Our Pitch Lake in La Brea is the largest natural deposit of asphalt in the world and is one of only three natural asphalt lakes in the world (the other two are in Venezuela and California). It is the result of a fault in the sandstone 250 feet down, through which crude oil or bitumen seeps, the pitch has been exported for decades, for use on roofs and road surfaces. Though you can walk on its surface, objects have been swallowed up, sometimes reappearing years later as the pitch slowly swirls. The Amerindians are said to have believed that the Pitch Lake was created by the Good Spirit to drown a village whose people had sinned by killing too many hummingbirds. When Sir Walter Raleigh discovered the Pitch Lake in 1595, it was already known as the Tierra de Brea, it's Spanish name, by the Amerindians guides who introduced Sir Walter to the 100-acre lake of black gold.
Sir Walter Raleigh immediately recognized the potential and began caulking his ships with the tar. On his second voyage to Trinidad, Sir Walter Raleigh took some of the asphalt home with him, where it was used to pave Westminster Bridge for the opening of Parliament. Unfortunately the raw pitch melted in the sun, as it has a tendency to do, covering horses hooves and gumming up carriage wheels.
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