Esquenazi, Gabriela Estrada, Tere Galván, Gabriela Horta, Ana Gabriela Iñiguez, Débora Lewinson, Manuel Martinez Moreno, Nadine Markova, Ausberto Morales, Francoise Noé, Merle Reivich, Fernando Reyes Varela, Homero Santamaría, Arcelia Urbieta, Ariel Valencia , Primo Vega and Lucille Wong.

The volcanoes depicted in the show include Popocatepetl, Iztaccihuatl, Cofre de Perote and the Nevado de Toluca (Xinantecatl).

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Cueva Cheve, Oaxaca, is one of the world’s deepest cave systems

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Apr 062015
 

Even though most people have never heard of it, Cueva Chevé is one of the deepest cave systems in the world. In 2003, a team led by American speleologist Bill Stone, explored Cueva Chevé, located in the mountainous, pine-clad Sierra de Juárez region of Oaxaca, to a depth of 1484 m (4869 ft). The Cueva Chevé system is thought to have some tunnels (as yet unexplored) that extend even further, to depths beyond 2000 m (6500 ft). By way of comparison, at present the world’s deepest known cave is the Krubera Cave, in the Republic of Georgia, which has a maximum explored depth of 2197 m (7208 ft).

Profile of Cueva Cheve

Profile of Cueva Cheve

How deep might the Cueva Chevé be?

In 1990, colored dye trace experiments showed that there was a hydrological connection between the Chevé Cave and a distant spring (resurgence). This shows that the Cueva Chevé system (including parts not yet explored) has a total vertical fall of 2525 m (8284 ft) over a distance of (north to south) of almost 19 km (11.8 mi).

Because the major risks in exploring any cave system include the possibility of sudden rises in water level, or unexpected water flows through the caves, expeditions to this region are limited to the middle of the dry season (ie February-April). When an expedition gets underway, staging camps are set up underground at intervals, but only in locations believed to be well above flood stage water levels.

Cueva Chevé (see cross section) is shaped like a giant L. The vertical shaft is about 910 m (3000 ft) deep and roughly 3.2 km (2.0 mi) of passages are required to get to the bottom. The remainder is a long, gradually sloping passage that goes on for another 3.2 km and drops roughly 605 m (2000 ft). The cave’s deepest known point is about 11 km (7 mi) from the entrance, where explorers have so far failed to get past a terminal sump.

The air in the cave is relatively warm, with temperatures ranging from 47-52̊ F (8-11̊ C).

Chambers so far explored have been given prosaic names such as “Cuarto de las Canastas” (the Basket Room), “Cuarto del Elefante Negro” (the Black Elephant Room), and “Cañon Fresco” (Fresh Canyon), while named cave formations include the “Taller de Santa Claus” (Santa Claus Workshop). Several parts of the cave system have been found to contain human artifacts, the earliest dating back at least several hundred years.

How to get there

Cueva Chevé is about 140 km (86 mi) north of Oaxaca City via highways 190 and 131.

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Nov 132014
 

Mexico’s varied geography has made it a premier destination for all kinds of adventure tourism, from caving and canyoneering to jungle treks, white-water rafting and rock climbing.

This 6-minute video shows mountaineer Alex Honnold climbing the 460-meter (1500-feet) high rock face known as El Sendero Luminoso near Monterrey in northern Mexico. What makes this climb special (and slightly scary to watch) is that Honnold climbs solo and without any safety measures such as ropes.

Interviewed for National Geographic Adventure before he had seen the video, Honnold said, “I’m not sure what the video shows, but my true solo was all alone with no photogs [photographers] or helis [helicopters]. We then went back and filmed on big portions of it. In my mind there’s a clear difference between personal climbing—the actual solo—and work days—the filming afterward.”

"The Spires" in El Potrero Chico climbing area (Wikipedia photo)

“The Spires” in El Potrero Chico climbing area (Wikipedia photo)

The El Sendero Luminoso rockface is in an area known as El Potrero Chico, a short distance from Monterrey, near the town of Hidalgo.

The Wikipedia entry for El Potrero Chico describes it as having “a large range of different climbs, most of them in the 5.8 to 5.13 grade. The type of climbing can range from steep overhanging face to easy slab. The rock is usually quite sharp. The climbs are mostly situated in a canyon at the entrance of the park, while the interior offers undeveloped mountain terrain with many mountain biking routes, ranging from very easy to expert options.”

According to Wikipedia, El Potrero is “considered one of the top 10 locations to sport climb in the world. In addition to well over 500 routes, the area boasts the second longest sport route in North America, Timewave Zero, with 23 pitches and over 2,000 feet (610 m).”

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World’s longest underground river flows deep beneath the Yucatán Peninsula

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Feb 102014
 

In January 2007, the world’s longest underground river was reported from Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. [Prior to that date, the honor was held by the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in the Philippines]

The Sac Actun (“White Cave”) river system in the Yucatán Peninsula wanders for 153 km (95 miles) through a maze of underground limestone caves. It took British diver Stephen Bogaerts and his German colleague Robbie Schmittner four years to explore the caverns using underwater scooters and specially rigged gas cylinders, before they finally discovered a connection between the Yucatán region’s then second- and third-longest cave systems, known respectively as Sac Actun and Nohoch Nah Chich (“Giant Birdcage”). Following the discovery of a link, the entire system is now known as Sac Actun. The system has a total surveyed length (including dry caves) of 319 kilometers (198 mi), making it the longest cave system in Mexico, and the second longest worldwide. [The longest is the dry Mammoth Cave System, Kentucky, USA, which measures 643.7 km (400 mi) in length].

Sac-Actun cave system

Sac-Actun cave system

Vying with Sac Actun for the title of longest surveyed underwater cave system is the nearby Sistema Ox Bel Ha (“Three Paths of Water”), also in the Tulum municipality of Quintana Roo. As of August 2013, surveys had measured 256.7 kilometers (159.5 mi) of underwater passages.

The underground passages and caverns of the Yucatán Peninsula have been a favored site for cave explorers for decades. Formal mapping of the systems has taken more than 20 years of painstaking work. Access to the systems is via the hundreds of sinkholes (cenotes) that litter the surface of the Peninsula. The Sac Actun system alone includes more than 150 cenotes.

Water management was critical to the Maya as they developed their advanced civilization in this area, a region with very limited surface freshwater. Many of the cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula have archaeological importance and were utilized by the Maya for ceremonies. Perhaps the best-known (and most visited) cenote is the Sacred Cenote (cenote sagrado) at the archaeological site of Chichen Itza.

The caverns of the Yucatán Peninsula were formed as a result of the slow solution of limestone over thousands of years by percolating, slightly acidic, rainwater. In some cases, cave formations, such as stalactites and stalagmites, have later grown in the caves, formed drip-by-drip from the slow deposition of calcium carbonate from calcium-saturated ground water.

Because the average elevation of the Yucatán Peninsula is only a few meters above sea level, the water in many of the caves is “layered”, with a lens of freshwater overlying a layer of salt water. Rainwater that soaks into the ground becomes ground water, which then moves slowly along the watertable to eventually reach the ocean.

Cave researchers are worried that tourist developments in the Yucatán Peninsula will have adverse impacts on underground water systems, both in terms of water quantity (because of the amounts of fresh water extracted for domestic and tourist use) and in terms of water quality, because even point sources of water pollution (such as excess fertilizers from a golf course) could contaminate underground water supplies over a wide area.

Want to read more?

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