The mysterious flooding of western Newfoundland's Bottomless Pond

By The Canadian Press
June 13, 2019 - 12:15pm

DEER LAKE, N.L. — The small lake in western Newfoundland was named Bottomless Pond for a good reason.

With no visible streams or rivers flowing from its banks, locals say the lake appeared to have some sort of hole in its limestone bottom, which kept excess water steadily draining away — until last spring.

That's when water levels started rising, and the five cabins and two converted school buses around the lake were eventually flooded and carried away.

"The two buses are nowhere to be seen," cabin owner Mark Hoyles said in an interview Thursday from nearby Deer Lake. "They are completely submerged. And the five cabins ... are floating around the pond."

From its lowest point during the dry summer months, the lake has risen an astonishing 20 metres, increasing its surface area by about 50 per cent.

Hoyles said his brother's cabin used to be on the opposite side of the lake from his. Now the two cabins are floating together on Hoyles' flooded property.

No one knows what is causing the lake to expand at such an alarming rate — it is now as wide as 1.5 kilometres across.

But there are theories.

Hoyles says he believes widespread flooding last spring probably caused lakes in the surrounding hills to spill their banks, which in turn dumped sediment into the lake.

"Alongside those ponds, everything has been clear cut in the last few years," he said. "Nine chances out of 10, water has been diverted, changing the natural course for runoff."

A local road was washed out and steeper sections of Bottomless Pond's shoreline were also swept into the water.

As a result, it would appear the lake's natural drainage through the limestone has been plugged, and the water has nowhere to go but up.

"It covered up where the natural seepage was through to," Hoyles said.

Local geologists have suggested the only way to unplug the lake would be to use explosives.

But there are concerns the pond could drain completely.

"If the pond drained fast, nobody would know where the water would go to," said Hoyles. "That idea is pretty well out of the question."

Another solution involves digging an 800-metre trench.

Studies are needed to figure out what is going on, Hoyles said. That's why he has called for help from Premier Dwight Ball, whose riding includes the lake.

Meanwhile, Hoyles says insurance won't cover his losses. He says he spent $30,000 on the three-bedroom cabin over the past five years.

— By Michael MacDonald in Halifax

The Canadian Press

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