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   Nirvana  Friday Oct 4 12:04 AM

Lake Natron Oct 4th, 2013

In 2011, when he was traveling to shoot photos for a new book on the disappearing wildlife of East Africa, Across the Ravaged Land, photographer Nick Brandt came across a truly astounding place: A natural lake that seemingly turns all sorts of animals into stone.

“When I saw those creatures for the first time alongside the lake, I was completely blown away,” says Brandt. “The idea for me, instantly, was to take portraits of them as if they were alive.”

Attachment 45575

The ghastly Lake Natron, in northern Tanzania, is a salt lake—meaning that water flows in, but doesn’t flow out, so it can only escape by evaporation. Over time, as water evaporates, it leaves behind high concentrations of salt and other minerals, like at the Dead Sea and Utah’s Great Salt Lake.

Unlike those other lakes, though, Lake Natron is extremely alkaline, due to high amounts of the chemical natron (a mix of sodium carbonate and baking soda) in the water. The water’s pH has been measured as high as 10.5—nearly as high as ammonia. “It’s so high that it would strip the ink off my Kodak film boxes within a few seconds,” Brandt says.

As you might expect, few creatures live in the harsh waters, which can reach 140 degrees Fahreinheit—they’re home to just a single fish species (Alcolapia latilabris), some algae and a colony of flamingos that feeds on the algae and breeds on the shore.

Frequently, though, migrating birds crash into the lake’s surface. Brandt theorizes that the highly-reflective, chemical dense waters act like a glass door, fooling birds into thinking they’re flying through empty space (not long ago, a helicopter pilot tragically fell victim to the same illusion, and his crashed aircraft was rapidly corroded by the lake’s waters). During dry season, Brandt discovered, when the water recedes, the birds’ desiccated, chemically-preserved carcasses wash up along the coastline.

“It was amazing. I saw entire flocks of dead birds all washed ashore together, lemming-like,” he says. “You’d literally get, say, a hundred finches washed ashore in a 50-yard stretch.”


blueboy56  Friday Oct 4 12:20 PM

Also, natron was one of the ingredients used in the process of Egyptian mummification. This was strangely interesting.

footfootfoot  Friday Oct 4 02:37 PM

It's also why Sodium, the element, is Na. (Natrium)

Gravdigr  Friday Oct 4 04:13 PM

He posed the carcasses for those pics. No shit.

BigV  Wednesday Oct 9 12:08 PM

Originally Posted by Gravdigr View Post
He posed the carcasses for those pics. No shit.

Like every other person who ever took a picture of their thanksgiving turkey before carving it.

Happy Monkey  Wednesday Oct 9 12:27 PM

He would have had to. The critters are petrified, but the lake isn't Medusa; it can't turn them to stone while they're sitting on a branch.

Sundae  Wednesday Oct 9 03:36 PM

Fascinating Nirv, thank you.
I was waiting for the flamingos, I know their habitatas.
Real ones tat is, not plastic; they might occasionally surprise me.

Posing dead animals for photos is creepy?
The Victorians posed their dead rellies.
I spose it was ideal when you had to hold a pose for a long time before it was captured.

Adak  Thursday Oct 10 11:13 AM

There was a nature documentary on the flamingos that breed around the lake some time back.

Heart breaking though, as the chicks that are born late, can't fly before the salt begins building up on their feet - and dooming them to be abandoned by their parents, and anchored eventually in place, by the build up of the salt encrusting their feet.

Those chicks are born, suffer from the salt and heat, and die. That's it for them.

Happy Monkey  Thursday Oct 10 12:00 PM

Probably a Sisyphean task, but here is what some folks do about that. The video shows people knocking the salt off their legs. Oddly, the rest of the web page makes no mention of the phenomenon.

BigV  Friday Oct 11 12:45 PM

impressive find, Happy Monkey.

glatt  Friday Oct 11 12:49 PM

Weird video. You'd think the legs would get hurt, hitting them with a hammer like that to clear the salt.

xoxoxoBruce  Wednesday Oct 16 03:20 PM

The salt isn't tight to the leg like a ring, it's loose like a bracelet. The shock from the hammer isn't transmitted to the leg... if he doesn't swing like 3foot.

footfootfoot  Thursday Oct 17 07:25 AM


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