Friday 29 January 2010

An Ice Age predator in Wastwater Cumbria?

In the Wasdale Valley Cumbria is Wastwater, a deep and mysterious lake. It is an example of a glacially 'over-deepened' valley. It is 3 miles long, half a mile wide and about 260 feet( 87 metres) deep. The surface of the lake is about 200 feet ( 66 metres)above sea level, while its bottom is reported to be 58 feet( 19 metres) below sea level. It was called one of the best views in England surrounded as it is by the mountains, Red Pike, Kirk Fell, Great Gable and Scafell Pike. The water is rather cold and is home to arctic char which have thrived there since the Ice Age. They spawn between November and March. Trout have also been caught there. ( reminds me of the description of Loch Ness).

It is popular with divers and in February 2005 it was reported that a "gnome garden" complete with picket fence was removed from the bottom of Wastwater by police divers after three divers died in the late 1990s. It is thought the divers spent too much time too deep looking for the gnomes. There was a rope that led you there if you knew where to look for it. But now there's a rumour about a new garden beyond the 50m depth limit. As police divers we can't legally dive that deep ,so if it exists, the new garden could have been deliberately put out of reach.

But I know of a more mysterious tale about Wastwater:

A school friend of mine came from the Whitehaven area , not far from Wastwater. Her father , knowing my interest in lake monsters told me that in the late 50’s , early 60’s, men were putting water pipes into the lake for the nuclear plant cooling system at what is now known as Sellafield nuclear power station. He said they told tales in the pub of being scared by something in the water, a long monster. Sadly neither my friend nor her father are with us any longer. I was thinking about her today and it reminded me of the story. On digging deeper into the story I found this from 2002:

Anybody who has ever dived England's deepest lake, the eerie Wast Water in west Cumbria, knows that there's something very large and very strange down there. I saw it move off into the depths, way below me, when I was at 36m in wonderfully clear water in the early '80s.
Sceptics would s
ay I was full of narcosis. I say I saw something the size and shape of a giraffe head off into the deep. When you stop laughing, consider this fact. There are little fish in Wast Water left behind by the retreat of the last Ice Age. Perhaps something higher up the food chain was left behind with them. Source:

So perhaps they weren’t just beer tales after all. And the description sounds awfully like the Rines photo shown here. It certainly would make most people think twice before diving!

If you have an interest in lake monsters look at divers sites online. You will be surprised by some the tales you find. They tell each other but not the world.

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