Probing – 16 a sediment coring device

Probing the Depths of Crater Lake: A Century of Scientific Research by Douglas Larson


Hans Nelson lowers a sediment coring device into Crater Lake on August 12, 1960. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service

Between 1961 and 1964, the U.S. Geological Survey performed several tasks, including (1) installation of permanent water-level and temperature (surface-water) recorders in a gage-house at Cleetwood Cove; (2) a hydrologic (water budget) investigation by Kenneth Phillips, and Roy Sanderson; (3)temperature measurements between lake surface and bottom in August 1964; and (4) a repeat of Walton Van Winkle’s 1912 chemical analysis by by A. S. Van Denburgh, who analyzed surface water samples collected near-shore in September 1961 and August 1964. These studies and activities by the USGS were established permanent and frequent baseline records for lake temperature, lake surface elevation, and water chemistry for use as a comparison with future data.

Before 1966, virtually no one from Oregon’s academic institutions notably the University of Oregon and Oregon State University had taken an interest in the excellent opportunities for limnological research at Crater Lake. The one exception was John Byrne of OSU, who had published the bathymetric map of Crater Lake in 1965. In 1966, however, John Donaldson, a fisheries professor at OSU and later director of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, established a limnological program at the lake in cooperation with the National Park Service. The Park Service’s participation in the program was minimal; they provided some logistical support but no funding or equipment. Donaldson borrowed a Boston Whaler boat and outboard motor from a fisheries professor at OSU and, together with graduate student H. V. Kibby, launched the program in 1966 with a study of the lake’s surface currents and their effects on surface temperatures. They were familiar with the “Old Man of the Lake,” a thirty-five-foot-long hemlock log and root wad that had been propelled vertically around the lake for decades by wind-generated surface currents. During the summer of 1938, ranger-naturalist Wayne Kartchner and park naturalist John Doerr tracked the log’s monthly movements, estimating that it had traveled at least sixty-two miles between July 1 and September 30. Instead of the log, Kibby tracked plastic bags partially filled with water. By regularly determining the bags’ positions through triangulation from compass readings, Kibby developed a map indicating the summertime pattern of surface current directions. He found that currents tended to travel counterclockwise, or cyclonic, around the shoreline, and that the maximum recorded current speed reached one-quarter of a mile per hour on July 22.

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