In the middle of Napa County’s scenic wine country in Northern California lies Lake Berryessa. It’s an ordinary, if picturesque lake that even appears in a James Bond movie. But the incredibly weird sight of a mysterious hole in the lake that one local would capture by chance on his drone one day would spread like wildfire across the Internet, capturing the imaginations of millions of people.
The strange phenomenon that had seemingly appeared overnight baffled the man who first photographed it along and left scores of passersby utterly mystified. How on Earth could a body of water possibly have a hole in it? And what was it really? These questions would lead to some utterly astonishing revelations.
1. An Unexpected Sight
Drone enthusiast and YouTube personality Evan K, otherwise known as Evan Kilkus, was working at Lake Berryessa, in the northern San Francisco Bay Area of California when he would reveal a huge discovery about the lake that was beyond anyone’s imagination.
One day, as he was taking his drone out for a casual spin, skimming it over the tranquil lake’s surface, he would stumble upon a glitch. What he was about to discover was far bigger than a slight difference to the landscape. It was absolutely unbelievable.
2. Drone Discovery
In his spare time, Evan Kilkus enjoyed messing around with the coolest toy he owned: his drone. Given that the impressive local scenery practically begged to be photographed, he had plenty of material. Little did he realize that his drone would be instrumental in bringing to light the insane discovery about the lake.
Since Evan worked at a water sports rental shop at Lake Berryessa he thought he knew every nook and cranny of the lake, so he was certain to notice anything out of place. And certainly enough, one day his drone would capture an unbelievable sight that would shock the local population.
3. An Unexplained Hole
As Evan reviewed the pictures that came back from that outing with his drone, he did a double take. One of the shots his drone had taken over Lake Berryessa showed what appeared to be a massive hole in the water!
But even as Evan continued to scrutinize the shot, it still made absolutely zero sense whatsoever. Seeing the image was practically nonsensical. It defied any and all basic laws of science. How could a body of water have a hole in it?
4. Mysterious Vortex
At first, it appeared that perhaps his eyes were playing tricks on him. According to what his camera had captured, there was a large, mysterious hole rupturing the surface of Lake Berryessa, and it was sucking the lake’s water right down into it.
It was as though there were a huge drain on the bottom of the lake and someone had abruptly pulled the plug. Evan couldn’t just leave this extraordinary spectacle and forget about it. He had to investigate and learn more.
5. Fantastic Possibilities
This hole defied all logic. How would any sane, clear-thinking person react to seeing such a thing? Instantly, even the wildest ideas seemed possible to Evan. It was like something out of a science fiction film, like a portal to another dimension.
Now that Evan knew about the existence of the hole in Lake Berryessa, he couldn’t just be impressed and move on. He simply had to fly the drone closer to better figure out exactly what in the world was going on.
6. Looking Closely
As Evan brought his drone ever closer back over Lake Berryessa in the direction of where he had first spotted the mysterious hole, he hoped to find something, any visual clue that could better explain the source of the hole.
Perhaps it had even been an illusion all along. But as the drone flew closer, he saw the same unbelievable hole perfectly well. Then, suddenly, as the drone came right up to the edge of the vortex, something completely bizarre happened to it.
7. Equipment Malfunction
As Evan Kilkus’ drone hovered over the hole in Lake Berryessa on its reconnaissance mission, inching dangerously closer to the mouth’s edge, its screen inexplicably began to malfunction. At the side of the lake, he noticed the controls were flashing.
Something was causing it to glitch. It was especially alarming since he’d never before seen his device do this. He had to bring the drone back to shore fast. What if it died and sank into the lake? What was making it do that? Could it have been the mysterious hole?
8. Black Hole
Evan quickly piloted his device back to the shore, where he was standing to check up on it, concerned but still curious. Upon further inspection, he found that the drone’s battery was low. But he nevertheless suspected that the problem was bigger than that.
From what he had observed, it seemed that whatever unseen force was creating the hole had also been pulling his drone deeper into it. For now, he’d salvaged his favorite toy. But when it came time to check if the drone had discovered any more clues, he was utterly blown away.
9. Further Evidence
Thankfully, Evan’s drone had managed to get a close-up shot of the hole before he had been forced to bring it back to shore. But he still couldn’t see well enough into the hole to truly grasp what was going on.
There was no way of figuring out more information about this mysterious hole without help. Even though he was a thrill-seeker, there was no way he would risk being harmed by it by swimming out himself. He had to send the drone out one more time.
