Erzo Lake, a ghost lake in South Ossetia

Erzo Lake, a ghost lake in South Ossetia

One of the visiting cards of the republic is waiting to be explored.

One of the attractions of South Ossetia is Lake Erzo, located in Dzau district. After the turns and the serpentine mountains from the village of Kemulta you see a stunning scene – the mountains, between which there is a glade and Lake Erzo, with which many legends associated with. Lake Erzo is by right one of the mysterious phenomena, the rumors about which go from antiquity.

The legend of the mysterious lake

Like any natural phenomenon, Lake Erzo has a legend about its origin. So, in ancient times, on the shores of the reservoir lived a spiteful and greedy rich man who acquired his wealth in an unfair way, cheating and stealing. One day, the residents of the nearby area rebelled against the greedy rich man and decided to drown him in the pond. Surprisingly, his body was never found. After that incident, the water began to drain away. According to legend, it is the rich man’s evil, restless soul that lives in the lake and drinks all the water, then falls asleep. While the rich man’s spirit sleeps, the water returns again.

According to folklore, near the valley of Erzo, near the village of Tialet in distant times there was a lake similar to the sea and a large poisonous snake lived there.

Sometimes it would crawl out on the shore of the lake and devour livestock. One day it dragged away Kobal’s sacrificial sheep and devoured them. The snake got scared and crawled away into the mountains. The lake dried up and turned into a wonderful field and people settled there. And the snake, frightened, left those places and hid at the source of the river Kvirila, which flowed between Imereti and Ossetia. Subsequently, the lake and the nearby village were called Erzo.

What do experts and scientists say?

Lake Erzo is called “ghost” because every 4-5 years water mysteriously disappears from it and then fills up again. The nature around the lake and the beauty of the lake is indescribable – it’s one of the most picturesque places in the republic.

The lake is located at an altitude of 1711 meters above sea level. Its area in high water is about 0.5 square kilometers. The greatest length is 940 meters, the exact depth is still unknown, as the lake has no permanent water level. Scientists classify Lake Erzo as a “typical and largest karst lakes”, i.e. sinkholes, and explain the phenomenon of the ghost lake precisely by karsts.

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About this miracle lake many times colorfully wrote in newspapers and magazines. Today we will not talk about that, but about the fact that the largest lake in terms of size has begun to dry up. Every year there is less and less water.

According to Vadim Pliev, Head of the Department of Tourism Development of the State Committee for Youth, Sports and Tourism (who knows the nature of South Ossetia very well), the karst phenomena are connected with dissolution of rocks (gypsum, lime) by natural waters and formation of a whole complex of underground and surface forms of relief: caves, cavities, natural wells, sinkholes, etc.

“Lake Erzo regularly drains into karst caves, located under the lake bed, and then returns back, depending on the “mood” of the underground waters. This is the first reason why the lake is drying up,” Vadim Pliev believes.

He added that there is no constant influx of water into the lake, apart from a few spring waters and, therefore, this is another reason why the lake dries up. Also, during the hot season, because of the large mirror, the water evaporates. And since there are three sinkholes at the bottom of the lake, the water goes underground, forming karst caves.

According to Vadim Pliev, the next reason of the lake drying up is low precipitation – rain and snow, in recent years and there is no melt water to fill the lake.

Another reason for the lake to shrink in size, according to Pliyev, was the decision of the Dzau district authorities in 1970 to drain the lake to expand the cropping area. This factor also had a detrimental effect on Erzo’s size.

“It is impossible to restore its debit, because, it is unknown what kind of work was done to drain the lake, where they dug, etc. It is better not to touch the lake and leave it as nature has created it,” said Vadim Pliev.

The creator of the Red Book of RSO, Deputy Director for Science of South Ossetian State Reserve, PhD in Biological Sciences Zaur Kabulov, said that till 1975 Lake Erzo was full-flowing and of a unique beauty. Many residents and guests used to come to the shores of the beautiful lake on weekdays and weekends to breathe in the richly fragrant air, enriched with numerous species of flowering herbaceous and woody shrubs and plants.

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There is a vast flat area near the lake on the south side. According to him, these lands were relatively moist in the past. A rich, succulent herbaceous vegetation grew here. The former state farm and the local population used to make the main fodder for animals here. Nowadays, locals and many prominent people of the town deplore the fact that the lake, full of water, has begun to shallow and receded from the shores sharply since the 80s of the last century. From the full-flowing lake in the summer and autumn period formed a few, like localized “puddles”, which later apparently will turn into swamps. No one indicates the reason for such a catastrophic situation of this pearl of the highlands. Many believe that the lake’s water is seeping into the

Kasagjin and suggest that its bottom should be concreted.

The thing is that in mid-1970s our region’s administration decided to carry out reclamation works to dry the Erzoic Hollow and sow Sosnovsky Thistle seeds, which, according to calculations, would multiply the fodder reserve. The leadership of the GSSR Ministry of Agriculture was convinced of the expediency of this measure. At that time, the state treasury was rich and large funds were allocated.

It must be mentioned, that heavy machinery was operating in Erzo locality for two years. They drained the land and thus disturbed the age-old equilibrium. As a result, the grass mass decreased, while the water level in the lake dramatically started falling. The work was not completed. The seeds of hogweed were not sown. And the initiator and “great nature changer”, who suggested draining the lake, left the territory of Ossetia in the 1980s. Since then, Lake Erzo began to shallow and is now divided into several “meadows”. This suggests that competent specialists should work in every industry, not random people who will not make such irreparable mistakes.

