November 2020 − Inspiring Science
They hold a fascinating secret and they are the sources of myths and poetry: lakes which, based on their unusual origins or scientific phenomena, are unique on Earth. This exciting field allows researchers to continually make new discoveries – as well as occasionally face their limitations.
© iStockPeaceful Stillness
Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand | Still lies the crystal-clear water of Blue Lake. Only the blue of the sky and the silhouettes of the trees near the shore reflect off the surface. No boats or bathing tourists disturb the peace; swimming is strictly prohibited. Blue Lake is sacred to the indigenous peoples of New Zealand, the Maori: “Rangimairewhenua” is the gateway to the beyond. It translates to “Lake of the Peaceful Lands”. Those who stand at its shores will understand: its clarity is breathtaking – it is equivalent to pure, distilled water – made possible by its spring: the lake is supplied underground by Lake Constance. Since Lake Constance is located above the tree line, its water is not clouded by falling leaves. In addition, multiple layers of rock filter the water before it reaches Blue Lake. These unique conditions make Blue Lake the clearest of all freshwater lakes in the world.
Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica | Loose rocks make climbing difficult; swirling clouds of steam impede vision. Those who hike through the “Valley of Desolation” get the feeling of having been transported to another planet. The heavy scent of sulfur betrays the fact that the valley leads directly through a volcanic landscape which is home to the second largest boiling lake on Earth: the “Boiling Lake” is in fact a flooded fumarole – a hole within the Earth’s crust that allows volcanic gases to escape. The effervescent gray-blue water showcases the true activity of the volcano below. The boiling cauldron is heated by molten magma beneath the surface. Scientists have measured between 82 and 97 degrees Celsius near the shore. The temperature in the center, where the water is boiling and the lake is supplied by a subterranean spring, has not been determined to this day.
Tian-Shan Mountains, Kazakhstan | Like massive tin soldiers, they stand tall in the middle of a mountain lake: the dead trunks of spruce trees rise from the turquoise water and shape the “Sunken Forest”, which is located at an elevation of roughly 1,870 meters above sea level in Kolsai Lakes National Park. The Kazakh name “Qajyngdy köli” translates to “filled with birch trees”, even though it is actually Tienschan spruce trees which rise from the water. In 1911, a landslide resulted in the formation of the Kaindy lake: earth and rocks blocked a waterfall and formed a dam behind which rainwater began to accumulate. The cool climate of this mountain range along the border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan ensures that even one hundred years later, the trunks stand tall. Even in the summer, the temperature of the water never exceeds six degrees Celsius – leaving the spruce trees perfectly preserved.
Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany | “In the very depths of the Blautopf (“blue pot”) once sat an aquarian maiden with long flowing hair”, wrote Eduard Mörike. Like a massive barrel of blue ink, the Blautopf is located in the Swabian Alb near Ulm. It is known today that limestone particles solubilized in the water scatter and reflect the light at different strengths. But the bottom of the spring of the karst once held a secret: in the 1980s, divers, among them Jochen Hasenmeyer, discovered a passage 1.40 meters in width, at a depth of approximately 20 meters. This tunnel led to a gigantic system of caverns. They aptly named the caverns “Mörikedom” – Mörike’s Cathedral. To this day, the true magnitude of the Blautopf-caverns remains unknown. Latest research estimates their total length to be 14,600 meters. Who knows – perhaps Mörike’s mermaid resides here after all?