The New Scientist reports that a bizarre lake in northern Tanzania is turning animals into calcified statues. Lake Natron, named for the compound that occurs naturally in its waters, looks like a description directly out of Dante’s Divine Comedy: a black, sullen swamp where the cruel and vindictive meet their fate, although the birds who perish there could hardly be labeled as such.
Unless you’re a species that’s adapted to extremely harsh conditions, Lake Natron is a difficult environment to survive. The waters’ alkalinity tested somewhere between pH 9 and 10.5, dangerously basic due to years of volcanic ash spreading sodium carbonate throughout the Great Rift valley.
Although the lake is home to thousands of flamingos that nest near its waters and feed on a diet of alkaline tilapia, any other animals that make the mistake of swimming there will die and become petrified statues.
Photographer Nick Brandt participated in a 2011 photo-eye blog which featured his images from the alkaline part of the lake. BE WARNED: these images may be slightly disturbing.
Brandt posed the animals as part of his photography. This image features a dove on the left, and a sea eagle on the right. When photo-eye asked Brandt about his recent work, he said that “The photos, darker in tone than previous work, reflect the further ongoing diminishing of the natural world of Africa.”
When he discovered their skeletons strangely preserved on the shores of the lake, Brandt recalled, “I could not help but photograph them… 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.”
Brandt’s series of photos about the animals has been called ‘The Calcified,’ which is itself part of his “Across The Ravaged Land” exhibition on east African animals, which you can find dates and places for right here.
[Main Image via this hi-def YouTube footage of the beautiful part of Lake Natron with living animals]
[Article images via Nick Brandt/New Scientist]