Giant hole in California lake swallows duck, sparking debate over its survival

A crowd of spectators in California surrounding Lake Berryessa's famous "Glory Hole" drain was watching the mesmerizing spillway when they spotted a duck getting pulled in by the current.

Rick Fowler was videotaping the man-made hole when what appears to be a mallard entered the frame. The group of viewers clung to a chain-link fence as they watched the heart-stopping scene unfold.

"Oh...wow!" one man can be overheard yelling in the video as the duck falls into the more than 200-foot-deep (18-story) artificial spillway in Lake Berryessa — the largest lake in Napa County. It was created by the Monticello Dam.

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Tori Junes Fowler, who told Fox News that she's Rick's cousin, posted his video on Facebook Monday. The 14-second clip has already been viewed more than 55,000 times.

"Duck took a wild ride but did make it out on the other side!" she captioned the now viral video.

Though Tori said the duck made it out of the green-hued hole, wildlife experts believe the outlook is grim for the "unlucky" duck.

Brionna Ruff, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Reclamation — a federal agency that owns the reservoir, said it's likely the duck didn't survive.

"From what I understand that water is going down really fast and when things come out the other side ... I don't want to get really graphic," Ruff told the San Francisco Chronicle. "The chances do not look good for the ducky."

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Melissa Vignau, a project supervisor for the Solano Irrigation District, told ABC 10 she also doubts the duck made it through without a scratch.

"The velocity of water going through there would have torn it in pieces," she said.

However, Rick maintains that it escaped to the other side unscathed.

"It shot out of there like a bullet."

— Rick Fowler

"It shot out of there like a bullet," he told ABC 10. "It flew through the turbulence and came out of the water shaking water like it didn't [know] what had happened."

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He confirmed to the news station that it landed in the "calmer water in the creek."

The fast-moving hole dumps excess rainwater into a pipe that spills out behind a dam.

"When the dam reaches capacity, the spillway swallows water at a rate of 48,800 cubic feet per second, emptying about 700 feet away through an enormous concrete pipe," travel site Atlas Obscura explains in a blog post, calling it the "largest drain hole in the world."