Into the depths

  • HIDDEN DEPTHS: A view of Crater Lake's collapsed volcanic bottom

    U.S. Geological Survey image
  Scientists from the federal government and the University of New Hampshire pulled off an amazing feat this July: They went to 600-feet-deep Crater Lake in Oregon and, "took all the water out of it," says Jim Gardner of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Gardner and his team managed this without actually moving any water: They used a high-resolution electronic sounding device which bounced waves off the lake's floor to create a detailed picture of the lake's bottom.

Crater Lake was formed between 5,000 and 6,000 years ago, when a collapsed volcano began filling with rain and snow. It has intrigued scientists since they first tried depth studies with lead pipe and piano wire in 1886. Recent dredging and submarine ventures had suggested there might be volcanic vents hidden by the lake's depths; scientists this summer were looking in part for more evidence of such vents. Exactly what the mapping team found during its week-long effort is still emerging. "Our people are poring over the images right now," says Gardner. So far, he says, the study may have produced new information about underwater landslides. Eventually the new maps will be used to build an interactive media exhibit at Crater Lake National Park's visitor center.

Check out Crater images on the Web at
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