Over the past few years, drones have increased in popularity, and more and more people are choosing to buy them for their own personal use, with even more companies are using them for detailed aerial photos. And it’s fair to say they’ve been pretty useful. In recent years, drones have unearthed some fascinating discoveries; including a 1,000-year-old underground village in New Mexico, Ancient petroglyphs on the side of cliffs in the state of Utah, new species of animals, and they’ve even been used to find missing people. Drones have proven themselves to be incredibly useful in modern society, but there are still people who just like to use their drones for fun. They’ll use them to take cool pictures and videos of their family, explore the areas surrounding their house, or even take their drone to the middle of the ocean to capture footage of marine wildlife. However, these hobbyists often discover things they just can’t explain, like one man from California. Check out this story of how one guy couldn’t believe what he saw when he flew his drone over the hole in this lake…
Taking the drone out
If you have a drone, you’ll know there’s nothing better than taking it out for a spin (or a fly) in your free time. However, one man from California got a shock when he flew his drone over a lake near his house. From the ground, it looked as if his drone was suspended over a giant black-hole. He couldn’t believe it, and knew he had to look closer – but the force was too strong and nearly overpowered his drone.
The lake in question was Lake Berryessa, located in Napa County. As the largest lake in Napa County, Lake Berryessa welcomes thousands of visitors each year; including David B. and his drone. However, David had never seen anything like this before. Sure, David was used to seeing beautiful vineyards and unique views, but he had never seen this unique and huge black hole in the middle of the lake before. David flew his drone up to 1,000 feet and couldn’t believe his eyes.
A giant bath plug
Although the giant hole in the middle of the lake freaked David out, it wasn’t the only thing that was concerning him. From the side of the lake, David could hear the incredible noise of gallons of water swirling down into the hole. At first, it reminded David of a giant bath plug, which someone had pulled out to let the water flow. But then he began to think, where could the water be going?
David was intrigued by the sight in front of him and wanted to get closer. He piloted his drone further down so that he could get closer to the mouth of the black hole – but it wasn’t as easy as that. As soon as he got close enough to really see what was happening, his drone began to shake, and David was losing control of it. Thankfully, David had had enough experience with drones to know that he had to retreat.
Creating a vacuum
David knew that the hole was making his precious drone completely unstable, and his expensive equipment was very nearly lost to the hole and the gushing water. From this unusual activity, David could tell that the water was creating a vacuum, and would have sucked his drone in if he hadn’t piloted it back to safety. Luckily, David managed to coordinate and fly his drone back to him so he could check out the footage properly.
If David hadn’t managed to save his drone, it wouldn’t have been flushed to the center of the Earth. Instead, the black hole would have taken it 2,000 feet away to the nearby Putah Creek. This is because Lake Berryessa isn’t actually a naturally formed lake. In the 1950s, the lake was built after the nearby Monticello Dam was built and is now listed as the seventh biggest lake in the state of California.
The Monticello Dam is a vital energy source in California. The dam was built on top of the ruins of the old town of Monticello and was constructed to provide electricity and water to over 600,000 who live around San Francisco’s North Bay and the beautiful Sacramento Valley. Initially, the dam was constructed to store water when the state suffered from drought, and the ruins of Monticello can still be seen when the water level is low.
Although Monticello was a thriving town, its location was not ideal and prone to flooding. In the 1950s, the people of Monticello had to leave their homes behind them as the flowing flood waters threatened their livelihoods. However, the townsfolk did manage to salvage most of their belongings before they fled the town, and they managed to relocate 300 graves of people who had been laid to rest there. However, this didn’t explain the gaping hole in the center of the Lake Berryessa.
Just like anything, there always has to be a capacity limit – and Lake Berryessa has a water capacity of around 521 billion gallons, which will rise to around 440 feet above sea level. However, if it were to reach its maximum capacity, the dam and the area around it could be in serious danger. The stress on the dam structure could cause it to collapse, and the surrounding area would be flooded and cause a tidal wave for anyone close to it.
