Unexpected Discovery in a Lake Sends the Internet into a Frenzy

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:34:50 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Phovisa/YouTube

"Expect the unexpected" is a philosophy that many people like to live by, but sometimes the unexpected goes so far beyond strange that no one could possibly be prepared for it. After all, some things simply have to be seen to be believed.

Even then, people occasionally stumble upon things that seem otherworldly and beyond any logical explanation. This exact type of situation left YouTuber Evan K — and ultimately millions of others — completely speechless. Let’s take a look!

A Day Unlike Any Other

YouTuber Evan K, also known as Evan Kilkus, has casually posted drone videos online for more than five years. The day that he captured the footage that changed his life started out like any other day.

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Photo Courtesy: Alex Wild/Wikipedia

Dating back to the summer of 2014, he started posting videos for fun, with no intention of reaching a massive audience — GoPro footage of family gatherings, drone footage of the wine country in his home of Napa County, California, and a few videos of Napa's Lake Berryessa (the largest lake in the county).

Taking His Drone Out for a Spin

Whenever he wasn't working at a rental shop for water sports equipment, Evan K liked to fly his drone around Lake Berryessa. In fact, most of his channel was dedicated to the reservoir, which is a gorgeous bit of nature situated close to his work.

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Photo Courtesy: Phoebe/Wikipedia

His job required him to know the body of water like the back of his hand, so he certainly didn't expect to find the bizarre discovery waiting for him on that day. He didn't even look at the drone footage until he got home.

A Hole in the Lake

Pulling up all the drone footage on his home computer, Evan K expected to scroll through footage that was similar to the images he always captured — gorgeous, yes, but not necessarily unusual in any way. He was completely wrong.

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Photo Courtesy: Jeremybrooks/Wikipedia

Evan K had unknowingly flown his drone over something totally beyond explanation: a hole in Lake Berryessa. Not just a little hole, either — a hole that looked large enough to drain the entire body of water in no time. What in the world had opened up underneath Lake Berryessa?

Opening an Investigation

Evan K's YouTube channel wasn't big enough for his few subscribers to provide any answers, so he decided to launch his own investigation into Lake Berryessa's massive opening. After all, he worked and lived in the area, and the potentially dangerous mystery demanded answers.

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Photo Courtesy: VisionPic .net/Pexels

The first order of business was to make sure his drone had accurately captured the footage. It seemed to be obvious, but he still had to see the lake's enormous hole for himself. That's exactly what he did (with the help of his drone) at work the very next day.

A Glitch in the Matrix

Flying the drone straight toward Lake Berryessa's gigantic chasm, Evan K found himself staring right into the center of the hole he had captured the previous day. It was real — not a glitch, error or optical illusion. It was an actual physical thing.

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Photo Courtesy: Ruth Hartnup/Flickr

As it turned out, however, he wasn't wrong to consider the possibility of a technological malfunction. In fact, the closer he got to the lake's opening, the more his video glitched. The same was true for his controller. Whatever was inside Lake Berryessa's gaping hole was interfering with his drone footage.

More Questions Than Answers

When Evan K returned to his home, he discovered the source of his mysterious glitch was actually just low battery. That sounds simple enough, but it actually brought up even more questions. If his battery was fully charged before he left (it was), then what could have drained it so quickly?

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Photo Courtesy: Damage10/Wikipedia

It seemed safe to assume the immense force sucking Lake Berryessa's water down the drain-like opening was the same force that drained his drone's battery. Thankfully, he was able to capture some more lake footage before he brought his dying drone back to shore.

Further Proof of the Unexplained

After taking multiple different shots of the baffling bit of nature, Evan K believed he had enough proof of the spectacular phenomenon to convince others of its existence. Of course, that wasn’t the only issue. One looming question remained.

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Photo Courtesy: Public Domain/GoodFreePhotos

What in the world was inside Lake Berryessa's gully? It was the primary unanswered question remaining after both drone excursions. What could be hiding in the depths that was powerful enough to suck down lake water and rapidly drain his drone battery?

