What floats your boat

Focus-Science and Technology - - CONTENTS - SHUT­TER­STOCK

LA ROCHE, SWITZER­LAND

De­spite the post-apoc­a­lyp­tic ap­pear­ance, the boats here are not ac­tu­ally aban­doned. Switzer­land’s Lake of Gruyère is a man­made reser­voir that ex­pe­ri­ences a yearly cy­cle of fluc­tu­at­ing wa­ter lev­els. Ev­ery year dur­ing win­ter and spring, wa­ter is re­leased from the lake in prepa­ra­tion for the melt­wa­ter of heavy snow­fall from the sur­round­ing moun­tains. In March 2018, the wa­ter level was re­duced by 15 me­tres, ren­der­ing the boats un­us­able.

The reser­voir was formed by the build­ing of a hy­dro­elec­tric dam, called the Rossens Dam, to pro­vide elec­tric­ity to the sur­round­ing vil­lages. It was con­structed in 1941 and car­ries wa­ter through an un­der­ground pipe­line to the Hau­terive gen­er­at­ing sta­tion. Here, the sta­tion utilises the hy­dro­static pres­sure pro­duced by the body of wa­ter to drive a wa­ter tur­bine and gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity. While the wa­ter level is low, the is­land of Ogoz in the cen­tre of the lake be­comes ac­ces­si­ble by foot, only for the path to be swal­lowed up by melted snow when sum­mer re­turns.

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