However, the water level of Lake Berryessa has never been a problem. In a state that is plagued with droughts and hot weather, California normally lacks water – rather than having too much of it. So the idea of Lake Berryessa overflowing was an idea few would believe. In fact, just last year in October 2016 the lake was at one of its lowest levels yet, and was lying below 400 feet above sea level, half-empty.
Nevertheless, as all well know, weather can be completely unpredictable – as much as we do try to predict it. In January and February 2017, the state of California was shocked when it was soaked with incredibly heavy rainfall. The heavy rain caused major damage to buildings and landscapes across the state. This constant rainfall served as a blessing to the drought-ridden state but soon filled up the Napa County’s water reservoirs so quickly that they were fit to burst.
The Glory Hole
This intense weather pattern caused what they call a ‘Glory Hole’ in Lake Berryessa – and this is what David saw with his drone. This Glory Hole is built just a few meters away from the top of the Monticello Dam and is used as a spillway to drain away water safely, to ensure the dam or the surrounding area do not suffer from over-flooding. However, it’s no surprise the Glory Hole shocked David, as the unique shape and visual spectacle is shocking to the eye.
The Glory Hole spillway is often called a ‘morning glory’ spillway because of its unusual shape. The mouth of the hole consists of a 72-foot wide structure that allows the water to flow down a vertical tunnel that drops 200 feet and lets it flow out of a slightly smaller 28-foot wide tunnel. However, this spillway is rarely ever used, and more often than not, the Glory Hole stands above the water and can be seen by passers-by.
In most lakes, the Glory Hole is only ever used as the last resort, when the water level has risen so high it could prove fatal to the environment and the people around it. The Glory Hole in Lake Berryessa was designed to kick into action when the water level rose past 440 feet. From there, the Glory Hole will act as a plug hole to allow all of the excess water to flow out of the lake.
Four Olympic swimming pools
Because of the sheer power of the Glory Hole, authorities discourage anyone getting close to it. In fact, the Glory Hole can allow two million gallons of water to flow down the spillway every single minute – that’s the equivalent of four Olympic Swimming pools! Although it can be fascinating to see up close, officials cordon off the Glory Holes with fences and buoys to keep people away and to discourage people from swimming in the lake.
Unfortunately, people do not always play by the rules – and there have been casualties at the site of the Lake Berryessa Glory Hole. In 1997, Emily Schwalen died after getting too close to the Glory Hole. She got caught in the sheer power of the water flow and clung on to the edge for twenty minutes before she gave in to the strength of it. In the summer months, many skateboarders also use the dry spillway to practice their tricks.
Although the Lake Berryessa spillway and Glory Hole are incredibly impressive – there are others across the world that are equally impressive. There are numerous varieties of spillways used in different countries, but the most common is the morning glory spillway, with China’s Shing Mun Reservoir, Japan’s Nakigahara Pond and England’s Ladybower Reservoir all sporting the morning glory spillway. However, the Coväo dos Conchos reservoir in Portugal features a more natural Glory Hole, which seems to overflow into nature.
Preventing disastrous consequences
Although they can take many by surprise, these kind of spillway systems are vital in preventing disastrous consequences that can affect homes and the livelihood of those around these dams. During the same heavy rain period that filled up the Lake Berryessa reservoir, the Oroville Dam in California was damaged and let gallons of water through its walls. The spillway itself was then damaged by the intense force, and there were fears it could collapse altogether.
Because of these fears, 200,000 people who lived near to the Oroville Dam had to be evacuated. Aerial photographs showed that the spillway had suffered huge damage and that the water had caused a 30-foot-deep crater in the middle of it. This hole could have caused the whole slipway to collapse and create a strong tidal wave that would have been fatal. Thankfully, the slipway did not collapse, and the residents were allowed back into their homes.
Because of its location in the water, Glory Holes are often difficult to spot with the naked eye – especially if you’re on the ground. However, thanks to new technology, people with drones can now see for themselves the true beauty of this simple work of engineering. Since David’s discovery, hundreds of peoples have flocked to Lake Berryessa in California to see the Glory Hole for themselves – and it’s not hard to see why. It is simply remarkable.