OK, I will state that I do not like the word “fart.” It’s crude and vulgar, and I never use the word. But golly gee whillikers, it’s a hilarious description for the booming sounds that burp out of Seneca Lake! LOL. I’ll get to that odd phenomenon in a minute.
Seneca Lake is one of the Finger Lakes. The Finger Lakes are a cluster of eleven lakes in New York’s central/western area. Seven of these lakes are considered “Finger” Lakes, so named because mapmakers thought they looked like a handprint on New York’s geography.
Photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Fingerlakesmap.png.
Seneca Lake is the second-longest of the Finger Lakes, but it has the most volume: 4.2 trillion gallons (16 km³). It’s deepest area is (gulp) 618 feet (188 m) deep. The lake is fed by underground springs, which keep the lake from freezing during the cold winters. The surface of the lake may even reach 70-80 degrees, due to its tremendous depth.
And the lake is a looooong one– 38 miles long. We traveled from Geneva to Watkins Glen (top to bottom) and it seemed to take FOREVER. The views were very nice, though. We stopped off at a few places to snap some photos. There’s a lovely park in Geneva with a magnificent view of the lake.
Seneca Lake has loads of wineries up and down its fertile shoulders. The views are just spectacular. This is a photo of Seneca Lake behind Glenora Winery. You can see how narrow the lake is.
Seneca Lake has a quirky phenomenon, as I mentioned: lake farts. The locals call it “Seneca Drums” or “Guns of the Seneca” (yah, I’d be ashamed to say I lived near “lake farts,” too). The sound is reported to be that like cannons booming, or a sonic booming, or distant thunder even though the entire sky is clear of clouds. The booms can be so loud as to produce shockwaves that rattle dishes in the cupboards.
People have NO IDEA where the noise comes from. It’s been going on for centuries. The Iroquois tribes, who lived here over 200 years ago, have a whole legend around it. The Seneca Indians believed the sounds were from the Great Spirit, who was still shaping the earth after creation. Another legend says the god of thunder is grumbling about something.
There’s been some speculation that perhaps the sounds come from the natural gas under the lake, when the gas bursts forth from cracks at the lake’s bottom (New York State has enormous deposits of underground natural gas). But the problem with that is natural gas emissions usually show bubbles, and sometimes even flames, on the surface of the water. Seneca Lake remains calm when the lake far– oops, “Seneca Drums” starting bongo-ing. Other explanations are that the lake sits on shifting tectonic plates, but there is no evidence at all for that explanation. So the Seneca Drums remains a strange mystery. Seneca Lake is a beautiful lake. I wouldn’t let the threat of indigestion keep me away.
And just for the record– these booms occur in other areas of the world, too. They have been heard in India, in the Ganges Valley– the Indians call them “Barisol Guns.” They are called “uminari” in Japan, and “brontidi” in Italy. Here in the U.S.A., they can also be heard in Connecticut, on the North Carolina coast, and in another one of New York’s Finger Lakes, Cayuga Lake. Weird!
To learn more about tourism at New York’s Finger Lakes, see www.fingerlakes.org.