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ur planet, whilst being beautiful, also houses some dangerous places that do not allow for any life to live or grow in them. These extreme places are remote and mostly unknown for good reasons, and those who happen to stumble upon them without knowing may not live to tell the tale.

One such mysterious and relentless place is found in the north of Tanzania, near the border with Kenya in Arica. Between the Kilimanjaro mountains, there’s a lake that can turn any living organism into stone. The name of the lake is Natron.

The scientific explanation behind it

This is because the lake is very rich in sodium carbonate which is formed from the warm temperature of the water which is around 60 degrees celsius (140 Fahrenheit). Sodium carbonate is formed when hydrates heat up within the water. Due to this, a process called thermal dehydration of the sodium carbonate hydrates makes most things turn into stone.

To everyone’s surprise, scientists who have analyzed the lake were surprised to see such a high concentration, with the water having a pH over 10. The name of the lake was given in the 1990s by the first group of scientists to analyze it. Natron is actually a scientific name for a chemical mixture of sodium carbonate decahydrate Na2CO, 10H2O which is kind of like soda ash formed from the concentration and around 17% of sodium bicarbonate or in better know terms baking soda NaHCO3.

Lake Natron from two different angles. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The creation of this lake’s highly concentrated water took hundreds if not maybe thousands of years to form. As the river does not spill into any river or ocean, it assimilated all the acid from rain, whilst this doesn’t pose any harm in the short term, it can decay any reinforced building in a matter of thousands of years.

Another factor in its creation is a nearby active volcano named Ol Doinyo Lengai which allows the water to heat up in order to create the chemical reaction that petrifies organisms. Also, the lava spilled by the volcano is very rich in sodium carbonate, hence the assimilation of dehydrated sodium carbonate.

One species which is immune to all this

What is even more interesting about the lake, besides its red color formed by the high concentration, is a mystery hidden within it that scientists still cannot understand. At a closer analysis of the lake, a specific species of fish was found swimming around. Alcolapia alcalica is the fish specifies discovered in lake Natron and somehow it can survive in such highly concentrated water.

Alcolapia alcalica (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

There have been experiments where scientists tried to place other types of fish in such highly concentrated water, and as expected, they died in a matter of minutes. Scientists are still baffled by the hidden autonomy of this fish which allows it to live in such an extreme habitat.

If you think of having a swim in this lake, you will end up with third-degree burns before being made into stone due to the high temperature of the water, which is heated up by the volcano. Besides that, it would only take a couple of minutes until you become calcified. Putting the harsh environment aside as well as the possible death risks, the lake looks absolutely amazing as it has a distinctive red color which is unique in the world.

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