HomeBlogScience & natureThe Chilean lake that disappeared without a trace

The Chilean lake that disappeared without a trace

Things are always disappearing. Socks are the most famous disappearing thing, but car keys are popular too, and the TV remote control. A working stapler can vanish from your office desk in the blink of an eye (even if you’ve written your name on it). My earliest memory is of a little plastic Noah that fell behind a radiator, failed to reappear at the bottom and was never seen again. Anyway the point here is that, while it’s not unusual for things to go missing, the disappearing items are usually pretty small – not, say, a huge 30-metre-deep lake. However, that’s exactly what disappeared from Chile in 2007.

Chilean lake

Geologists had been working near the lake, in the Magallanes region of Patagonia, in March 2007 and everything looked fine with it then; most importantly, all the water was there (they’d have noticed if it wasn’t). When the geologists returned in May the same year, they were surprised to find that the lake had completely disappeared – all that was left were some sad looking icebergs, sitting in the hole where the water had been. What could have happened in those two months?

The geologists looked everywhere for the lake – under rocks, further down the mountain, everywhere. It was nowhere to be found. Just like with my little plastic Noah, it was as if the water had simply vanished.

When a massive lake disappears, and nobody is sure why, it opens the door to many theories. Did aliens come down and steal the water? No, they didn’t (they wouldn’t have left the icebergs), but that didn’t stop people from thinking that they might’ve. Another possible explanation was that an earthquake could’ve opened a crack in the rock, and the lake might’ve fallen down it when nobody was looking. However, no tremors were reported in the area at the time.

What turned out to have happened (slightly boringly) was that the lake had simply drained away – part of a glacial wall had collapsed, and all the water had run out (a bit like when you pull the plug out in the bath). So the lake hasn’t really disappeared, it’s just not where it’s supposed to be anymore (unless now the water has moved it can’t be called a lake anymore – in which case, what is a lake? (Leave it to a travel insurance blog to ask the important questions.))