Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Secrets of the Phantom Ship

March 16, 2009, 8:22 am

When it comes to pioneering research on the formation of Crater Lake, world-famous volcanologist Howel Williams has long towered among earth-science experts.

His definitive 1941 treatise "The Geology of Crater Lake National Park" is the geological bible for many studying the creation of the nation's deepest lake.

But two Southern Oregon University geology students are challenging the late University of California-Berkeley professor's theory on how the Phantom Ship rock formation was created on the southeastern side of the caldera.

Seniors Nick Brettner, 25, who hails from the San Francisco area, and Levi McKay, 21, of Nephi, Utah, say it wasn't magma rising up from a crack in the earth that formed the popular rock feature as Williams postulated.

Rather, their research has determined the formation was part of the mighty Mount Mazama before it blew its top some 7,700 years ago, and that erosion cutting down through layers of rock carved the ship shape.