Lake’s mapping stars on Web site
August 02, 2000
By David Preszler
The shroud of mystery covering the bottom of Crater Lake is lifting and the results are a Web site near you.
The sonar mapping of the nation’s deepest lake entered its fourth day on Tuesday and may conclude as early as today.
A visit to the lake won’t shed too much light on the operation — you’d basically see a boat trolling the lake’s waters and the scientists are tucked away on Wizard Island. But a trip to your home computer will allow you to follow along.
The first maps show prominent Crater Lake features like Phantom Ship and Wizard Island, rendered in bright, almost-psychedelic colors.
Officials began posting the images on the Internet Tuesday, after working through some technical difficulties, according to Mac Brock of Crater Lake National Park.
“This is actually a three-dimensional look at the bottom of the lake,” says Brock. “It’s really impressive looking at the maps.”
The colorful 3D maps are generated by processing the data collected by the millions of sonar beams being sent to the bottom of the lake by a 26-foot research vessel. By the time the mapping is finished Thursday, more than 50 million sonar readings will have been gathered.
The mapping is being done by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the park service. The research vessel will then be lifted by helicopter out of the lake on Thursday.
The bottom of Crater Lake is 1,932 feet from the surface at its deepest point. It’s a remnant of a 12,000-foot volcano that blew its top 7,700 years ago.
The last attempt to map the lake was made in 1959. That effort recorded about 6,000 sound beams compared to the 50 million being record this time around. An image based on that early data is already on the Web site, but Brock promises the new images will be vastly clearer and more detailed.
|Crater Lake on the Web
To see images and maps of the sonar mapping project at Crater Lake, visit http://tahoe.usgs.gov/craterlake/.For the new mapping images, click on the “bathymetry” link. The site has numerous links to Crater Lake science, history and other general information.
Here are a few other Crater Lake Web links:
www.nps.gov/crla — The official National Park Service site.
www.crater-lake.com — Commercial information about the lake, including a Web cam showing the lake from Rim Village.
www.crater.lake.national-park.com — A private site with information about the lake and the national park.
“That’s kind of the shadow,” he says of the older image.
He says the maps being generated from the current research show erosion gullies and other geological formations.
Brock points out the modern technological marvel of being able to gather so much raw data and quickly have it translated into a detailed 3D image.
Eventually, the plan is to have a virtual underwater tour of Crater Lake on the Web site.
One thing officials don’t expect the effort to yield is the location of the helicopter that crashed into the lake on Sept. 23, 1995. The crash of the American Eurocopter helicopter killed two men. Neither the bodies nor the aircraft has been located.
While the park service would like to locate the wreckage, Brock says nothing has been spotted thus far and the helicopter pieces may be too scattered to detect by sonar. He says the technology being used is better suited to mapping the bottom than to locating the wreckage.
“We’re not holding out a lot of hope,” he says.
The best chance for finding the chopper, however, will come when the raw data is further analyzed to reveal the density of objects the sonar has reflected.