A voice crackling over the “underwater com” told the researchers that something was there and may be the largest one yet. Ken Dunker, owner and instructor of Diving Enterprises in Salem, is surveying the bottom of one of four mapped depressions in Mountain Lake, in Giles County, Va. As principal investigator and geology professor Skip Watts and geology faculty members Beth McClellan and Paki Stephenson wait, the bright pink string attached to a white wooden “bowtie” unravels from the large metal bolt Dunker placed in the “piping hole.” Dunker donated his time to help survey the depression using classic search and rescue diving techniques. The excitement on the retrofitted pontoon boat floods over when the white marker pops to the surface of the lake and the team waits for more news from Dunker.
As Dunker breaks the surface he exclaims “this is the biggest hole yet. It was this big and the water flow looked significant,” as he holds his hands and arms above the water in a circle the size of a large beach ball. Dunker says he placed a pole about three feet into the hole before he felt any closure or reduction of diameter. “That is great and definitely the largest hole that we have found yet,” says Watts.
Learn more about what this discovery means for RU geologists and their research into the draining of this important tourist destination.