Imagine living on a 285-acre lake, fishing off the dock and taking your boat out on weekends.
One day, you notice the water level is a little lower. A few days later, the water no longer reaches the dock. Within two weeks, the lake is completely drained and your boat rests on mud flats alongside rotting fish.
It may seem unlikely, but that’s exactly what happened in Lakeland, Florida, in 2006 when a sinkhole drained Scott Lake, taking 32 tons of aquatic wildlife with it.
The water was there…until it simply wasn’t.
While the cause of Scott Lake’s vanishing water was easy enough to pinpoint, that hasn’t always been the case when large amounts of water have mysteriously disappeared.
From the wilds of Minnesota to the land Down Under, there have been numerous bizarre incidents of disappearing water.
Sometimes scientists are able to figure out what happened to the missing H2O, other times they can only guess. And in some cases, they’re truly stumped.
1. Lost Lake, Oregon
Photo: Band Bulletin/YouTube
Every winter, a lake appears in Hood County, Oregon, but as the season changes, water drains through a 6-foot wide hole, transforming Lost Lake into a dry meadow.
There’s a geological explanation for the bizarre annual occurrence though: The water that drains from the lake like a bathtub flows into a lava tube, a tunnel-like structure formed by flowing lava.
Lost Lake is likely constantly draining, but it becomes more evident in drier months when the rate of draining exceeds the the amount of snow and rain.
It’s unclear exactly where the water goes when it disappears down the lave tube, but scientist say it’s possible that it seeps into porous volcanic rock and feeds springs in the Cascades.
2. Lake Cachet II, Chile
Photo: STR/Getty Images
In June 2007 a glacial lake in the Andes disappeared overnight, and geologists rushed to Patagonia, Chile, to figure out what had happened.
They hypothesized that an earthquake in a neighboring region had created a crack in the earth, draining the lake, but later learned a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) was to blame.
A GLOF occurs when water dammed by a glacier is released, and in the case of Lake Cachet II, the melting of Colonia Glacier had increased water pressure, allowing a tunnel five miles beneath it to open, draining the lake.
Since then, Lake Cachet II has refilled and disappeared several times.
Photo: Michael Studinger/NASA
Earlier this year, billions of gallons of water in two subglacial lakes in Greenland disappeared, and scientists aren’t exactly sure why, although GLOFs may also be the cause.
“The fact that our lake appears to have been stable for at least several decades, and then drained in a matter of weeks—or less—after a few very hot summers, may signal a fundamental change happening in the ice sheet,” Ian Howat, an Ohio State University earth science professor said.
4. Devil’s Kettle Falls, Minnesota
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A waterfall in Judge C. R. Magney State Park has been puzzling scientists for decades.
At Devil's Kettle Falls, the Brule River forks at a rock outcropping, and the eastern side of the falls tumbles into the water below while the western side disappears into a large pothole.
Scientists suspect the water in the pothole rejoins the river or has a separate outlet into Lake Superior, but they’ve been unable to prove this.
Researchers and other curious people have dropped colored dyes, ping pong balls and other objects into the hole and searched for signs of them, but so far, none have been found.
5. Lake Beloye, Russia
In spring 2005, a lake near the village of Bolotnikovo disappeared overnight. Nearly a year later, the remaining cavity began to fill up with water, but quickly drained again.
This wasn’t the first time strange happenings occurred at the lake. In 1935, several houses vanished where the lake later stood, and in 1600, a church sank into the ground over the course of a day.
Scientists say the area’s karst topography creates landforms like tunnels and caves that can easily erode. However, many villagers have blamed the lake’s disappearance on extraterrestrial interference, claiming that reddish light resembling a searchlight often originates from the area where Lake Beloye once existed.
6. Lake George, Australia
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Not far from the Australian capital of Canberra there’s a lake that’s been known to disappear entirely.
The lake is actually an endorheic basin, meaning it retains water but has no outflow of water to rivers and oceans. It’s fed by small creeks and fills up from rain, and it’s known for being nearly as salty as seawater.
Several times throughout history, the lake has dried out completely, typically during droughts, and Lake George’s unusual fluctuations have led to stories that the body of water is mysteriously connected to lakes in Peru and South Africa.
When the lake exists, it’s often used as a fishery, and when the water vanishes, farmers use the land to graze sheep and cattle.
7. Lake Waiau, Hawaii
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
This small lake is one of the highest in the United States, and according to Hawaiian myth, it’s a bottomless portal to the spirit world.
However, in 2010, Lake Waiau began to shrink, and by 2013 it was reduced to no more than a puddle.
While scientists suspect drought is the cause of the lake’s decline, the exact cause of the severe water loss is unknown.
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