Floating Islands of Lake Titicaca
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN PERU
ISLANDS that float? Yes, islands in this unique lake in South America do. And people live on them.
Lake Titicaca, bordered by Peru to the west and Bolivia to the east, is the world’s highest lake navigable to large vessels. Lying 12,500 feet [3,810 m] above sea level, it extends 120 miles [190 km] in a northwest-to-southeast direction and is over 50 miles [80 km] across at its widest point.
Some of Lake Titicaca’s many islands are floating mats of dried totora, a reedlike papyrus that grows in some shallower areas of the lake. The reeds grow from the lake bottom, pass through many feet of water, and extend several feet above the surface of the water. To make an island, the reeds, while still rooted to the lake bottom, are bent over and interwoven to make a strawlike platform, or floor, that rests on the surface of the water. The reeds are then packed with mud and reinforced with additional cut lengths of reed. The inhabitants live in reed huts built on the floating reed islands.
The Encyclopædia Britannica notes that people have long lived on these islands. It also observes: “Lake dwellers make their famed balsas—boats fashioned of bundles of dried reeds lashed together that resemble the crescent-shaped papyrus craft pictured on ancient Egyptian monuments.”
Recently, Jehovah’s Witnesses obtained a boat for preaching to people on the islands of Lake Titicaca. The boat is powered by an outboard motor and is capable of carrying 16 people. When the Witnesses walk from dwelling to dwelling on these reed islands, they say there is a slight movement of the surface underfoot. Happily, the message of God’s Kingdom is now reaching even people on these remote islands that float!