Lake Berryessa-Sunken Town of MonticelloOctober 22 2014
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The exact coordinates of the Town of Monticello are pretty easy to find, I just did a simple search for Monticello TopoQuest and came up with this USGS map.
There is a Monticello Museum run by Carol, a daughter of Monticello town folks. She was three years old when the town was flooded but her family's home had already been relocated to higher ground. Her father was one of the town's road construction workers and helped bulldoze buildings, foundations, roads, and structures before the valley was flooded.
She pointed me in the direction of a facebook group all about Monticello with some great town history, and pictures of the bridge and rock wall which were all that remained when the town was submerged.
What a great day! We successfully deployed the ROV's on three shore dives at Berryessa. The lake is full of great places to deploy the robots, and the visibility was just good enough to enjoy some scenery. Erika and I hiked across the dry lake bed like we were hiking across a desert. After covering several steep inclines we made it to another good spot and let VINcent go.
Pretty sure we swam with some striped bass. Was impressed with the overall performance of the units. Motored well and went where we wanted!
Marius Antares and I are headed to Oak Shores this afternoon to do a shore deployment and look for the submerged town of Monticello.
We're taking 2 ROVs, and we may check in with the ranger to invite him along. He had expressed interest and may have the best Intel on where to launch the sub.
Scouting the area actually turned up some great ROV dive opportunities and there are two really good points of entrance and dive types for our expeditions. Visibility in the lake is relatively good, and has improved over the past several years according to local reports. After visiting the lake firsthand current visibility is about 6-10 feet, making it about right for ROV operations. Apparently there is plenty to discover at the bottom of this lake at various depths for testing and fun!
Two GREAT things about this lake. First, I met some actual old-timers drinking beer in front of a local tavern that told me about an airplane crash in the deeper part of the lake(see video). By the dam, the depths reach about 100 meters, and with the drought this might be a bit less. Legend has it that a body was recovered from the airplane wreckage, but the actual wreck was never recovered because of the depth. This story was corroborated by a local park ranger. The Park Ranger gave us some information on the exact location of Monticello, and mentioned there is a large bridge under the water where we can dive the ROV's. The ranger also mentioned "there is no telling what you might find down there!". He also approved any missions we wish to carry out in the area, as long as we share with the Ranger station.
Markley Cove is a good location for a deep water deployment aircraft search. While Oak shores is a great place for land/camping/deployment to see the sunken bridge and what is left of the town of Monticello. See photos at:
After observing the Kennett CA expedition, it got me thinking about local reservoirs and the possibility of sunken towns in the area. Given the drought, viewing some of these structures is a real possibility if they are still standing. I know the group got some good data and the mobile command center was a great idea. I plan to head to the area to scout out a good location for deployment, and hopefully determine the best place for an OpenROV dive. Below are some background links for the area:
This one has a nice zoomable map!
From the Archives of the New York Times