A Thirsty Ground

Lake Cerknica in Slovenia is a true natural wonder, mentioned by Strabo in his Geographica, studied by Valvasor (who became a member of the Royal Society because of his exposé on the lake), and cherished by generations of people who live on its banks. Because of the limestone karst on its northwestern edge it is an intermittent lake; it fills up with the spring rains and melting snow, and it disappears during the long hot summer, when the ground is thirsty.

This semi-regular filling and drying up of the lake baffled the early explorers, and spurred many ill-conceived ideas about “bettering” the unpredictable lake. They tried to dry it up completely, digging a bunch of canals, so they would have more land to till. Then they wanted to make it a permanent lake, for tourism and hydroelectricity. But the moody Lake Cerknica never surrendered to the hubris; the outflows are too small to gulp all the excess water, and the karst limestone is too porous to dam it and stop it from drying up.

So Lake Cerknica still ebbs and flows as it did for millennia and will keep doing until the end of times. This intriguing interplay of water, stone and air created a unique ecosystem of wetlands, springs, streams, sinkholes and caves. Many endemic species of flora and fauna thrive here, and the lake is a treasure for botanists, ecologists, geologists, hydrologists and the like; for people who live with the lake since times immemorial, and for all the visitors who are entranced with its ever changing beauty.

Many times we flew our kite above Lake Cerknica, and it always shows us a different face. This time, at the end of the hot summer its waters were almost gone; streams were flowing lazily across the plain, the lake retreated to its deepest parts, and the sinkholes were empty and dry.

Always mesmerising from the air – Lake Cerknica.

Kite aerial photos shot with a Nikon P330 on The Spark rokkaku.

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