Mother Nature has numerous surprises in store for us. Everything that nature has to offer is dramatic in some sense or the other but at times all it takes a good photographer to add the extra dash of drama that keeps resonating in our brains. The story of Lake Natron falls in this category. This already weird lake was given a whole new creepy image by photographer Nick Brandt who captured some images that can rightly tagged as world’s most phantasmagorical photographs ever! So, what’s the big deal with this lake? What did Brandt capture in his camera that makes this lake even spookier than what it already is? Let us 30 interesting Lake Natron facts that the story of Brandt to find the answers of these questions.
Interesting Lake Natron Facts: 1-10
1. Located in Tanzania, Lake Natron is a soda lake or a salt lake that can be found in Arusha Region.
2. It is a dead-end lake which means that the lake doesn’t drain into any river or sea.
3. The principal feeder of this lake is Southern Ewaso Ng’iro River that originates in Central Kenya.
4. This shallow lake is also fed by hot springs that are rich in minerals. When we say shallow, we mean pretty shallow. The maximum depth of the lake is 9.8 feet or 3 meters only.
5. Despite its shallow depth, the lake is quite big in length and breadth. It runs 57 kilometers in length and 22 kilometers in width but the width can occasionally vary depending on water level.
6. The lake is known for its consistent high temperature. The average temperature of the lake is 40˚C or 104˚F but occasionally, its temperature peaks at 60˚C.
7. The lake is extremely salty. The alkalinity of the lake stays at an average level of 10.5 but there are times when the pH levels can reach as high as 12.
8. The bed rock surrounding the lake belongs to the Pleistocene period and is composed of trachyte lava that is dominated by sodium content.
9. The lava has low levels of magnesium and calcium and high levels of carbonate which makes the lake water a concentrated caustic alkaline brine.
10. During summer months, the lake water evaporates significantly, thus increasing the overall salinity of the lake. This is when halophile organisms thrive. Halophiles are micro-organisms that thrive in salty conditions and use photosynthesis for making food.
Interesting Lake Natron Facts: 11-20
11. Most abundant halophile microbe at Lake Natron is the cyanobacteria. This bacterium has a red pigment that it uses for photosynthesis.
12. It is this red pigment of the cyanobacteria that gives the characteristic red color to the open waters of the lake and orange color to the shallow water of the lake.
13. The lake also supports a few other life forms that include some endemic birds, invertebrates and algae.
14. About 2.5 million lesser flamingoes (a species of flamingoes) use the lake as their regular breeding ground. They thrive on the cyanobacteria which grow in numbers when the salinity of the lake increases. Increased numbers of cyanobacteria means more nests of lesser flamingoes.
15. The reason these birds choose Lake Natron as their breeding ground is that the extremely harsh and inhospitable conditions keep away predators. The evaporite islands that form seasonally are the most preferred nesting grounds for these birds.
16. The two endemic or native fish species that live in Lake Natron are A. ndalalani and Alcolapia latilabris. Both of these are alkaline tilapias.
17. Another fish species known as A. alcalica lives in the lake too but it is not native to the lake.
18. The sodium carbonate and other alkaline minerals that are deposited into the lake are actually washed down the surrounding hills. The lake also has large amounts of deposits of sodium carbonate that was once used for Egyptian mummification.
19. Because of the extreme salinity of the lake, many media reports surfaced which stated that any animal that comes in contact with the water gets turned into stone immediately. This is definitely not true because the lake has a thriving ecosystem.
20. Nick Brandt’s exquisite photograph did add up to this delusion of the lake killing animals coming in contact with the water despite the fact that Brandt specifically mentioned that he had no idea how the animals died
Interesting Lake Natron Facts: 21-30
21. Nick found a series of dead animals washed up along the shorelines of the lake. These dead animals included birds and bats.
22. Brandt noticed that the dead animals had chalky deposits of sodium carbonate outlined on their bodies that created a sharp relief.
23. All he did was to grab those dead animals and put them in lifelike position to photograph them.
24. The photographs he captured definitely casts a notion that these animals died just by coming in contact with the water or because of the extremely harsh atmospheric conditions.
25. Irrespective of the reason for the death of these creatures, the photographs have become iconic and are considered as world’s most phantasmagorical photographs.
26. The lake is today facing enormous dangers. A hydroelectric power plant is supposed to be set up in Kenya Ewaso Ng’iro River.
27. Once the power plant is place, it will lead to huge influx of siltation which will disrupt the salinity balance of Lake Natron.
28. Yet another threat is from the proposed soda ash plant (a joint venture between National Development Corporation of Tanzania and Tata Chemicals Ltd of Mumbai, India) supposed to the set up on the shores of this lake.
29. The plant is supposed to extract sodium carbonate from the lake so that it can be converted to washing powder and exported.
30. Worst part is that there are no protection plans in place. Simply put, it will be a mayhem on Lake Natron’s biodiversity, specially the lesser flamingoes in East Africa because that lake is their only nesting ground. Thus, these birds can just become extinct in East Africa.