The Mummies of Lake Natron

Lake Natron in Tanzania is one of the haunting lakes in the world. Located in Africa it’s the source of some of the most phantasmagorical photographs ever captured — images that look as though living animals had instantly turned to stone.

natron-lakebedThe lake is fed by the Southern Ewaso Ng’iro River and also by mineral-rich hot springs. The alkaline water in Lake Natron has a pH as high as 10.5 and is so caustic it can burn the skin and eyes of animals that aren’t adapted to it. The water’s alkalinity comes from the sodium carbonate and other minerals that flow into the lake from the surrounding hills. And deposits of sodium carbonate — which was once used in Egyptian mummification — also acts as a fantastic type of preservative.

Now, photographer Nick Brandt has captured haunting images of the lake and its dead in a book titled “Across the Ravaged Land” (Abrams Books, 2013)

“I unexpectedly found the creatures — all manner of birds and bats — washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron,” Brandt wrote in his book. “No one knows for certain exactly how they die, but … 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.” “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,”


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“Reanimated, alive again in death.”

For more from Nick Brant:
Artsy’s Nick Brandt page

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