Lake Berryessa is a beautiful and, for the most part, regular lake that could be found anywhere. Located in Napa County in Norther California, it is surrounded by beautiful land and seems to be a perfect place for a quiet and romantic getaway. The only thing is, the lake has a hole in it. This hole, while amazing to see, makes little sense for the millions of people that have seen it online, as water generally doesn’t act this way in a calm lake.
One man took extra interest and used a drone to get a closer look. His footage and story took the internet by storm and what was discovered was something that would inform and amaze those that followed the story. This isn’t the only body of water in it, either. While it makes no sense at first glance, the actual science behind this hole is nothing short of amazing.
A Man and a Lake
Evan Kilkus, a YouTube personality and drone user, enjoyed Lake Berryessa as it was a scenic view close to were he worked. Wanting to see more of the lake lead to a discovery that would ignite a debate throughout the internet.
One of the things that we can do now, that was not available just a few years ago, is the ability for consumers to send drones to remote or hard to reach locations to record footage of phenomena such as this. This is just what Evan K did at Lake Berryessa which led to some interesting information.
A Scientific Mystery
When reviewing the footage captured with his drone, Evan K noticed a small hole in the lake. We all learn how water works at a young age, so this flew in the face of everything he knew and puzzled him a great deal.
Something Akin to the Bermuda Triangle?
Like the stories of the Bermuda Triangle, this seemed to be some sort of unnatural occurrence. Surely water couldn’t just drain into a hole in the middle of a lake, especially without the lake quickly draining.
A Fascination and Questions
Evan, of course, was as puzzled as you likely are. This seemed like an image off a sci-fi book cover, or the start of a thrilling scene from a Pirate movie, where the ocean is about to swallow the ship of the heroes of the film.
Time to Revisit
Evans initial images of the hole were not intentional and made it very difficult to see exactly what was happening, so he decided his drone needed to make another trip, this time to get closer. As he flew his drone closer to the hole, things took a turn for the worse.
A Temporary Setback?
To make the Bermuda Triangle analogy even more relevant, Evan K’s phone drone ran into a problem as it closed in to get a better look at the hole. The phone, which he used as a viewfinder for the device turned into a lined and glitched out screen, which was a first. It was as if someone, or something, didn’t want him to know what the hold was about.
Nature Finds a Way
It seemed as if something near the hole was causing issues with the drone sending a signal back to Evan. He quickly piloted the drone back to safety where he was able to inspect it further. While the answer was that the drone simply had a low battery, it seemed that something else was occurring as well. Once he started to dig into the footage captured by his companion, things got more confusing and exciting.
The Plot Thickens
While Evan’s drone did get better images, it could not get close enough to look into the hole. He knew the only way to figure out what the object was doing in the middle of Lake Berryessa was to seek help. So, that is just what he did.
Preparing for Another Journey
Evan fixed the issue with his drone and decided that another go at the journey to see it up close was required. This time, though, he decided to spend some time researching Lake Berryessa and learn all he could. With some luck he would find someone else that had seen the hole, or find out if this was an isolated event.
With little information about what he was seeing, Evan decided to dig further into researching what the lake was holding secret. He wanted to know if others had found the hole or if this had occurred before. Unfortunately, what he found was a disheartening story that took a dark path that none could expect; the story of Emily Schwalek.
Reading into the story of Emily Schwalek lead to a revelation and a bit of concern. He found that in 1997, Schwalek was swimming in the lake when a whirlpool caught her out of nowhere. After holding onto the rocks at the edge, fatigue set in and she was sucked in and drowned. This not only confirmed that the holes appeared in the lake before, but made his earlier decision to research the lake further provide some much needed safety precautions. What he learned next was unexpected.
Evan decided now was the time to try to get a clearer look at the hold. He sent his drone over Lake Berryessa to get the best images he could. While he wasn’t able to get the depth of the hole, he did figure that the opening was about 72 feet in diameter. This drove Evan’s desire to solve this mystery further as he felt he was getting closer and closer to the truth.
No Longer a Solo Mission
Over the course of his research, the popularity of the hole in town was spread by word of mouth. Those driving along a road near the shore of the lake were able to see the hole and would spend time studying it from afar. Still, no one had answers. That is, until Kevin King, operations manager of the county’s water facilities, heard about the new interest in this hold and joined Evan in the search for answers.
The More the Merrier
“I went up there the other day and there were about 15 drones flying around and people taking videos, it’s really dramatic to watch.” said Kevin King. Fortunately, his involvement may have lead to local authorities learning of the new interest in the hole and were soon to reveal the secrets that apparently only they knew up unto this point.
Anyone from California can tell you that it is a fairly dry state with little in the way of natural water resources. What few will know, is that many lakes are man-made, including Lake Berryessa, which is one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States. Constructed alongside Napa County’s Monticello Dam, and nestled between the Vaca Mountains, it seemed a perfect way to create a beautiful and resourceful water reserve. This is where the truth starts to become clear. The engineers that designed the lake, also had their hands in creating the hold found in the lake.
That Dam Power
Dams are a great source of power for the surrounding population. The Monticello Dam is extremely important to the surrounding community. While the water is used for drinking and farming or irrigation, the dam is used to power over 600,000 homes and businesses in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Sacramento River Valley. Interesting and important, sure, but that doesn’t answer any of the questions about the hole in the lake.
Occam’s Razor is a philosophy that the simplest answer is generally the correct answer. It seems that it may apply here as well. As a dam is created to hold water back, it could also cause flooding. To combat this issue, the engineers and architects needed to include a spillway in their plans. Generally, those spillways are built in to the dam, but Lake Berryessa required something different as the area of the damn was too narrow and wouldn’t allow enough water to spill forth. That is where the idea that eventually led to the hole started.
As part of the design for this damn, the engineers had to ensure that water kept flowing into the lake. The only issue is that if the water continued flowing, it could flood. They also wanted to keep the water constantly flowing into the Putah Creek, which was located nearby. This was key to the success of Lake Berryessa. To accomplish this, a funnel system had to be designed that would connect Berryessa and Putah, and would be a simple and elegant design.
A Perfect Storm
Most of the time, the bell-mouth that created the hole in the lake is above the water line and easy to see. It is so unremarkable to the average viewer that it makes little to no impact when seen. Evan stumbled upon it during an extremely stormy time which brought the water levels above the mouth, creating the once “mysterious” hole.
Essentially, the hole in the lake is used similar to a sink or a bathtub. When the water gets too high, it drains through the hole to prevent flooding. At 440 feet above sea level, this occurs. Generally, the sides can be seen, but due to the extreme levels of water draining into the hole, it was difficult to see the bell-mouth entrance, which led to the mystery.
A Little Glory and Life Changing Experience
Thanks to his footage and dogged refusal to give up on figuring out just what the hole was Evan K became an internet star. With a YouTube channel at over 14 million views, his timing was the epitome of being in the right place at the right time.