Taking the Investigation Deeper

Evan K knew he couldn't continue to probe the mystery at Lake Berryessa so recklessly. If he wasn't careful, he could lose his equipment. Before taking the drone out for the third — and hopefully not final — time, it was essential to do some more investigating beforehand.

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Photo Courtesy: Startup Stock Photos/Pexels

Taking his most pressing questions to the internet, he searched high and low for ways to resist the pull of the lake's hole as well as to find other people who could have potentially seen this type of thing before him. Fortunately, there was strength in numbers.

A Surprising Find

As the saying goes, it's all fun and games until someone gets hurt. In Evan K's case, someone got hurt long before his drone ever took to the skies. While researching Lake Berryessa, he failed to find any pictures that matched the ones on his drone, but he managed to find a story that did.

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Photo Courtesy: Haha169/Wikipedia

Back in the late 1990s, Lake Berryessa's water chasm tragically claimed a victim. While swimming, Emily Schwalen was accidentally pulled deep into Lake Berryessa's whirlpool. She struggled but ultimately ended up drowning that fateful day on the lake.

Word of Mouth Travels Fast

Now realizing the stakes, Evan K knew that safety would need to come first going forward. Armed with his drone — battery fully charged, of course — he headed back to Lake Berryessa to get to the bottom of things.

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Photo Courtesy: Maitri/Wikipedia

Upon arrival, he wasn’t surprised to find that a crowd had gathered near the gully. After all, it wasn’t hard to spot the massive whirlpool in the middle of the county's biggest lake. One of the people held the key to the mystery: Napa County water facility manager Kevin King.

King's Clarification

According to Kevin King, the thing that finally got the attention of Napa County's water authority was the exact same thing that allowed Evan K to uncover the lake's mystery in the first place: drones. King said there were nearly 15 drones flying around the chasm at one point.

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Photo Courtesy: Maxim Karpinskiy/Wikipedia

They waited for King to explain what exactly was causing the wide and puzzling hole in Lake Berryessa. He told Evan K and the other bystanders that the county's geological history held the answer to their burning questions.

Back to 1953

It wasn’t easy to transform California from a dry, barren landscape to a bustling metropolitan haven filled with nearly 40 million people. Water was one of the most difficult issues. We need it to live, plants need it to grow and cities need it for energy. Unfortunately, California didn't have enough of it.

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Photo Courtesy: Seattle Municipal Archives/Flickr

To solve the discrepancy, a budding Napa County constructed the Monticello Dam. Serving as a source of energy, this dam stopped Putah Creek in the rocky Vaca Mountains and was the reason for Lake Berryessa's existence.

Monticello Dam's Purpose

Once the Monticello Dam was completed in 1957, developers felt comfortable expanding their vision for expansion. Before long, Napa Valley (and the rest of California) was considered a Land of Opportunity that was as sought-after as the rest of the United States as a whole.

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Photo Courtesy: Peretz Partensky/Flickr

With more than 525 billion gallons of water contained behind its walls, the Monticello Dam and Lake Berryessa provided water for all of Napa County, the entirety of the San Francisco Bay Area and much of the Sacramento River Valley as well.

Thinking Ahead

Because Monticello Dam and Lake Berryessa were surrounded by all kinds of roads and other construction, it was important for the dam's engineers to consider all possibilities to ensure the safety of those in the vicinity of the dam.

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Photo Courtesy: Seeyardee/Wikipedia

The biggest issue was flooding. To make sure that Lake Berryessa wouldn't overflow onto the roads or into the surrounding areas when water levels rose, the masterminds behind Monticello Dam installed a one-of-a-kind spillway that is unique to Lake Berryessa.

Spillway Science

Typically, spillways are installed in one of two ways: into the dam itself or in the surrounding nature. Lake Berryessa wasn’t able to handle either one of those options. Because the dam was so expensive and the lake was so narrow, there was no way either option would work.