10. Background Knowledge
Before going on a second photographic mission, Evan had to fix the problem with his drone. Now that he knew the vortex had a strong gravitational pull that he had to be aware of as he hovered the drone over it, he’d be wiser.
But there was something else he had to do. He wanted to do some research to see what he could dig up about Lake Berryessa. Had anyone else seen this hole before? Perhaps this wasn’t even the first time the hole had appeared?
11. Expanding The Search
As Evan scoured the Internet for any additional information he could find on this utterly strange sight that had so captivated his imagination, he was flustered. He couldn’t find any images that matched that hole he’d managed to photograph with his drone.
However, he found out a heap of facts he hadn’t previously known about Lake Berryessa. One key anecdote could indeed have been connected to the mysterious hole he had seen. As he further read the account, he discovered some sinister details in the lake’s history.
12. Through The Past, Darkly
In 1997, a woman named Emily Schwalek was swimming in Lake Berryessa. Out of nowhere, she was sucked into a whirlpool, trying desperately to cling to the stones around its edge for 20 minutes. She was ultimately pulled under and drowned.
It was a grim and chilling tale. Now Evan knew there was a possible precedent for the mysterious hole he had seen. But he still hadn’t been able to figure out what had caused it. The answer, however, was bound to surprise him.
13. Final Mission
Evan Kilkus flew his drone across Lake Berryessa once more, on a final mission to try and get as close of a look as possible. From the images his aerial device brought back, he determined that the mysterious hole was roughly 72 feet in diameter.
But his growing obsession with this baffling wonder had not yet been satisfied. Despite the inside look that his drone afforded him, there was no way of knowing how deep the hole was and how far down it went. What he would find was likely far beyond his expectations.
14. Rumor Has It
Evan Kilkus was not alone. More and more people driving on the road along the shore of Lake Berryessa came to notice the incredible phenomenon. After all, few things are more offsetting and eye-catching than spying a massive hole in the middle of a large body of water!
Word was spreading around the towns in the area about the unique phenomenon taking place in their lake. It was just around this time that the sight caught the eye of Kevin King, an operations manager for the county’s water facilities.
15. Drone Party
King took note of the highly unusual circumstances. “I went up there the other day and there were about 15 drones flying around and people taking videos,” said Kevin King. “It’s really dramatic to watch.” Even he was impressed by the incredible vortex’s power.
Local authorities were about to shed light on what on Earth could have caused the perplexing hole in the lake. Finally, the lake’s secret would be known to Evan Kilkus and the other curious passersby who had stumbled upon this wild phenomenon at Lake Berryessa.
16. Constructing A Landscape
California is a notoriously dry state with precious few water resources. Therefore, Lake Berryessa was originally man-made, one of the largest artificial lakes in America. It was designed in conjunction with Napa County’s Monticello Dam, flanked on its sides by the scenic Vaca Mountains.
And when the lake was designed, it came with its own special feature unique to the area. Behind the scenes, as Evan Kilkus and others would soon discover, the very same engineers who had worked on the lake were responsible for the fascinating truth behind the unusual watery vortex.
17. Water And Power
Lake Berryessa is far more than a place of enjoyment. The water from Monticello Dam is crucial to the people in the towns surrounding the area. What’s more, the 526 billion gallons of water it holds are not only used for drinking and irrigation. It has another purpose that affects a huge portion of the northern California population.
That water provides power for over 600,000 people in the area flanking the northern side of the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as the Sacramento River Valley to the east. But how the mysterious hole tied into such matters is truly stunning.
18. Surreal Spillway
Something had to ensure the lake would be kept from flooding the road around it when its water level rose drastically. The architects, therefore, included what is known as a spillway in the lake’s design. Ordinarily, when a spillway is built, it’s set into the walls of a dam, but this one was unique.
Because of how narrow Lake Berryessa was, a normal dam wall fitted with a spillway would have been too big, and it would have cost too much to bore into the mountainside surrounding the lake. So the engineers came up with a strange solution.
19. Engineering Berryessa
The engineers who built Lake Berryessa had to make sure that the water didn’t run out, but also, they had to keep it continuously flowing, running out of the dam and into nearby Putah Creek. The functioning of the local infrastructure depended on it.
Creating a system entirely at the mercy of the waterways had to be as foolproof as possible. That meant creating a funnel that connected between Lake Berryessa and Putah Creek. But people didn’t always realize that’s what it was. There was a good reason for that.
