Researchers launch project to create 3D models of boat ‘graveyard’ at the bottom of Lake Tahoe

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The ‘graveyard’ of boats at the bottom of Lake Tahoe: Researchers launch project to create 3D models of recreational vessels that were deliberately sunk when resorts closed in the 1950s

  • Emerald Bay Resort, the second of such campgrounds on Lake Tahoe, closed in the 1950s as profits declined
  • The site was accessible only by boat, and owners decided to sink the entire fleet when they shut down
  • Researchers from California have begun an undertaking to photograph the site and convert to 3D models 

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At the bottom of Lake Tahoe lies the ghost of what was once a thriving resort, accessible only by boat.

The huge freshwater lake sandwiched between California and Nevada experienced a boom in vacationers from the late 1880s into the early 1990s as the emergence of railroads brought more and more city dwellers out to the country.

But in the 1950s, success began to dwindle.

For one Emerald Bay resort on the northern shores, this meant shutting down – and with no more use for their small boats, the owners decided to sink the whole fleet.

Now, decades later, researchers from the University of California have begun an undertaking to document the mysterious boat ‘graveyard’ that still sits at the bottom of the lake.

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At the bottom of Lake Tahoe lies the ghost of what was once a thriving resort, accessible only by boat. In the 1950s, success began to dwindle. For one Emerald Bay resort on the northern shores, this meant shutting down – and with no more use for their small boats, the owners decided to sink the whole fleet

The team is using the expertise of both divers and non-divers to create high-resolution 3D models of the submerged site.

The depths of Lake Tahoe are now home to the largest group of small sunken boats in the nation, according to the team.

This includes pleasures boats, such as rowboats and fishing boats, and even larger steam launches and barges.

‘Sinking them in the lake was an easy way to dispose of them,’ said Lynn Dodd, associate professor of the practice of religion at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

The Boat-In Campground has long since replaced the resort that once stood at the site and boasted its own dance-hall and general store. 

Researchers from the University of California have begun an undertaking to document the mysterious boat ¿graveyard¿ that still sits at the bottom of the lake

Researchers from the University of California have begun an undertaking to document the mysterious boat ‘graveyard’ that still sits at the bottom of the lake

The depths of Lake Tahoe are now home to the largest group of small sunken boats in the nation, according to the team.

The 'graveyard' includes pleasures boats, such as rowboats and fishing boats, and even larger steam launches and barges

The submerged wreckage includes pleasures boats, such as rowboats and fishing boats, and even larger steam launches and barges

Divers have begun to explore the area by navigating an underwater path called the Maritime Heritage Trail, developed in a collaboration between archaeologists and the California State Parks.

Dodd’s course in the Fall semester will take these efforts a step further, with a four-day trip to the site to photograph the underwater scenes and turn these observations into 3D models.

Eventually, the models will be donated to the State Parks and put on display.

‘We want people to understand that this isn’t just a collection of little boats but a whole maritime landscape that captures life at a certain time in the history of the United States, and it hasn’t been fully documented yet,’ the researcher says.

In the 1910 image above, a lake steamer arrives at a pier near the entrance to Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. The Boat-In Campground has long since replaced the resort that once stood at the site and boasted its own dance-hall and general store

In the 1910 image above, a lake steamer arrives at a pier near the entrance to Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. The Boat-In Campground has long since replaced the resort that once stood at the site and boasted its own dance-hall and general store

The huge freshwater lake sandwiched between California and Nevada experienced a boom in vacationers from the late 1880s into the early 1990s as the emergence of railroads brought more and more city dwellers out to the country

The huge freshwater lake sandwiched between California and Nevada experienced a boom in vacationers from the late 1880s into the early 1990s as the emergence of railroads brought more and more city dwellers out to the country

Dodd¿s course in the Fall semester will take exploration efforts a step further, with a four-day trip to the site to photograph the underwater scenes and turn these observations into 3D models. Eventually, the models will be donated to the State Parks and put on display

The team is using the expertise of both divers and non-divers to create high-resolution 3D models of the submerged site

The team is using the expertise of both divers and non-divers to create high-resolution 3D models of the submerged site

The depths of Lake Tahoe are now home to the largest group of small sunken boats in the nation, according to the team

The depths of Lake Tahoe are now home to the largest group of small sunken boats in the nation, according to the team

‘Our students can participate in research that’s meaningful and that gives California’s state park system new information about our cultural heritage.’

According to the researcher, the West Coast is home to thousands of shipwrecks, many of which have not been properly recorded.

‘What’s wonderful about this is that these 3D models allow people who will never be able to dive, who can’t even swim, to experience the secret hidden world beneath the water,’ Dodd said.

The researcher will be leading the effort in the Fall course ‘Virtual and Digital Culture Heritage and Archaeology.’ 

LAKE TAHOE IS FINALLY CLEARING UP AGAIN

The clarity of Lake Tahoe’s cobalt blue water improved last year from its worst level in a half-century after weather and runoff returned to more normal conditions at the alpine lake straddling the California-Nevada line.

A dinner plate-sized disc used to measure clarity was visible at an average depth of 70.9 feet (21.6 meters) in 2018, scientists at the University of California, Davis, Tahoe Environmental Research Center said Thursday.

That’s an improvement of 10.5 feet (3.2 meters) from 2017 when a winter with unusually heavy snow followed years of drought, sending sediment into the scenic lake known for its pine tree-lined beaches and ski resorts.

The research center typically releases its annual clarity findings in the spring after analyzing the data it gathers each month in the previous year.

Scientists hope efforts to combat threats to clarity posed by development and climate change will eventually return Lake Tahoe to its historical clear depth of 100 feet (30.5 meters).

Scientists took 26 individual depth readings in 2018, including one in March that exceeded 100 feet (30.5 meters) of clarity. The worst readings typically are in the summer, and the best are in fall and winter.

A reading of 59.7 feet (18 meters) in 2017 was the worst in the 51 years Tahoe’s clarity has officially been recorded. The second worst was 64.1 feet (20 meters) in 1997. -AP





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