Is Lake Anna really bottomless? Does Lake Erie feed the lake or have you heard that O.C Barber’s daughter drowned there? These are myths that some Barberton locals swear by. But are they myths or are they branched from fact or some form of truth? Myths like these have sent me down a path doing interviews and ultimately setting out to invest in a small robotic voyage to get to the bottom of it.

It was April 2019 and I found myself sitting on a bench at Lake Anna during a work break. I was listening to a new audio book about political history of the United States but found myself thinking about the history of Lake Anna instead. I already knew a lot about the lake’s history but found myself contemplating and myths. I remember thinking “it would be cool to explore the lake and film it“. Recently finished watching a documentary about James Cameron and his research for the movie “Titanic” left a small impression on me and weighed heavy on my decision to explore the floor of Lake Anna.

I found myself walking to the Barberton Library that neighbors the lake. The local history room is one of my favorite places to visit. While there, I was hoping to browse some old photographs. By coincidence, I stumble upon an image of a city truck in 1977 that had fallen through the ice at Lake Anna. This photo was taken in an era where the public would ice skate on the lake. Finding this image and recently thinking about the myths of Lake Anna, I decided to post it to Social Media. The post quickly became one of my most popular Facebook posts. It opened my eyes to interest of Lake Anna’s history, myths, and legends.

City Truck Falls Through Ice at Lake Anna 1977
A Barberton City truck falls through Ice at Lake Anna while clearing snow off the ice in January 1977. Photo Credit: Barberton Public Library

As the myths and Hersey started flowing in from the community, I could not help but realize that I was witnessing community come together to share stories. To me, documenting history from the perspective of locals is invaluable. With community coming alive over a mere social media post, I wondered. How would the community rally with an organized effort to really explore Lake Anna?

A Brief History of Lake Anna

Lake Anna was formerly known as Davis Pond. Contrary to some belief, Lake Anna was not man made nor was it in the geometric shape as we know it today. The small body of water was surrounded by swamp and was formed by a glacier about 15,000 years ago. I have found that some confusion comes from a man-made lake named Lake Anna as well. The State Park is located in Virginia and may be mistaken as Barberton’s lake when doing a quick search online.

The indigenous people thought the waters held mystical healing powers. Even in recent history, some would bath in the lake to cleanse themselves of sickness. Davis Pond was renamed “Lake Anna” shortly after Barberton was founded. The Lake was named after O.C Barber’s daughter, Anna Laura Barber.

Barberton’s first map was created by William A. Johnson, a developer hired to establish Barberton’s layout. Johnson used the lake as a central point of the new city and worked outward. Johnson’s designs called for the lake and surrounding land to be roughly 20 acres of park land.

William A Johnson, the original developer hired to develop Barberton’s drawing of Barberton.

The history of Lake Anna adds multiple levels of excitement. You can easily fall a victim to a black hole of questions. Given that the lake was believed to be mythical, was it plausible to think there were sacrificial offerings on some level. If there were offerings of any kind, are they still there? I don’t expect to find anything out of the ordinary but questions start arising the more I dig.

The Project Details

Recently, I started investing the possibilities of actually moving forward with a plan to explore the bottom of Lake Anna. I wanted to use skills I had along with technology to provide a glimpse into the depths the water.

After a handful of 3d models, drawings, multiple beta circuits and 5 different cameras, I decided to go with a boat and a submersible camera. My first thought was to create a simple submarine and control it remotely. “Simple” was an understatement. There was nothing simple about it. Due to the complexities of a submersible and the cost, I settled on a carrier device with electronics to lower a fancy ROV with a camera.

First version of the ROV that will be tethered to the carrier device. The center cylinder will house a camera and the outer cylinders will hold the flood lights.

The goal of the project is to finally get answers to [some] myths while providing a new perspective. I want to use a camera with lights and sonar to map the bottom of Lake Anna. We can expose a new side of Lake Anna we have not seen before and it is exciting.

The project is in its early stages which means we are just testing theories and designing a proof of concept currently. There is still a long way to go, but I am hoping we can start launching the tools in early spring 2020. I will be updating as there are developments as well as sharing images, video and other information when available.

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