Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Maracaibo, lightning capital of the world



Maracaibo, lightning capital of the world

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A lightning strikes over lake Maracaibo near the stilt houses of Chamitas in Catatumbo, Venezuela, on September 11. AFP

Maracaibo, lightning capital of the world

One firebolt after another illuminates a stilt-house settlement where the Catatumbo river flows into Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo, the lightning capital of the world.

Holder of the Guinness World Record as the place with the highest concentration of lightning, South America’s largest lake receives an average of 233 flashes per square kilometre every year, according to NASA – thousands per night.

A scientific and tourist curiosity, for the water-logged communities of Zulia state in Venezuela’s northwest the phenomenon is known as the Catatumbo “lighthouse” which for centuries has helped them navigate their boats through the darkness.

There is no thunder, just lightning – a silent spectacle to be enjoyed about 300 nights per year, peaking in September.

On clear nights, the flashes paint striking patterns across the Milky Way in a sky so full of stars one does not need a telescope for constellation gazing.

Some are so fast they escape the human eye. Some zigzag more leisurely through the sky, or collide with other bolts.

In a boon for stargazers but a harsh reality for locals, the near nightly display is made all the more spectacular by the almost complete absence of light pollution.

There is no electrical grid here, and the few generators that still work are idle due to a critical lack of fuel occasioned by Venezuela’s economic crisis.

Only rarely is there the faint glow of a small home generator, or a beam from a fisherman’s flashlight.

The foreign visitors who used to come to Zulia have been staying away due to the global coronavirus pandemic and Venezuela’s economic problems.

Oblivious to the scientific interest in the phenomenon, Marianela Romera – a fisherwoman of 40 whose worn face makes her look much older – says that the lightning “shows us where to go.”

NASA says Lake Maracaibo has a unique geography and climate ideal for the development of thunderstorms.

Located along part of the Andes mountains, storms form at night as the cool mountain breeze clashes with the warm, moist air over the lake.

MOST VIEWED

  • Cambodia to waive quarantine requirements Nov 15, no PCR test required

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided to lift all quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated travellers and visitors – both Cambodians and foreign nationals – effective from November 15 onward. In a special message addressed to officials and relevant authorities on November 14, Hun Sen said this policy will enable

  • PM: No more quarantine for vaccinated travellers

    Cambodia is lifting all quarantine requirements for vaccinated inbound travellers entering Cambodia by air, waterway or land border checkpoints effective from November 15. Travellers will be required to take a rapid antigen test on arrival rather than waiting for the results of the lengthier polymerase chain

  • No payment required for travellers taking rapid Covid tests on arrival

    Ministry of Health officials said there would be no payment required for the rapid Covid-19 tests given to travellers who arrive in Cambodia from November 15 onwards after the quarantine requirement is lifted for fully vaccinated people. Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration