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The Lake Which Turns Animals to Stone

Stone bird

In his latest book, "Across the Ravaged Land", photographer Nick Brandt tells the story of the petrified animals found around a lake in Tanzania. Lake Natron turns every animal that ends up in its waters to stone.

The reason for the strange phenomenon lies in the alkalinity of the water. It varies between 9 and 10.5 pH. Brandt explained that he came upon this scene by chance - he saw birds washed up from the lake that were petrified, they looked like the perfect sculptures.

Lake Natron is located in the northern part of Tanzania. The lake is exceptionally rich in carbon and sodium bicarbonate. In it, cyanobacteria (blue-green seaweed) multiply.


The red pigment that the cyanobacteria produce quite often colors the deep part of the lake in reds, and the shallower part - in orange to pink.

Photographer Nick Brandt is mainly known to the public from the video "Earth Song" by Michael Jackson - there Brandt shows his skills as a producer.

The reason for all those birds to turn to stone is not the actual contact with the waters of Natron. In actuality, the birds which were unable to cross the lake had fallen into it and therefore died - either drowning or dying from exhaustion.

Lake Natron

Afterwards, when the water level of the lake falls, the bodies of those birds wash up petrified due to the salinity of the actual lake. That is the state that the photographer then found them in and took his remarkable photos.

In the same way that birds collide with perfectly clean windows, they collide with the surface of the lake as well - the exceptionally high content of sodium bicarbonate and salt calcifies the bodies of the animals. This way, they dry and end up with the perfect appearance of a stone sculpture, which makes them exceptionally interesting for the photographer.

Brandt shares that after he found them, he placed the animals in different places, so that they looked as if they were alive.

The photographer explains that he tried to reanimate them - bring them back to life, after having already died. The petrified animals look as if they came straight out of a horror movie.