Under normal conditions, Lake Berryessa’s water was low enough to not flood into the spillway. Already known for its dry climate and decided lack of rainfall, the state of California had been experiencing a record drought for the past decade.
That meant water levels were abnormally lower than usual. The stone “bell-mouth” entrance to the funnel above the dam was more exposed than normal. Skateboarders used it for practice. But then, something radical had happened — and it’s exactly what Evan had landed upon.
21. Stormy Weather
Even if the spillway was man-made, the circumstances surrounding the extraordinary sight that had managed to capture Evan’s imagination was in fact due to an extreme occurrence. The drought in California had finally ended, and with it came a rushing torrent of rains.
The wine-producing Napa region surrounding Lake Berryessa had been hit particularly hard by the intensely dry period, so the shift in weather patterns was a cause of celebration. But for Lake Berryessa, the sudden floodwaters caused a bizarre, incredible sight.
22. Drain You
If the water of Lake Berryessa reaches above 440 feet over sea level, it swamps the spillway funnel and disappears out of sight, roaring out on the other side of the dam. It’s similar to what happens when a drain is pulled out of a bathtub.
The effect causes what appears to be a giant hole in the lake measuring 28 feet at its base and 75 feet across. When waters pass through it, they plunge more than 200 feet, plummeting and roaring as they drain out of Lake Berryessa. But just how dangerous could this whirlpool possibly be?
23. A Daunting View
At first glance, the hole could look practically lethal. Indeed, the people who built Lake Berryessa itself definitely had the human risk factor in mind. There are, in fact, buoys and guard barriers in the water that surround it in order to ward people off.
But to the casual observer, it would appear there are no safety barriers — and the hole does have a deadly past. Given the dramatic photographs that Evan Kilkus and his drone managed to capture, the actual risk factor may, in fact, surprise you.
24. Not So Menacing
Despite its ominous appearance, experts say the hole in Lake Berryessa is actually not too much of a threat — provided you don’t get too close to it while swimming in the water. While its capacity may be staggering, its pull is not as strong as it may seem.
Though the lake had flooded with over 30 feet of water due to the recent swing in weather, under ordinary conditions, most swimmers should be strong enough to evade the pull of the spillway. But there was something else incredibly rare about the spillway hole at Lake Berryessa.
25. A Rarity Of Architecture
Because of the startling footage that Evan Kilkus uploaded to his YouTube account, the casual viewer at first glance would be highly unlikely to be able to understand what was going on. It may have seemed like an isolated phenomenon — and, relatively speaking, it was.
While the concept of a spillway for a reservoir is not unheard of, this particular “bellmouth”-shaped spillway is in fact quite rare. There are just a mere handful of similarly-constructed spillways around the world, and they pop up in some very unexpected places.
26. Bellmouths And Beyond
Evan had been able to capture a rare event from an even rarer type of architectural design. Bellmouth spillways, while uncommon, are able to funnel large amounts of water while maintaining a steady flow. This was the only one of its kind in the entire state.
Other similar models of bellmouth spillways can be found in but a handful of waterways, several examples of which can be found in England, Montana, Hong Kong, and Japan. While they aren’t usually dangerous, there was at least one lake spillway ended in absolute disaster.
27. Crisis In Napa County
Right around the same time that heavy rains caused the vortex in Lake Berryessa, the same weather had catastrophic results elsewhere nearby. The Sacramento area’s Lake Oroville had all the same ingredients: a man-made body of water, a huge dam, and a spillway.
But this spillway was earthen, designed differently from the one in Lake Berryessa. As the sudden increase in waters roared down out of the dam, the threat was imminent enough that 18,000 people downstream had to evacuate. But there were still more surprises to happen back on Evan’s turf.
28. Growing Attraction
Once Evan finally figured out what his drone had originally captured and what was going on in the area he worked in, it made him even more excited. It was a spectacularly rare sight to behold. And he wasn’t the only one to take note of the phenomenon.
Word spread about the hole in Lake Berryessa, and people flocked to the side of the lake to observe and gape in awe. And of course, just like Evan, they came equipped with their trusty drones! As it turned out, that wasn’t the only time Evan found himself in the middle of an incredible phenomenon.
29. Northern California In The News
Just barely over half a year after Napa County and the online world discovered the incredible hole in Lake Berryessa that Evan Kilkus had photographed, another major event in his area would once again launch him back into the news headlines.
