In northern Tanzania lies Lake Natron, the eerily still body of water that turns submersed animals into stone-like statues — perfectly preserved.
This black magic is caused by a combination of harsh conditions. To start, the lake is fed by volcanic ash containing salt compounds from the Great Rift Valley nearby, and has a very basic alkalinity — its pH is between 9 to 10.5, similar to ammonia. While only 10ft. deep at most, water temperatures can reach a toasty 140°F. Only one species of extremophile fish, the alkaline tilapia, has adapted itself to live in such inhospitable conditions. However, some flamingo species take a deadly risk to use the lake as a breeding ground. It’s unclear exactly how the birds and other animals become trapped in the water, but the results — a build-up of calcium salts in body tissue known as calcification — are obvious.
Photographer Nick Brandt was traveling in east Africa when he noticed the freakish remains around Lake Natron, he explains:
I 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, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake.
The photos appear in Brandt’s newest publication, Across the Ravaged Land — the perfect coffee table book to creep out all your friends.
Photos by Nick Brandt.