Tanzania is a beautiful land with vast landscapes, mountains and lakes. One of those lakes is Lake Natron, and in an astonishing place where all sorts of strange phenomena occur, as captured in these striking shots by photographer Nick Brandt.
So, what on earth is going on? Thure Cerling, professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah, suggests that the animals in Brandt’s photographs likely died of natural causes. Since there are few predators in the area, their bodies remain and become salt-encrusted when the lake’s water level drops. Brandt then turns the petrified animals into “action” shots, creating an eerie life/ death dichotomy.
Brandt suggests something slightly different.
“I unexpectedly found the creatures – all manner of birds and bats – washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania. 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 water has an extremely high soda and salt content, so high that it would strip the ink off my Kodak film boxes within a few seconds. The soda and salt causes the creatures to calcify, perfectly preserved, as they dry. I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in ‘living’ positions, bringing them back to ‘life’, as it were. Reanimated, alive again in death.” Nick Brandt
Quite apart from Lake Natron’s peculiar Medusa like qualities, and although it’s not apparent in these black and white pictures, the lake also has distinctive colour: because of the lakes cyanobacteria, the lake is red!
Because the water is so alkaline, the only fish that live in Lake Natron are alkaline tilapia (Oreochromis alcalica).
So really salty, and really hot: Daily temperatures in the area routinely reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius).