Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sylvan Lake Mystery Remains A Mystery

There seems to be more questions than answers to the mysteries surrounding Sylvan Lake. And last month’s retrieval by the Washington County Water Recovery dive team of a large rock with a hole drilled through it and a three-eighths inch faded yellow nylon rope attached did nothing to solve what is still considered an open case by a lake expert who has followed the story. The boulder, estimated to weigh 40 pounds or more, was the only thing found during a dive training session Sept. 10. The water recovery unit was part of a response team on July 27 when a Sylvan Lake resident reported that something may have crashed into the lake. The eyewitness saw a rogue wave with air bubbles emanating from concentric circles. That summer day the water recovery unit deployed its side-scan sonar to help determine if something was in the lake and recorded information of an object the size of a dryer or wash machine in deep waters. Nothing of the like was found in any of the dives. Sheriff Bill Hutton said last week authorities still have no idea what caused the incident that dozens of rescue personnel, including those from Forest Lake, responded to in July. He is confident that it wasn’t a meteor, nor anything that could have fallen from an airplane. How long the rock may have been in the lake is also unknown. “We cannot make any conclusionary statements,” Hutton said. The mystery has deepened with the investigation by a UFO hunter from Nebraska who visited the area last summer, as well as a water specialist familiar with Forest Lake. Steve McComas, of Blue Water Science in St. Paul, opened a case file at the urging of Joe Soucheray who hosts “Garage Logic” on KSTP AM1500 after he became interested in the Sylvan Lake story. McComas, the radio show’s designated “Lake Detective,” agreed to look into the matter. He issued a full report in August. McComas said his theory is that the splash was caused by something falling off or from an aircraft. Hutton said the sheriff’s office checked with the FAA and Department of Homeland Security, but found no leads of any aviation incidents that would have been the culprit behind this mystery. The discovery of this rock, most likely a homemade anchor, does not answer anything. McComas said during Soucheray’s radio show on Oct. 2 that McComas’ theory has not been disproved. The lake detective won’t admit to being stumped until something definitive turns up, McComas said.
Washington County divers pulled this rock with rope attached from the bottom of Sylvan Lake
“The mystery is unsolved,” McComas said. “I would consider this case open,” he added. Instead of a lost plane part, McComas said it is possible that blue ice — a mixture of human waste and liquid disinfectant formed by leaks in commercial aircraft lavatory tanks that freezes at high altitude — could be the cause of the incident. Linwood resident Frank Kvidera, 84, an experienced pilot with over 40 years of experience flying single engine planes, has his own theory. Maybe the rock was used to anchor a small aircraft and plummeted to the ground after take off? Kvidera read a similar story in an aviation magazine, but with the plane crashing into the water as well. “There are questions,” he said, “and who’s gonna answer them?” Eugene Huerstel has lived on Sylvan Lake for many, many years. Around 1967, he and a neighborhood boy went out in a row boat to the area where the rock was found. Huerstel recalls that his friend had drilled a hole through a big, heavy rock and knotted it with a nylon rope. The two boys lost the boat anchor when the rope broke, Huerstel said. Perhaps that rock was the very same one recovered by the county sheriff’s office? Huerstel said he believes the eyewitness, who lives doors from him, saw something in the water but it had not come from the sky. His opinion is that it was a whirlwind, which is a column of air moving rapidly around and around in a cylindrical or funnel shape. Huerstel was on his boat with KSTP Channel 5 during the September training session, nearly 60 yards from the dive team. He was one of those surprised when the water recovery unit came to the surface with a rock. “I could tell if they did recover something, they didn’t want us to see,” Huerstel said. Supposedly, a boat was spotted maneuvering in a grid pattern on the lake in the late hours of Aug. 16. Hutton told the Forest Lake Times he was unaware of any such late-night incident on the Sylvan Lake waters. As for the county, Hutton said his office has no plans to continue the Sylvan Lake search. McComas said there is a chance the rock was sunk in an effort to throw people off, thus putting the mystery to rest. It’s a long stretch, but he noted the sonar detected an image that was not found again during the dive exercise. “It’s just a little suspicious,” McComas said.