Scientist to plunge to floor of Lake Tahoe |

Scientist to plunge to floor of Lake Tahoe

Gregory Crofton, Tahoe Daily Tribune

The deepest depths of Lake Tahoe may soon be seen for the first time.

Tahoe Deep Blue — a project involving a scientist, deep water explorer and a videographer — aims to take a remote operated vehicle 1,645 feet to the bottom of Lake Tahoe in October.

What sits at the bottom of the lake is anybody’s guess. At the very least the Tahoe Deep Blue team knows an old steamer, the S.S. Tahoe, sits 300 feet down 1 mile out from Glenbrook Bay. They also believe another steamer, the Comet, was scuttled in the middle of the lake.

But are the bodies of mobsters at the bottom, their feet encased in cement? Or is there a once Virginia City-bound stagecoach somewhere in the lake? Stories abound about what the frigid tomb of Tahoe contains.

“With all the crawfish in Tahoe I don’t think we’ll find bodies, but you never know,” said Charles Goldman, a University of California, Davis professor who founded the Tahoe Research Group. “This unit is by far the most sophisticated I know of in terms of deep exploration. It’s equivalent to the kind they used on Titanic.”

The exploration project, a nonprofit venture, is scheduled to last about three weeks and happen in the fall when tourist numbers are down and the clarity of Tahoe tends to increase because there is less algae.

The project is estimated to cost about $250,000. Mike Conway, co-owner of K-MTN television at South Lake Tahoe, is in the process of tracking down people interested in financing Tahoe Deep Blue. He will also be in charge of videography.

“A group out of Silicon Valley is coming up (Tuesday),” Conway said. “They may toss in some large amounts (of money). A couple of billionaires have taken some letters of intent already.”

Tahoe Deep Blue may become a reality in 2003 because the owner of Deep Seas Systems, Christopher Nicholson, recently became the sole owner of the remote operated vehicle, called a Max Rover, to be used for the project. It is worth about $1.4 million and is equipped with sonar that can detect wood and metal within 1,000 feet.

“It hits metal and it rings like a bell,” said Nicholson, who used a remote operated vehicle to shoot video of the S.S. Tahoe in 1994. “The hope is that we can go out and locate unique and interesting sites and come back with an HDTV camera system on an underwater vehicle. That’s like being there, looking through a pane of glass.”

In 1979, Goldman went down 1,000 feet into Lake Tahoe in a submersible craft near Incline Village.

“It was quite exciting,” Goldman said. “We made important discoveries — that algae can grow in an area one presumed to be in complete darkness.”

Goldman says in October he hopes to use the Max Rover to study fault lines in the lake, a landslide that took a chunk out of the West Shore and learn more about the movement of sediment particles.

Goldman said it is just a rumor that Jacques Cousteau, the famous underwater explorer, has been beneath the surface of Lake Tahoe. But a relative of Cousteau’s did visit the lake at one point, Goldman said.