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Lake Natron ― A Lake That Turns Animals To Stones

Lake Natron ― A Lake That Turns Animals To Stones

Lake Natron is one of the two alkaline lakes in East Africa; the other is Lake Bahi. Both are terminal lakes — which means that the water flows in, but it doesn't flow out, so it can only escape through evaporation. Over time, as water evaporates, it leaves behind high concentrations of salt and other minerals, such as the Dead Sea and Utah Great Salt Lake.

Its rare red color makes Natron Lake a very unique and beautiful destination. The color varies from orange to red, to pink, and is produced by salt-loving microorganisms called halophiles, that thrive in its salty waters – the vermillion shade is even more stunning at the end of the dry season, when the water level is particularly low.

Lake Natron is known to be one of the most inhospitable sites for the majority of fauna on the continent of Africa. The alkaline water in Lake Natron has a pH as high as 10.5, and the temperature can reach up to 60 °C. It's so caustic that it can burn the skin and eyes of animals that are not adapted to it. The alkalinity of the water comes from sodium carbonate and other minerals that flow from the active volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai.

Although it has the most alkaline waters, Lake Natron supports the ecosystem of salt marshes, freshwater wetlands, flamingos, and other wetland birds whose bodies are adapted to such pH levels.

Besides this, over 2 million lesser flamingos use the shallow lake as their primary breeding ground in Africa during the breeding season. The nests of the Flamingos are built on small islands that form in the lake during the dry season.

While it may be a paradise for salt-loving microorganisms, but many creatures cannot survive in such alkaline waters if they fall into the water they die and turn to stone. The animals don't die immediately and turn to stone when they touch the lake. But what actually happens is that the bodies of animals that died in the lake are preserved by the sodium carbonate minerals and other salts that make the lake so unique. It is the same substance that was once used in ancient Egypt to preserve mummies.

Nick Brandt, who photographed these calcified animals in 2010 and 2012, told NBC News in an e-mail, "I unexpectedly found the creatures — all manner of birds and bats — washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania," "I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in 'living' positions, bringing them back to life."

Brandt was captivated by the exceptionally well-preserved bodies of bats, flamingos, eagles, and swallows, and he created a series of photographs to document the mysterious phenomenon.

Due to its unique biodiversity, on 4 July 2001, Tanzania placed the Lake Natron Basin on the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The lake is also the eco-region of the World Wildlife Fund East African Halophytics.

3 Responses to "Lake Natron ― A Lake That Turns Animals To Stones"

  1. Partially true. This lake does in fact provide a thriving ecosystem and is a breeding ground for Flamingos. Touching the lake does not bring instant death. However those who die in the lake do her coated with a stoney substance. The photographer posed the bodies he found the photographed them to make it appear they died and turned to stone instantly.

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