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Photo Courtesy: Daniel Clanon/Flickr

So, the engineers had to get creative. That’s where Evan K's strange discovery comes into play. To prevent floods, the experts in charge of handling Monticello Dam installed a strange funnel that would allow the water to bypass the dam when water levels become too high.

How the Funnel Works

When water levels rise to dangerous levels, Lake Berryessa will eventually flow over the top of the funnel, travel through the tube and shoot out into Putah Creek below. Given California's frequent dry spells, the water doesn’t normally get high enough for this to happen very often.

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Photo Courtesy: Anthonysthwd/Wikipedia

Putah Creek is the stream that comes from the dam itself, and it’s made all the more powerful in the rare instances when Lake Berryessa needs to purge a lot of water fast. Evan K probably never noticed the strange phenomenon before because the water hadn't been that high in years.

California's Drought

In truth, Evan K simply managed to be in the right place at the right time to capture photos of the rarity. California had faced extreme droughts for years before he started working at his job in Lake Berryessa's rental shop for water sports equipment.

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Photo Courtesy: Vince Mig/Needpix

When the torrential rains came and the dry ground was unable to absorb all the excess water, it caused Lake Berryessa to rise up to the top of the funnel. He was quite lucky to capture such a rare occurrence on film simply by chance.

A Perfect Storm

To fully grasp all the factors surrounding Evan K's discovery, it's worth looking at the numbers. A perfect combination of figures resulted in something really life-changing for a lowly, amateur drone flyer.

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Photo Courtesy: Phovisa/YouTube

For the lake water to overflow into the funnel, it has to reach 440 feet above sea level. From there, the water travels 200 feet down and around the dam and into Putah Creek through a tube that is 75 feet across at its entrance and 28 feet at its exit. It's undoubtedly an ingenious feat of engineering.

Other Special Spillways

While Lake Berryessa’s special spillway was certainly a unique invention, many other bodies of water across the globe have utilized similar inventions to prevent flooding in their respective areas. From Germany to Massachusetts and all kinds of places in between, spillways are an effective tool to counter the effects of flooding.

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Photo Courtesy: Haeferl/Wikipedia

One thing is still so strange, however. If they are such common tools of engineering, why did Evan K struggle to find any photos or videos that matched his? It truly emphasizes the unique set of circumstances surrounding his discovery on that extraordinary afternoon.

Going Viral

With some genuinely captivating footage and some very interesting answers to his questions, Evan K felt confident enough to post his findings on his YouTube channel. His videos — all documenting the massive amounts of water at different points in Lake Berryessa's flooding — were practically an instant hit.

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Photo Courtesy: Evan K/YouTube

Quickly gathering more than 40 million views on just three videos, Evan K's channel captured global media attention and widespread acclaim across YouTube and other media sites. He went from having a handful of subscribers to more than 72,000 in less than a year.

A Casual Discovery and a Concerning Development

Caught up in the whirlwind of chaos resulting from his series of spillway videos, it's easy to understand how Evan K and others could forget the unfortunate circumstances that led to the strange phenomenon in the first place. Extensive and widespread droughts throughout California could be blamed for the subsequent flooding.

Photo Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Wikipedia

Sadly, those same droughts were also responsible for the tragic and devastating wildfires spreading elsewhere in the state. It sounds crazy — flooding and fires at the same time — but it was the reality for the Golden State.

Evan K's Second Job

Thankfully for the countless Californians affected by the disastrous wildfires — as well as for the subscribers to Evan K's channel — he also worked as a volunteer firefighter. A member of Napa Valley's council on fire safety, he wouldn't dare prioritize drones or YouTube videos over human lives.

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Photo Courtesy: NPS/National Parks Service

As the wildfires spread further and wider, they moved a lot closer to Lake Berryessa. He put his drones and the videos aside to fight alongside other firefighters to save the residents he had sworn to protect.

