Lake Turns Animals Into 'Statues'

Tanzania's Lake Natron, probably not a great swimming hole

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 2, 2013 3:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – We would strongly advise you not to go swimming in Tanzania's Lake Natron. Animals who are immersed in the water not only die, they're calcified and turned into creepy-looking "statues," New Scientist reports. Why is it so inhospitable? Alkalinity is extremely high (between pH 9 and pH 10.5); water temperatures can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit; and it's full of a naturally occurring compound that comes from volcanic ash. The compound, natron, consists mainly of sodium carbonate with some sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).

Photographer Nick Brandt discovered the statue-like birds and bats along the shore. "I could not help but photograph them," he says. "No one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake's surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake." He adds on his blog, "The extremely high soda content of the lake preserves them." Lesser flamingos sometimes nest on salt islands formed in the lake, but they occasionally fall victim as well, as you can see in Brandt's photos. (In other disturbing water news, our oceans are careening toward mass extinction.)

In this 2009 file photo, lesser flamingoes are seen at Lake Natron, Tanzania. (These birds are fine; see New Scientist for images of the "statue" birds.)   (AP Photo/James Warwick, File)
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