Lake Natron in Tanzania is one of the deadliest lakes in the world, turning animals to stone that come into contact with its salt-laden water. While it may sound like a mythological tale, this strange phenomenon is a reality that poses a threat to the animals that inhabit the area. The lake is a crucial mating ground for lesser endangered flamingos, but the animals risk being turned to stone by its salt-laden shores. Scientists attribute the hostile conditions to the nearby Ol Doinyo Lengai, the only active volcano that emits natrocarbonatites, which feeds into the lake through stream channels and contributes to its harsh alkalinity of over pH 10.
Bacteria that give the water its blood-red tone are some of the only organisms that can tolerate the lake’s fatal salt concentration and alkalinity, with only flamingos, which eat up the water’s nutrient-rich cyanobacteria, flocking to the area for mating. Even they cannot escape the merciless conditions of the salt lake, and they can fall victim to being encrusted at the shore. As photographer Nick Brandt notes in his book “Across the Ravaged Land,” he discovered all manner of birds and bats washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron. While no one knows precisely how they die, the water has an incredibly high soda and salt content, stripping the ink off his Kodak film boxes within seconds.
Aside from corpses, Lake Natron has had a role in preserving history from as far back as 19,000 years. In 2016, geologists found more than 400 human footprints in the mudflat of Lake Natron’s shore, recording traces of our ancestors, their activities, and behavior during the latest Pleistocene along the margin of Lake Natron in Tanzania. The mud that preserved these footprints is believed to have washed down from the Ol Doinyo Lengai, with high quantities of ash detected. Then, the surface would have dried out in days or even hours, preserving the prints.
While Lake Natron may seem like a remote and isolated place, the impact of Climate change on the environment in Tanzania is a concern for the entire world. Rising global temperatures have been causing weather patterns to shift and intensify, leading to droughts, flooding, and extreme weather events. These changes have a devastating impact on people, wildlife, and the environment. As such, it is vital to take action to reduce our carbon footprint and protect the planet for future generations.
The strange phenomenon of Lake Natron, turning animals to stone, is a clear example of how the environment can be harsh and unforgiving. It reminds us of our duty to protect the planet and the creatures that inhabit it. We can start by taking small steps towards sustainability, such as using public transportation or walking instead of driving, reducing waste, and conserving energy. By doing so, we can reduce our carbon footprint and help protect our planet for future generations.
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