The Old Man of the Lake is the name
given to a tall stump of tree which has been floating around in Crater
Lake for a number of years. During the period July 1 and September 30 of
this year eighty-four observations were made of its location. The record
of observations indicates that "The Old Man" travels extensively, and at
times with surprising rapidity. The record of its travels, reproduced on
the accompanying sketch maps, indicates some interesting facts relative
to the wind currents on Crater Lake.
The Old Man of the Lake is mute
evidence of a rock slide which occurred on the crater wall years ago,
the slide breaking off a tree and carrying down the stump in the roots
of which rocks remained wedged. For years the barkless stump has floated
in an up-right position. Its top, bleached and splintered, stands four
and one half feet out of water. Thirty feet, including the root system,
is below water. At water-line the stump, probably hemlock, is two feet
three inches in diameter. On one side of the stump and just above
water-line there is a clump of moss.
For a number of years The Old Man of
the Lake has been observed by visitors at Crater Lake. Not infrequently
it has been mistaken for a boat, and occasionally for a white pelican.
The earliest accurate date of its existence is 19292. The following
quotation taken from William Gladstone Steel's Crater Lake Scrapbook
suggests that "The Old Man" was observed many years before 1929.
"In the early days of Crater Lake,
when there was not a nail or sliver of board there, Fred h. Kiser,
now a well known scenic photographer, accompanied me to that
wonderful place and was infatuated with it. Joaquin Miller was with
us and wrote his poem, "The Silent Sea", on a box in from of his
tent. Fred Kiser found a boat and pulled out to search for llao
which he saw near the Phantom Ship. It was a great tree, broken
squarely off and floating up-right."
While movements of "The Old Man" have
been observed for several years, not date has been recorded relative to
its location from day to day. As the result of an inquiry relative to
its location from Washington, D. C. in regard to the log floating in
Crater Lake, the project of recording "The Old Man's location was
undertaken during the summer of 1938. Observations began on July 1 and
were continued until October 1. During that time 84 location records
were made. On some days two observations were made. There were a few
periods of from two to five days when no locations were recorded, the
object not being visible from the launch making the daily trip around
the lake, and conditions being unfavorable for observation from the
crater rim. There were several periods when the stump was lodged near
shore for several days.
The outstanding feature of the travels
of "The Old Man", as shown by the accompanying sketches, is that during
July and August and the first half of September it traveled almost
entirely within the north half of the lake. This certainly indicates
that during that time there was a prevailing southerly wind which was
deflected locally by the crater walls to the extent that numerous eddys
and cross currents were created, thus accounting for the continuous back
and forth movement of the floating stump. It is interesting to note that
long the northern shore of Crater Lake there are noticeable wave
terraces of gravel and debris. The terraces, not present on the southern
shore, are additional evidence of prevailing southerly winds.
During the period of observation "The
Old Man" traveled a total minimum of 62.1 miles, the distance between
locations being measured in straight lines as indicated on the sketches.
The actual distance was no doubt greater than 62.1 miles. The average
daily travel was 0.67 of a mile, the maximum distance accomplished was
3.8 miles on August 6 when two observations were made, one early in the
morning, the other late in the evening. The days when the greatest
movement occurred were days of high wind and waves.
Time will tell how long The Old Man of
the Lake can withstand wind and wave, and the battering to which its
base is subjected when it approaches shore. Until it does succumb to the
elements it will remain as evidence of the changing winds that stir
Crater Lake. On the evening of September 30, when the last recorded
observation was made, "The Old Man" was riding the waves about a half
mile from the south shore, directly below Sinnott Memorial.
Note: From July 1 to September 12
observations of the location of The Old Man of the lake were recorded by
Ranger Naturalist Kartchner. During the remainder of September
observations were recorded by the Park Naturalist. -- Editor