The Old Man of the Lake

About 7,000 to 8,000 years ago, a volcano named Mount Mazama, located in present-day Oregon, erupted, leaving behind a big crater.  Over time, water from rain and snowfall filled the hole, and Crater Lake was born.  And Crater Lake is not like most other lakes.  As seen here from above, it is a deep, undisturbed blue, having no natural rivers leading in or out of it, no fish indigenous to it (although it has since been artificially stocked), etc.  Over the course of 250 years, its water — cold, due to the elevation (at 6,148 feet, Crater Lake is over a mile above sea level) — is replaced via an ongoing cycle of evaporation and precipitation.

But what makes Crater Lake truly unique is a solitary piece of wood, pictured above, nicknamed the Old Man of the Lake.

And yes, it’s a big piece of wood.  Thirty feet long, in fact.  And — as its moniker gives away — it’s an old piece of wood.  It’s been bobbing around Crater Lake for over 100 years.  It was first discovered in 1896 by a man named Joseph Diller, who, six years later, would later publish the first geology of the park.  He noted the presence of a large piece of wood which was completely untethered, able to move throughout the lake as dictated by the wind and waves.

The Old Man’s movements can be erratic and extensive.  In 1938, researchers tracked the Old Man’s movement over three months, beginning in July, and by the end of the observation period in September, the Old Man traveled over sixty miles.  In order to keep boats safe, those who sail on Crater Lake, as a matter of course, advise their fellow boat pilots of the Old Man’s position.

And of course, knowing the Old Man’s location provides another benefit: to tourist boats. And tourists get to see more than an old stick peeking out of the water: because Crater Lake’s water is a pristine, transparent blue, visitors can see very far down the Old Man’s trunk.

Bonus fact: In the 1950s, French artist Yves Klein developed a deep blue hue using the pigment ultramarine as a base.  Mixing it with a specially developed fixative, Klein created a new type of blue, self-titled “International Klein Blue,” which is renowned for its exceptional intensity.  In 1961, Klein created a piece of art called Blue Monochrome, seen — kind of —here.  Why “kind of?”  Oddly, the color cannot be rendered exactly by computer most computer monitors, as it is outside their color gamut.

Related: A poster of IKB65 by Klein (the original is from 1960).  It’s blue. And $58 and change.

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