Bird Goes Over the Glory Hole Waterfall Without A Barrel

Bird Goes Over the Glory Hole Waterfall Without A Barrel

People of a certain age will remember the fad of daredevils going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The first person to do it and live to tell the tale was a widowed teacher named Annie Taylor. Taylor was struggling financially when she seized upon the idea of riding over the falls in a barrel to secure fame and fortune. She used an oaken barrel with a crudely cushioned interior, which she tested by sending it over the falls with a test cat stuffed inside - it survived. 

cat in waterfall  barrel web


On Oct. 24, 1901 Taylor climbed inside her barrel. Less than twenty minutes later, she was recovered from the bottom of the falls, bleeding from the head but otherwise uninjured.

A Facebook video was posted at the end of February, 2019 showing a cormorant swim over the edge of Glory Hole and disappear. The video went viral spawning  many social media comments and local news stories. One of the better stories was done by a local CBS News channel. 

Niagara Falls is only 167 feet high compared to the Glory Hole’s total 245 feet total, but Glory Hole has a much smoother exit tunnel, which starts at only 150 feet below the spillway, compared to the rocks below Niagara Falls. Survival of the Glory Hole Bird was a hot topic for days.

On Monday, March 18, 2019 I spoke with Rick Fowler who is interviewed in the video. He said the video was taken at the higest level of the lake this year  (444.1 feet on February 27). 

Coincidentally, I was delivering the March issue of the Lake Berryessa News on Friday, March 1, when I stopped at the Glory Hole. I talked to a couple who had just seen a bird which they described as a grebe swim right over the edge of the Glory Hole. They were actually a bit distraught because they thought they had seen the death of the beautiful creature. Apparently this is not a rare event.

Glory Hole birds satire edited-2

Rick said that he ran to the other side of the observation area as soon as he saw the bird go down. He made it to a point right above the Glory Hole output where he claims he saw the bird pop out and recover. Although you can’t see the output structure itself, you can easily see the turbulent white water coming out of it.

My calculations show that the water falling to the bottom of Niagara Falls is moving at about 70 miles per hour when it hits the river and rocks below. This is about the same speed as the water into Glory Hole when it hits the smooth ninety degree curve which begins about 150 feet below the lip of the spillway and begins to turn turbulent.

Water weighs 8 pounds per gallon so it can create a significant force if it hits a stationary object. Imagine someone throwing a 5 gallon (40 pound) bottle of water at you to catch. (Author’s Personal Health Note: To anyone 40 pounds overweight, say 240 pounds when you should be 200 pounds, I hope you  understand that this is the same as carrying around a 5 gallon bottle of water in your arms.)

But that’s not what’s happening inside Glory Hole. Remember when you were body surfing in big waves at a beautiful beach somewhere? You moved with the waves and tumbled around in the surf when the wave broke. If you’ve gone river rafting, you probably have not been torn up by the current, but floated along on top of it at the same speed as the water. 

When my boys threw me out of a raft on the American River in some turbulent white water and I surfaced under the raft, I was not “torn to pieces” by the flow. I simply floated along through the rapids. An object falling into Glory Hole is doing the same thing - falling at the same speed as the water then bouncing along floating in the white foam to the exit.

The “Glory Hole Bird” was actually a cormorant. Cormorants feed by diving and swimming underwater. They are very light and buoyant. They can dive to depths of 5 to 60 feet below the surface and stay under water up to 70 seconds. The Glory Hole cormorant would be traveling at the same speed as the water when it reached the “water slide” at the bottom and was enveloped in severe turbulence.

Then it and the water slowed drastically and it would be washed away horizontally through a smooth concrete tunnel to the output. Although it would have to swim through a lot of turbulence, there is no real “pressure” at the bottom - it's not like being 200 feet under water. 

The bird wouldn’t "hit" the "bottom" at high speed as if it had jumped from a 245 foot building. And it would not have been “torn to pieces” as some speculated. The Glory Hole is essentially a circular waterfall. Theoretically, the bird could have survived.

Rick Fowler believes the cormorant did survive because he saw it. A local ornithologist Rick spoke with recently also believed survival was possible. I also think survival was possible. To actually determine the time from input to output a light, bright object would have to be tossed into Glory Hole and the input-to-output time measured by observers. An object which included an accelerometer the g-forces experienced by the object as it was bounced around on its trip. Time for a science experiment?

I'm sure Rick will forgive me for mentioning that his last name may indicate some deeper spiritual connection to our feathered companions which allowed him to witness this unique event. 

Who knows what strange electromagnetic signals fill the air when water is flowing through Glory Hole with its steel internal structure and unique chemical composition? One scientific study being pursued by scientists at the University of Lake Berryessa is whether Glory Hole is actually a Black Hole or a Worm Hole.

However, it does seem that that Glory Hole's signal has beckoned to gathering water birds of all types. Apparently the thrill ride of what has become known to them as the Glory Hole Water Slide is now a major attraction on the Pacific Flyway, fostering bird traffic jams approaching those of human tourists gaping at the famous spillway. 

pKilkus@gmail.com                       © Peter Kilkus 2018