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The Petrifying Charm of Tanzania’s Crimson Lake: Turning Creatures to Stone with its Supernatural Touch

The Petrifying Charm of Tanzania’s Crimson Lake: Turning Creatures to Stone with its Supernatural Touch


In the north of Tanzania, right next to Kenya, there is the beautiful and extremely popular Lake Natron. It is 35 miles (56 km) long from north to south and 14 miles (22 km) wide. Most of its water comes from the hot springs and the South Ewaso Ng’iro River. However, the water flowing into the lake must pass through a layer of surrounding rock containing alkaline, so the water of the lake is very salty. And also contains a high amount of sodium carbonate decahydrate called natron, hence the name Natron lake.


The climate there is so arid that most of the small rainfall the region receives evaporates before reaching the surface. Even the water temperature is usually between 104 and 140 degrees F (40 and 60 degrees C).

Although most organisms cannot drink hot lake water, it is a perfect environment for a salt-loving microorganism called cyanobacteria. It is also what gives the lake its red color – Photosynthetic pigments in cyanobacteria are red in the deeper parts of the water, while the shallower parts of the lake are more orange-red.


Located in the north of Tanzania (Africa), Lake Natron is one of the famous lakes with magical beauty with bright red color. However, this place is also better known as the “Lake of Death”. The reason the lake has such a deadly name is that for thousands of years, any animals that stumble into the lake, their bodies are petrified in a short time. The “culprit” of this strange phenomenon at Lake Natron is a million-year-old volcano, called Ol Doinyo Lengai, located south of Lake Natron. Lava flows down from the mountain carrying a special amount of mineral salts.

While this colorful surface may be alluring in the eyes of many, it is a deadly trap for most animals. The alkaline water of Lake Natron can reach pH levels as high as 12, while conditions suitable for life are usually only near a pH level of 7. And if you bathe in this lake, the chemicals in the water will burn. burn your skin and eyes. If an organism drinks water, it will most likely die from severe damage at the cellular, nervous system and liver levels.


In fact, Lake Natron is a stagnant lake, the water can only evaporate without exchange with the outside. Lake water has a chemical called Natron – a mixture with the main ingredients being Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3) and Sodium Carbonate (Na2CO3). This substance enters the lake through eroding material from the surrounding hills. Because it cannot escape, it keeps evaporating, so the water in the lake has a very high alkaline concentration.

That said, no one really knows for sure exactly how the animals died after drinking the lake’s water.

Due to the unique characteristics of the lake, animals that die in the water are all calcified. It is often said that Lake Natron can turn these unlucky animals into stone, but in reality it is more of a mummification process. Photographer Nick Brandt captured mummified images of birds and bats that perished in the toxic waters of Lake Natron. The bizarre series of photos showcase the deadly power of Lake Natron in a truly unique way.

The carcasses of the animals that fell into the lake were very well preserved, which were wrapped in layers of cement with salt. With a pH of about 9 – 10.5 and water temperatures that can reach 140 degrees F (60 degrees C), it is believed that Lake Natron is not an ideal home for living creatures to visit.

Although Lake Natron has always been considered the end of life for most animals, the flamingo is an exception, being one of the few creatures unaffected by its toxicity. lake. In fact, they can thrive in these extreme conditions, and even choose the lake as the only natural breeding ground for more than 2.5 million flamingos – 75% of the world’s flamingos are known. Born around Lake Natron.

The reason why flamingos thrive around the area is that the lake acts as a natural barrier between their nests and predators and the different algae and cyanobacteria present in the lake are also considered food sources. This bird’s favorite food.

As toxic as it is, Lake Natron is not without life. It has a stable ecosystem that includes a population of flamingos, a species of fish and even algae. These creatures may be evolutionary descendants of earlier lake animals. They have successfully adapted and survived.

Water toxicity is not a problem for these animals: their skin is so tough that the chemicals in the lake cannot burn them. Moreover, flamingos also have a special organ in their head that helps them filter water and other chemicals when looking for food. For flamingos, the only side effect of consuming cyanobacteria is their feathers turning pink.

Lake Natron is a prime example of a natural wonder, and it is also the home and breeding ground of the endangered flamingo species.



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