On the night of October 8th, at around 11:30 PM, Evan was fast asleep. He was then suddenly awoken by a flurry of frantic and concerned text messages checking how he was. When he realized what had happened, he knew it was time to leap to action.
30. Scorching Footage
In the fall of 2017, areas in both Northern and Southern California were struck by a plague of the worst wildfires in the state’s history. On October 8th, the blazes spontaneously started due to incredibly dangerous weather patterns, breaking out in three points across Evan’s county.
As the night progressed, conditions quickly worsened. The wind gusts in the Lake Berryessa area could not have been more perfect to help fan the flames, causing the wildfires to gain ground. And now they were heading fast towards Evan’s home.
31. Napa In Danger
Napa County was well on its way to an absolute catastrophe of historical proportions. The size, scale, and speed of the wildfires around Lake Berryessa were menacing enough that many of the local residents, fearing for their lives, began packing.
Even Evan Kilkus’ own father decided it was best to evacuate, joining the scores of people that fled their homes and sought out shelter over the first two days of the wildfires. So if everyone around him was leaving, why was Evan sticking around?
32. Fire Safety
Even as people around him left their properties behind, Evan Kilkus had a special role to play for the sake of his community. He had bigger responsibilities, as a member of the local fire safety council for the Lake Berryessa area, a position he took seriously.
Evan began firing out a series of text messages and Internet posts, warning everyone else in the area that given the deteriorating conditions of the wildfires, a mass evacuation was imminent. Wind patterns showed that the fires were bound to shift direction and come straight for them. Then Evan did the unthinkable.
33. Immediate Evacuation
Sure enough, the call for local residents of the Berryessa Highlands area to evacuate came that same day in the afternoon. It was mandatory and the clock was ticking, but yet again, Evan stayed behind. He had other plans in mind.
Evan’s father had taken any valuables he could salvage with him when he had left. Evan came to his property with an important idea, a way that he could help his community, even if he wasn’t a firefighter. He put away his drone, and whipped out his phone.
34. Crucial Broadcasts
From his years as a drone photography enthusiast, Evan Kilkus had plenty of experience filming. This time, he wouldn’t just use it for fun or for exploring bizarre phenomena. The information he was about to provide would be crucial to thousands of people.
As fire crews battled the flames, many of them being flown in from other countries, Evan set to work. Camera in tow, he stayed behind and monitored the wildfires closely to see what direction they would take. But the elements were against him.
35. Helping Hand
Evan didn’t just casually photograph the fire around Lake Berryessa. He stayed awake in shifts late into the night to monitor its progress, making sure it did not creep over the ridge of the hill just a mile away in the distance.
Everything he recorded and photographed he uploaded to social media. He used Facebook Live as a tool to update local residents about the fate of their homes. He knew this would be far more comforting and would provide more information than words ever could. Still, everything was working against him.
36. Extra Measures
Losing sleep and constantly being in fear for his property and his own safety was the least of Evan’s concerns as he tried to fulfill his photographic mission. He had to take extra measures in order to get his messages out.
As power lines went down and cell towers became defunct, Evan had to go back and forth between his house and his father’s, using a generator to keep it charged. Just one transmitter on Atlas Peak worked, so he had just a bar and a half of battery live on his cell. Suddenly, there came an incredible request for him to fulfill.
37. Another Mission
As the families from Evan’s area watched his Facebook Live streams, they were relieved to see that their homes and properties were still intact. But they had another request for him: could he take care of the pets they had left behind?
For the entire week that he stayed in the Berryessa Highlands, in addition to filming the wildfires, Evan also made the rounds feeding over 20 different pets, including birds, cats, and fish. But despite his efforts, the area was about to feel the cost of this disaster.
38. Grateful Public
To express their gratitude, Evan Kilkus’ neighbors set up a GoFundMe page to cover the cost of the expenses he had incurred through his stint as an amateur reporter. He refused to take their money, giving over $6,000 in donations to people who had lost everything.
More than 40 people lost their lives to the wildfires, including six in Napa County. But even the fame and recognition that Evan received for his bravery was about to be dwarfed by something else — his incredible discovery from half a year before.
39. Big Break
As for Evan himself, he never could have known from the get-go that by sharing the footage of the whirlpool hole in the lake his life would change forever. His YouTube channel went from having a few thousand views — to over 14 million!
In just a short while, Evan had become an absolute Internet sensation in, and all because of the winning combination of a chance drone flight, being in the right place at the right time — and encountering the most bizarre hole he’d ever seen.
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