African Lake Turns Animals Into Statues

Animals that die in Lake Natron are calcified and preserved. Nick Brandt

The conditions of Lake Natron in northern Tanzania are so harsh that most wildlife knows to avoid it.

The shallow lake can reach temperatures of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and it’s so salty that it’s poisonous to most animals.

Despite its deadly characteristics, Lake Natron is the primary breeding ground for lesser flamingos. When salt islands form, the birds nest on them and feed off the algae that grows in its water.

The lake got its name because it contains natron, a naturally occurring compound made mostly of sodium carbonate that comes from volcanic ash from the Great Rift Valley.

Animals that die in its waters are calcified and preserved — essentially turning them into statues.

When photographer Nick Brandt discovered the birds, bats and other animals washed up along the lake’s shoreline, he said he "could not help but photograph them."

"No one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake’s surface confuses them, causing them to crash into the lake," he said.

Brandt took the calcified carcasses and positioned them before snapping their photos.

"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," he said. "Reanimated, alive again in death."

Take a look at some of his photos which appear in a book titled "Across the Ravaged Land."

Nick Brandt photo of animal calcified by Lake Natron
Nick Brandt photo of animal calcified by Lake Natron
Nick Brandt photo of animal calcified by Lake Natron
Nick Brandt photo of animal calcified by Lake Natron

Lake Natron from the sky

Brandt isn't the only one fascinated by Lake Natron.

In the image below, Lake Natron was captured from above by NASA's Landsat 8 satellite, showing off its seasonal scarlet colors. The red glow is caused by blooms of salt-loving microorganisms called haloarchaea, according to NASA's Earth Observatory. The lake is particularly colorful during the dry season, when this image was taken, because water recedes and small, salty pools of water fill with the blooms.

Lake Natron captured by NASA's Landsat 8
NASA's Landsat 8 captured this image of Lake Natron on March 6, 2017. NASA Earth Observatory