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Merzbacher, a lake in Kyrgyzstan that mysteriously empties itself

Christian Fernsby |
A seeral day trek will take you to Merzbacher Lake, a lake far away from anything in Kyrgyzstan.


Merzbacher Lake is located on the confluence of the Inylchek Glacier in one of the most inaccessible regions of the Tian Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

Every spring, when the frozen lake melts, the lake’s waters breaks off chunks of ice.

The lake filled with drifting icebergs is a great sight by itself but there is more to it.

The lake constitutes a phenomenon "proglacial lake", a lake dammed by a glacier. Merzbacher Lake repeatedly gets emptied just to get refilled soon after. The melt water fills up the lake in the summer months up to two meters per day. When the lake is filled, it bursts out and completely empties itself within just three days.

The release of the water occurrs when the dam of ice buoys upwards and opens up a number of glacial channels in the damming glacier. The water then discharges through the glacier into the valley on the other side of the ice, where it flows into the Inylchek River. When the lake has emptied, the ice dam lowers, thereby blocking the glacial channels.

As a result, the lake begins to fill up again.

The cycle of the emptying and subsequent refilling of the lake occurrs at least once per year, in some years even twice but it is very difficult to estimate the timing when the emptying begins.

It usually takes place in August, but in some years it has occurred as early as July. Because of the difficult estimate to reach the lake at the right time, so far only very few people have witnessed the phenomenon.


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