Investigators have found a second hole in the Mt. Baldy dune similar to the
one from which young Nathan Woessner was rescued in July, the National Park
Service (NPS) said today.
On Monday, NPS and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, began
using sensing equipment to locate any anomalies, gaps, or holes in the Mt.
Baldy dune of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
“During the course of the work, investigators found a hole, approximately 10
inches in diameter, in the surface of the dune,” NPS said just before
deadline this morning. “The hole resembles the size and shape of the hole
described by the Woessner family. The hole appeared to be five-feet deep but
may have been deeper as the sand at the bottom was very loose. The hole was
not created by any human activity and is believed to have formed as a
natural phenomenon. Samples of the sand and debris within the hole have been
collected and will be analyzed.”
Additional equipment was to be deployed today at Mt. Baldy to collect sand
samples from various depths within the hole, if it still exists, and areas
near the location of the hole. “The samples could provide the dates of the
sand deposition under this area of loose sand,” NPS said.
“NPS has developed an investigation team comprised of NPS geologists and
hydrologists and university researchers from several disciplines,” NPS
added. “The team will collectively make decisions about the progression of
the investigation into the phenomenon associated with the conditions on Mt.
EPA’s limited use on Monday of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) testing is
hoped to provide a three-dimensional model of the Mt. Baldy dune, both
inside and out, as well as locate any anomalies within the dune which might
require further investigation, NPS noted.
Additional testing and analysis of results will take weeks and the entire
Mt. Baldy area will remain closed to the public until further notice.
“We realize that many people would like to visit Mt. Baldy and we regret
that the area is closed,” Superintendent Constantine Dillon said. “But the
fact that we do not know what caused the original hole, and that a new hole
has spontaneously appeared, reinforces our concern that Mt. Baldy is not
safe for visitors at this time.”
On July 12, Nathan Woessner, 6, of Sterling, Ill., was playing at Mt. Baldy
when he fell into an 11-foot hole in the dune. Initial efforts to retrieve
him caused sand to collapse into the hole, burying him. Nathan was trapped
for more than three hours but was able to survive in an air pocket until he
At the time, an NPS spokesman said that no records have been found of
similar incidents either in the National Lakeshore or at any other location.
The hole in which Nathan was trapped, however, is believed to have been
naturally occurring and may be an artifact of the well documented southward
drift of the Mt. Baldy dune.
Researchers at Indiana University Northwest have found that the annual sand
accretion rate at Mt. Baldy varies from three meters to as many as six
meters and NPS has suggested that dune’s steady movement may have uncovered
a cavity left by the remnants of an old decomposed tree.