Mystery Grows Around Hole in Lake

ByABC News
January 17, 2003, 5:55 PM

B R A I N E R D, Minn., Jan. 19 -- In the bone-chilling deep-freeze of northern Minnesota, there are dozens of lakes and one deepening mystery.

Smack in the middle of North Long Lake, surrounded by eight miles of ice thick enough to drive on, there is a gaping black hole nearly a half-mile long.

It is a lake within a frozen lake a huge crescent of open water that, for some reason, refuses to freeze over.

"I've never seen anything like it," said lakefront resident Joan Rush, standing on her back porch as clouds of steam rose from the hole.

"I don't go out there," she said, "I just stay here and watch."

The hole first appeared last winter, and returned this year.

Since then, more than a dozen snowmobilers have fallen in. One died.

Local authorities ordered an investigation, and have spent $10,000 trying to figure out why this section of the lake seems to defy the forces of nature.

Divers with cameras probed the 20-foot depths looking for currents and seismic activity, but found nothing unusual. A team of scientists have tested for just about everything, but still have no idea what is causing the phenomenon.

"It's uniformly warm from the bottom to the top, surprisingly so. That's what's keeping the lake open," said scientist Alan Cibuzar. "I have never seen anything like this."

Since the black hole opened up last year, it has frozen over only once. Not in sub-zero temperatures, but on a balmy 40-degree day.

Locals' Theories Vary

With every bizarre twist, the mystery grows. So do the theories about how the hole was formed.

At the Sportland Cafe, a combination gas station, diner and convenience store, conversation centers on the mystery.

"It must be some kind of volcanic action," said a waitress topping off a cup of decaf.

"It could be aliens or someone's septic backing up," added a man in coveralls between bites of his waffle.

But Ed Peck, sitting on a swivel stool nearby, doesn't think any of his neighbors' theories hold water. "I think it's a bunch of hooey myself. It's no mystery. We live on an earthquake fault up here. People don't realize that."