Over the course of a month, Capt. Scott Cassell, founder of the Undersea Voyager Project and crew have made 58 submersible dives and 33 scuba dives below the cobalt blue waters of Lake Tahoe and Fallen Leaf Lake. The mission bought about many findings as they continue to train for an upcoming circling of the world’s oceans.
Cassell and his crew made several discoveries and unlocked a few mysteries during their month long project in the feeder lake to Lake Tahoe. The team documented at least three unmapped trees underneath the surface of Fallen Leaf Lake that are more than 2,000 years old, more than 20 sunken boats dating back 100 years or so.
In addition to the flora findings, Cassel might just have discovered an undocumented species in the animal kingdom. The organism is a unicellular creature that could be or be related to a protozoa named Chloramonod. This little animal produces its own food, and has characteristics that are algea like, plant like and animal like.
“Its really a complex little animal, there is a lot of interest as to what it might be.” – Cassell
During a dive to look at the Incline Village seismic fault on the north side of the lake, the team observed 9 feet of vertical offset, suggesting the fault might be younger and have a greater potential for causing an earthquake than previously thought.
“It means that more work really needs to be done to find out just how much energy is stored there.”- Cassell
Despite focusing on finding evidence of the invasive quagga mussel, Cassell, states while not a scientist, he did not find any evidence that the destructive mussel that has spread around western waterways is in the lake.
Cassell also didn’t find any proof of some of Lake Tahoe’s most persistent myths. The UVP team didn’t find evidence of the fabled Loch Ness monster type behemoth known as Tahoe Tessie. Nor did the team find the perfectly preserved bodies of mobsters dumped in the lake in the 1930s that are, as rumor would have it, forever suspended in Tahoe’s depths.
“I was really interested in mankind’s impact on the lake, and one of the things I didn’t see was a lot of trash,” Cassell said. “There was trash underwater, but a lot less than I thought there would be.”
Documenting the possible spread of the milfoil will be part of the Undersea Voyager Project’s expanded research when the team returns to Tahoe in October for another month-long series of dives. Cassell hopes to bring a second submersible along for that trip, one that can go even deeper into the lake.
The Undersea Voyager Project is a non profit (501-c-3) public-benefit company for Oceanic Research and Educational Outreach. The Undersea Voyager Project is designed to utilize manned submersibles to take a physical look at the first 100-1,000 feet of seawater, (which is the largest environment on Earth) on a continuing series of missions to explore the Earth underwater.