Lake Natron: Where Animals Turn Into Petrified Mummies

Image: Lake Natron: Where Animals Turn Into Petrified Mummies

Thursday, 03 Oct 2013 12:10 PM

By Clyde Hughes

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His discovery of thousands of petrified animals along the shoreline of deadly Lake Natron in Tanzania has become an eerie series of images for wildlife photographer Nick Brandt.

Brandt's photographs are featured in a new exhibit at the Hasted Kraeutler Gallery in New York City, according to NBC News, and will be published in a photo anthology by Abrams Books.

The photos of animals encased in stone have found their way online, as well, NBC News reported. Brandt told NBC that the lake has created thousands of well-preserved carcasses.

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"I unexpectedly found the creatures — all manner of birds and bats — washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania," Brandt told NBC News via email. "I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in 'living' positions, bringing them back to 'life.'"

Hannes Mattson, of the Swiss Institute of Technology, told NBC News at the Ol Doinyo Legai volcano just south of Lake Natron is the reason the waterway is so deadly and unique. Mattson said the volcano is the only one in the world that releases "natrocarbonatites," an ashy runoff collected by rainwater that flows into the lake.

The murky substance captures animals landing in the lake and mummify them "like they’ve been dropped in a bucket of cement," Brandt told NBC News.

NewScientist.com reported that the alkaline tilapia, an extremophile fish that adapts to the harsh conditions, is the only animal that lives in the lake. Because of the volcano, the lake temperature hovers about 80 degrees.

"I could not help but photograph them," Brandt told NewScientist.com. "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."

The lake, which sits near the Tanzania-Kenya border, is fed by Ewaso Ngiro River, according to BirdLife.org.

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NBC News said the lake's extreme conditions has driven away larger predators and has actually made it a peaceful mating place for flamingos, as long as they don't get tempted to go after the tilapia in the water.

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