Posted 2010-10-30 04:07:24 by Bryan Swan
Measuring a waterfall may not necessarily have any practical application (at least where hydroelectric development isn't involved), other than bragging rights and sometimes for use in tourism information. But humans like to quantify things, and waterfalls have been pretty poorly quantified as a whole. Take Oregon's Watson Falls for example. For the longest time it had been suggested to stand 272 feet tall. Where this measurement came from is unknown, but upon visiting the falls in 2009, we measured it and came up with a figure of 302 feet. Thirty feet of discrepancy isn't exactly huge, but it's significant in that Watson Falls was shown to be much closer to 300 feet tall than originally thought.
Fast forward to the summer of 2010. We were contacted by some folks in the Umpqua National Forest with whom this sparked a significant level of interest, because their data had always said the falls were 272 feet tall. After dispatching a professional survey team to the falls to take much more accurate measurements than we are able to do, they determined the falls to drop 292.7 feet - 21 feet further than originally thought, and only 9 feet shy of the measurements we took - which, for a waterfall of this size, is pretty accurate considering the consumer level tools we have at our disposal.
Even though this really doesn't have any relevant bearing on anything, its still gratifying to see our work paying off in helping to further understand the natural world in ways we thought we already knew and understood. Hopefully this will not be the last time we inspire such influence and curiosity.