Leaping into Action

On the evening of October 8, while Evan K slept, the California wildfires crept dangerously close to his home. Awakened at nearly midnight by numerous phone calls and texts, he leapt out of bed and sprang into action.

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Photo Courtesy: Dicklyon/Wikipedia

Virtually outside his door, California was facing the worst fires in the region's history. Thanks to the haphazard weather conditions that plagued the area in the months prior to the fires — the very same weather events that flooded Lake Berryessa — three separate fires were blazing within Napa County all at the same time.

Refusing to Evacuate

In the face of extreme danger and deadly heat, Evan K wouldn’t leave Napa County until he knew its residents were all safe and out of harm's way. Even as his own father fled the treacherous area, he refused to abandon his post as a member of the fire council.

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Photo Courtesy: Bureau of Land Management California/Flickr

In the midst of the dangerous flames, he had a powerful thought. Could there be a way for him to use his talents to make a real difference in the lives of his fellow Napa County inhabitants?

Saving Lives with Drone Footage

Armed with his drone, his remote control and a Facebook account, Evan K took his technology out onto the front lines. With many years of experience under his belt, he knew exactly how to handle his drone in the safest way possible when soaring near the flames.

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Photo Courtesy: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region/GoodFreePhotos

Using his aerial footage, he was able to track the fire as accurately as any of the state's fire officials. Despite starting out as just a hobby, his drone flying skills turned him into the county's leading source of wildfire updates.

Broadcasting Breaking News

As the professionals battled the intense and relentless flames tearing through northern and southern California like a wick burning at both ends, Evan K flew his drone high above the smoke to show his Facebook Live viewers exactly where the flames were headed.

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Photo Courtesy: Joint Base Charleston/Department of Defense

As power lines were destroyed, he utilized generators to charge his devices. Amazingly, he also cared for more than 20 pets in the county as residents fled to avoid the fires. Thanks to his live streams, he wasn't just able to save human lives — he saved animals as well.

GoFundMe Gratitude

In the wake of the wildfires, Napa County residents banded together to contribute to a GoFundMe campaign for Evan K. As you can probably guess based on his choices and behavior up to this point, he refused the nearly $6,000 they collected.

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Photo Courtesy: Evan Kilkus/GoFundMe

Instead, he transformed the GoFundMe into a relief fund for those who lost everything in 2017's destruction. This is a true testament to his nobility. Instead of taking the money for himself, he turned it into another opportunity to help.

Evan K on YouTube

In the months after uploading his drone footage and attracting millions of new viewers, Evan K continued to post to YouTube. Throughout 2017, he shifted his attention from the spillway and focused mainly on the thing he knew best: water sports on Lake Berryessa.

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Photo Courtesy: Evan K/YouTube

After he posted 13 other videos related to the infamous spillway footage, his channel continued to grow for months. Even today, years after initially making a splash on the site, his channel averages a few thousand views a day.

The Future of Evan K's Channel

Surprisingly, Evan K hasn't posted to his channel since March 1, 2019. Whatever the reason may be — from a busy summer on Lake Berryessa to an insane number of wildfires throughout 2019 — you can be certain that he probably has a pretty good reason for not posting regularly anymore.

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Photo Courtesy: Jason Blackeye/Wikipedia

In the meantime, his subscribers wait for his next video and continue to enjoy watching his other drone videos from past years. Water sporting events, camping footage, Napa neighborhoods — Evan K's channel has all sorts of interesting footage.

Evan Kilkus Today

In the couple of years since the life-changing events of 2017, Evan K’s life has been more or less unchanged. The instant fame didn't do anything to steer him away from the adventurous spirit he brings to his job at Lake Berryessa or the brave dedication he brings to his job on the fire council.

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Photo Courtesy: Skeeze/Needpix

Moving forward, Evan K's subscribers, coworkers and fellow Napa County residents can rest easy knowing there's a person out there as cunning and unique as him. Here's to his next fascinating video or act of heroism.