Lake Natron (Northern Tanzania) is one of the harshest places on Earth. The temperatures in the lake are rising up to (140 °F) 60 °C.
With its chemical composition and deadly temperature to most life forms it holds the curious ability to not only lull birds and other animals into its clutches and to their dooms, but also turns them into stone statues.
On the shores of this mysterious African lakes are bizarre corpses of various animals that have the appearance of being made of rock, as if the waters of this stygian lake have turned them into stone caricatures of what they were before; a macabre testament to the wondrous and often strange powers of nature. Why then animals still go into this hellish place?
The extreme reflective nature of the lake’s surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass window, they crash into the lake’s surface. The water has an extremely high salt and soda content. The salt and soda causes the animals to calcify, perfectly preserved as they dry. Usually clocking at around 80 degrees, the Lake Natron is the home to swarms of bacteria, the alkaline tilapia (Alcolapia alcalica) and other life forms that have adapted to the challenging conditions on this lake.
Lake Natron lies within the Arusha Region of northern Tanzania, close to its border with Kenya. It is a saline and soda lake that is 57 km (35 mi) long and 22 km (14 mi) wide and mostly shallow reaching depths about 3 m (9.8 feet).
The lake is named for natron, a natural compound consisting of sodium carbonate. It is the same mineral the Egyptians used to preserve their mummies. Natron comes from volcanic ash that comes from the Great Rift Valley and goes into the lake. Because of the high amounts of natron, animals that die in the lake become calcified, preserved in an eerie, statue-like state.
Though the lake is known for its darker traits, the lake’s annual role in a more upbeat occurrence redeems the harsh lake, but just a little. It is the most important and regular breeding site in East Africa for about 3/4 of Lesser Flamingo populations in the whole world. The flamingos are very important source of income through tourism for Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia. In East Africa about 1.5-2.5 million Lesser Flamingos live representing the main world population of these amazing birds and most of them are hatched right at Lake Natron. There is a plenty of food and nesting sites. And above all, the lake is isolated and undisturbed.
Each year millions of lesser flamingos nest on the salt islands that form in the lake, and many of them risk their life because of the possibility of turning into a stone.
As the calcified remains of a flamingo in the photos reveals, the Natron Lake’s shallow waters remain a menacing foe. Only invertebrates, a few algae and some fish that live near the edges of that lake can survive this deadly environment.