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A Lake that Revolves

11 December 2006

In China’s southwest province Guizhou, there is Dragon Palace Town (龙宫寨); around the township, there is Revolving Lake Village (漩塘寨); outside the village, there is Revolving Lake; in the lake, the entire body of water keeps revolving clockwise. Sometimes it rotates in a slow motion, drawing a circle in an hour; in other times it spins pretty fast, with just a few minutes to complete a turn.

The lake measures 101 metres in diameter, as for its depth, nobody knows exactly. There were several survey attempts made, but so far no clear result has been produced.

The locals view it as a tunnel linking to other worlds, and believe a magic bottle gourd was thrown in the heart of the lake, which sucks the water and causes it to spin. Some brave villagers would sail a boat to the middle in the hope to catch the gourd with their fishing rods. But they only caught fish, with some weighted a massive 30 kilos. In the reflection of the sun, they sometimes spotted creatures in the size of a house swimming in groups. And they also found seaweeds, which, according to some experts, stands as a testament to the theory that the Guizhou was part of the ocean about three hundred million years ago.

Most villagers prefer not to go anywhere near the water nevertheless. They hold the lake in fear and awe, and regard it as guardian spirit. Every family in the village has a special place for the lake god in a water facing room, and they have built a temple by a hill foot near the shore.

In late June this year, a group of scientists launched an investigation into the cause of the water rotation. They did not find anything unusual with its magnetic field, but discovered a river to north of the lake in the shadow of a thick and lush bamboo grove, which pours its water into the lake. The river is five-metre wide and a bit more than seven-metre deep with a total length reaching more than two thousand metres long, allowing 250,000 tons of water influx per day. That’s an awful lot of water. Then why does the lake never flood? Or is there indeed a magic bottle gourd over there channeling the water to another world?

Soon they found the answer. About 3 kilometre east of the lake, they detected a group of streams including both open and hidden waterways. Further study confirms that there is indeed a gigantic hole in the middle of the lake, acting like a funnel that draws the water from the river in the north and releases it to the waterways in the east. And that sucking force is the cause for the water in the lake to revolving clockwise.

This rather unusual natural phenomenon is said to have something to do with the Karst landform.

Karst landform is a landscape featuring cliffs with many caves and lakes that have no open inlet or outlet, which can typically be found in limestone areas where rocks are easily dissolved by the springs or waterfalls. Covering 15 percent of Earth land surface, Karst landforms are mainly concentrated in three regions, and the Revolving Lake that sits on the east slope of the lifted fault platform of Yunnan-Guizhou is right in the centre of one of the three such regions.

As the only known waterway in the world that has the entire body of the water constantly revolving, the lake has now become a sightseeing attraction, and the local government is said to work on a plan to establish a scenic area called the Dragon Palace.

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