Mystery: the Old Man of the Lake

Mystery: the Old Man of the Lake
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There’s an interesting mystery in Oregon that may have been brewing for as long as 450 years. A 30-foot-long tree trunk, dubbed “The Old Man of the Lake,” has been floating upright in Crater lake since its discovery in 1896. However, carbon dating places its age closer to the 450 year mark. According to scientists, the trunk’s mass and shape indicate it should float sideways, but it doesn’t. Instead it floats vertically, extending 4 feet above the surface, and it’s been bobbing up and down in the lake’s bright blue water for at least the last 120 years. This is very strange.

Mystery: the Old Man of the LakePerhaps the trunk’s long-submerged lower end has absorbed more water than the top, changing its density? But that would suggest it had already been floating in the unusual vertical configuration long enough to dry out the top end, so that’s not an adequate explanation. There’s an hypothesis that rocks caught up in its base played a roll, but there’s no evidence to prove this actually happened. Strangely, the trunk is covered with a moss species that’s only found at depth, so perhaps it was submerged deep under water for a long period of time. Scientists just aren’t sure what to make of this interesting anomaly.

The Old Man of the Lake is quite mobile, floating around the lake, caught up in currents, often traveling against the prevailing wind direction. In fact, it was once observed to travel 62 miles in 3 months. It’s surprisingly buoyant, enough so to support a grown man standing on top, without causing the trunk to fall over horizontally onto the water’s surface. In addition to the Old Man, the lake is unusual in other ways. Fish aren’t native to its waters, and only two species that were introduced have survived. And the water is a surprisingly bright blue in color, since the water is largely free of various organic impurities, leading to greater scattering of blue light.

The Old Man of the Lake is a scientific mystery, a natural wonder, and a delight to tourists and local lake-enthusiasts alike.

Learn more about the Old Man of the Lake (Science Alert)



Photo: wikimedia commons (public domain photograph)

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