“It is desirable, without delay, to create a special commission of geologists, ecologists, builders and other specialists, who will study all the issues of concern and give an opinion on how to save this mountain lake,” underlined Zaur Kabulov, who is a recognized authority in South Ossetian biology.

Nature does not tolerate thoughtless development. As it seems, thoughtless and hasty decisions resulted in the drying up of Lake Erzo. And who knows, maybe in time it will completely go under the ground, and we will lose one of its attractions. That is why it makes sense to listen to the representatives of the scientific community and investigate the issue of saving the lake. It may even be possible to increase the area of the lake, which will make this region a tourist Mecca in the near future. Clearly, the issue requires close attention and resolution.

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Lake Erzo and 10 more mysterious places on Earth

A ghost town located in the Namib Desert, 10 km from the port of Luderitz. In 1908, a railroad worker, Zacarias Leval, found small diamonds in the sand. He showed his find to his foreman, who located where the wind had brought the gems from and became a multimillionaire. A town was formed at that spot: big houses, a school, a hospital, and a stadium. But the supply of diamonds quickly dried up, and it was rather difficult to live in the desert. The inhabitants left the town. Now Colmanskop is a museum town with buildings half filled with sand, bringing a slight chill of gloom and mystery.

Zone of Silence, Mexico

An anomalous desert on the border of Durango, Chihuahua and Coahuila states where it is impossible to receive and register radio and sound signals. Receivers go dead, the compass does not work, and clocks stop. Scientists have tried several times to determine the cause of the anomalies, but their conclusions are roughly as follows: something is suppressing the radio waves. Also nicknamed “Thetis Sea” after ancient ocean there are a lot of mysterious incidents: from disappearances of planes and rockets to witnesses of strange travelers leaving burnt grass and UFOs landing.

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Valley of the Mills, Italy

In the heart of Sorrento, at the bottom of the gorge that divides the city into two parts, are the ruins of a medieval town whose “highlight” was the water mills. Hence the name of the valley – Valle dei Mulini. The walls of the old mill are almost ruined, the wheel is overgrown with moss – in the middle of the modern city it is like a fragment of another world. Perhaps that’s why the Valley of the Mills is one of the favorite attractions of fans of mysticism. They believe that the mill has otherworldly inhabitants. Allegedly, laughter is sometimes heard from the gorge, and a strange light can be seen from the windows of the building.

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Dancing Forest, Russia

37 km from the Curonian Spit (Kaliningrad region) there is an unusual coniferous forest. The trunks of the trees are bizarrely curved and twisted into spirals. The forest was planted in 1961, and it is still not clear why the pines “started dancing. According to one version, the trunks of still young trees were damaged by the caterpillars of the wintering sprout. According to another one, the reason lies in the geomagnetic influence of the tectonic fracture. Ufologists see alien intelligence interference in everything. In 2006, new trees were planted in the forest to see if they would bend. So far, the saplings are growing upright.

Pluckley, UK

This place in the English county of Kent is said to be haunted by at least a dozen ghosts. On the road from Plakely to Maltman’s Hill a carriage pulled by four horses appears from time to time, a colonel’s spirit wanders through the pasture, and in one of the streets you may come across the phantom of a gallowsman. Each of the 12 ghosts has its own story. Locals say they are used to the “neighbors” from the netherworld and are no longer afraid of them. But many believe that the ghosts are a publicity stunt to attract tourists. However, to prove this, as well as the existence of ghosts, has not yet succeeded.

Jihlava Catacombs, Czech Republic

Jihlava is a city in southeastern Bohemia. One of its main attractions are 25 km long catacombs. Once they were silver mines, later they were used for household purposes. In 1996, archaeologists worked in the catacombs, who recorded that in the place specified by legends sound of an organ was heard, and in one of the passages the researchers discovered the “glowing stairs,” which emitted reddish light. Archaeologists examined – mass hallucinations were excluded. The reasons for the mysterious phenomena are unknown.

Temehea-Tohua, French Polynesia

Statues of strange creatures were found on the island of Nuku-Hiva, part of the Marquesas Archipelago, in the town of Temehea-Tohua. Disproportionate torsos, elongated heads with large mouths and eyes. Archaeologists date the creation of the mysterious statues to about X-XI centuries. Why did the natives make them? According to the official version, they are monuments to priests in ritual masks. But it is strange that the masks themselves on the island are not found. Hence the assumption that Nuku-Hiva was once visited by aliens, and the locals imprinted their appearance in stone.

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Big Blue Hole, Belize.

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Lake Paasselka, Finland

In the fall at Lake Paasselka, you can see lights wandering across the water surface. Some of them are spherical, others resemble tongues of flame. According to Finnish beliefs, they point to places where treasure is hidden. But they lure greedy people to the depths, from which even experienced swimmers find it difficult to escape. Wandering lights are also found in other parts of the world, but on Passelka they were able to be filmed. There are various accounts of the nature of the strange lights: are they electrical discharges in the atmosphere, or methane coming out of the ground and igniting, or could they be traces of UFO movement?

Lake Erzo, South Ossetia

It is a 940 meters long picturesque reservoir in the Dzau district of South Ossetia. Locals often call it a “ghost lake”, because every 5-6 years all the water disappears from the lake, and then comes back. According to a legend, in ancient times a greedy rich man lived on its shores. Angry peasants drowned him, and since then his greedy spirit occasionally drinks up all the water in the lake, and then falls into oblivion again. Geologists believe that the water flows into the karst caves at the bottom of the lake. Ufologists have their own version, as if there is an alien base under the lake.

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