The Mysterious Lake That Turns Animals To Stone

By Morris M. on Saturday, October 5, 2013
natron
“Oh, why am I not of stone, like you?” —Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

In A Nutshell

In the darkest recesses of Tanzania, a quiet lake hides a formidable secret. Any animal that dies in its waters is preserved and later washed up on shore, appearing to be turned to stone. This effect is due to the extremely high salt and soda content in the water.

The Whole Bushel

Lake Natron isn’t exactly a pleasant place. With an alkalinity level somewhere between a pH of 9 and 10.5 and a temperature that frequently exceeds 60 °C (140 °F), it could make a good punt for being one of the most inhospitable environments on Earth. But Lake Natron isn’t content with just killing off whatever life tries to get a toehold in its ash-encrusted waters. Like a demented cross between Medusa and King Midas, it will turn any visitor that overstays its welcome into a creepy fossil.

See, Lake Natron is absolutely bursting with soda and salt. According to one photographer who visited, the levels of concentration were so high it could strip the ink off Kodak film boxes “in seconds.” They might find it difficult to get out if they’ve stayed in too long, or they might be confused by the lake’s appearance as the locals claim. Either way, the eerie result is a shoreline littered with statue-like bodies—the calcified remains of dozens of birds and bats that foolishly tried to test the waters. In short, Lake Natron may well be the creepiest graveyard in history.

Now, a couple of scientists who have examined the lake suggest it’s misleading to claim the animals turn to stone. For one thing, the levels of calcium in the water probably aren’t high enough to truly calcify the creatures, instead coating them with a layer of sodium carbonate. But for our purposes, it’s safe to say that anything that goes into Lake Natron will come out both dead and looking like Han Solo after losing a battle with Carbonite.

Show Me The Proof

Deadly lake turns animals into statues
NatGeo: Unusual Pictures — “Calcified” Birds, Bats Found at African Lake
Any Animal That Touches This Lethal Lake Turns to Stone

  • Rijul Ballal

    So they get stoned eh?

    • Hillyard

      Hah, very good. Off to get calced.

  • Sam W

    They should spray the lake with a strong acid i.e Hydro-chloric Acid or Sulfuric Acid

    • Happyspanners

      Why would they want to neutralise it?

  • The Annoyed Elephant

    No, it doesn’t turn animals instantly to stone.

    http://www.geekosystem.com/natron-birds/

  • Vikingdude01 .

    Yeah, this is a bunch of nonsense. There is no way a lake could ever instantly turn living things to stone, it’s just common sense. The calcified birds that were found there died on the lake and then washed up on shore much later, the calcification process isn’t as quick as dipping your toe in the water and having it turned into a pebble. Additionally, calcification isn’t the same thing as turning things to stone. http://www.geekosystem.com/natron-birds/

    • celeѕтнra

      That’s what I thought too. If the lake instantly turns living things to stone, I’d call it sorcery!

    • Stillstrugglingattimes

      Of course it’s a bunch of nonsense, Viking. It was meant to be a play on words and fables, and not to be taken literally at all. Have you no sense imagination, or concept of artistic liberties in literature? Very sad I think. That you feel the need to explain your take on something a child would have picked up on whilst reading the article speaks volumes for this sites viewership… or on you anyway. Again, sad.

      • Vikingdude01 .

        I’m not a regular on this site, for some reason I still ‘like’ the Listverse site on Facebook. I’m obviously a moron for thinking that a site called “Knowledge nuts” would offer any actual knowledge whatsoever, just some good old 18th century hearsay and journalistic sensationalism! And perhaps you should get some of those children you’re talking into a meeting with the editorial board at People since they fell for this story http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20740982,00.html

        • Stillstrugglingattimes

          Either way, whether you’re a regular or not, I should not have been such a pretentious ass to you or to anyone else voicing their opinions. For that, my sincerest apologies, Vikingdude. Hope you have a great week, and know that in the future I shall enjoy reading your post instead of trashing them. Good-bye, Sir.

          • Vikingdude01 .

            No problem. Thanks for apologizing, that doesn’t happen too often online. Have a nice day :)

    • edzyl blane

      Well, if the title didn’t say animals would turn into stone, would you still read it? It’s good to lie a little just to make the title more striking.

      • Scraphead

        The lie is not just in the title. They also go on saying that anything getting into the water dies, which is far from the truth.

    • Exiled Phoenix

      No more believable than god creating all life in 6 days. Then needing a break for a day. But at least being coated with sodium carbonate can be proven scientifically.

      • Ian Moone

        Why is every comment you make about how God doesn’t exist? I’m also an atheist and I agree with what you’re saying but this is completely irrelevant to this article.

        • Exiled Phoenix

          It tasks me…..

    • Scraphead

      Yup, read about this at livescience.com as well, where they point out that the lake supports a great ecosystem with many species living in it.

      http://www.livescience.com/40135-photographer-rick-brandt-lake-natron.html

      • http://www.seguebythesea.com/ segue

        Livescience, and NatGeo, is where I read the original, and much more accurate, article too. At no point did the article there, or the book on which the article was based, claim animals are “instantly turned to stone”.
        I hate when a perfectly wonderful bit of fact is bent like this. The fact is sufficiently amazing, why try to make it something ridiculous and impossible?

  • Maksym Kammerer
  • Maksym Kammerer
  • fozz

    Good place for fossilization?

  • Happyspanners

    “High content of soda” do you mean ‘sodium’? I know that ‘soda lakes’ are lakes with a high pH level…

  • Marco

    Well, it’s a step away from the usual highly opinionated, polarized and one-side misogyny we’ve come to expect of Morris M. Too bad the attempt is utter shite. Overly sensationalist, contradictory, factually inaccurate, and a crap Star Wars reference.

  • David Solomon

    Can someone tell me how to submit a piece for KnowledgeNuts? Having trouble figuring this out. I have a great idea yet to be covered. Thanks!

  • Dale Pearl

    It would have been nice if the photo demonstrated the effect.

  • Doone00

    Morris, do you read YourDailyMedia or Ebaumsworld? This article was already done several days ago, as was the Medusa metaphor in it.

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