May 30, 2015 I Paul Seaburn

Mysterious Holes in Swiss Lake and Swiss Cheese Explained

Everyone knows there’s holes in Swiss cheese, but no one has been able to prove precisely where they come from. Geologists surveying the bottom of Lake Neuchâtel in Romandy, Switzerland, recently found four large perfectly-round holes (see one above) but couldn’t explain what caused them. Now both of these hole mysteries have been solved and neither was created by a corkscrew in a Swiss army knife.

Lake Neuchâtel, near the Jura Mountains, is the largest lake entirely in Switzerland (Lakes Geneva and Constance are larger but shared with other countries). According to the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers were scanning its bed with sonar in search of damage from Swiss Alps earthquakes when they found four huge craters with the largest measuring 525 feet (160 m) wide and almost 100 feet (30 m) deep.

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An illustration of a how a Lake Neuchâtel hole forms

While they look like holes caused by methane gas eruptions, temperature and sediment analyses determined that they’re actually springs fed by underground water seeping through limestone deposits from the Jura Mountains. It appears the springs have erupted, although not in at least 1,000 years. Further research is underway to determine what triggered the eruptions and if they could happen again.

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Swiss cheese and holes

The mystery of the holes in Swiss cheese has been around almost as long as the Lake Neuchâtel holes. Swiss cheese was first made around 1300 in the Emmental region of west central Switzerland. It was believed the holes were imperfections caused by carbon dioxide released by bacteria but they eventually became the cheese’s claim to fame. Researchers from Agroscope, a state center for agricultural research, were studying why the distinctive holes have been disappearing lately and found that they are actually caused by microscopic hay particles that are being removed from milk by modern ultra-fine filters. Knowing this, cheese producers can now regulate the number of hay particles in milk and control the numbers and size of holes in their Swiss cheese.

Now I need someone to explain why the Swiss army needs corkscrews.

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Halt or I'll uncork you!

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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