Lake Natron In Africa Has Water Like Blood, Turns Dead Birds Into Stone

Nathan Francis

Lake Natron looks like something out of a horror movie.

Tucked away in Africa's Rift Valley, the ancient lake is the mating ground of the endangered lesser flamingo, but not hospitable to nearly any other living thing. The lake's waters measure a steamy 80 degrees, and its waters are so filled with bacteria that it looks like it's running red with blood.

In fact, bacteria are one of the only organisms able to live in the lake's waters, which have such a high alkaline content that birds that happen to die and fall in are turned to stone.

Now, wildlife photographer Nick Brandt is bringing the horrific appearance of Lake Natron to the masses with a series of photos.

The shots show the calcified animals that died in the lake, placed to look like gargoyles perched on rocks and logs.

"I unexpectedly found the creatures — all manner of birds and bats — washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania," Brandt told NBC News in an email. "I took these creatures as I found them on the shoreline, and then placed them in 'living' positions, bringing them back to 'life.' "

Lake Natron now faces an uncertain future. Logging in the lake's watershed and a hydroelectric dam planned for nearby Kenya threaten the lake's salinity. A soda ash plant proposed for the lake's shore would also pump water to extract the sodium carbonate it contains.

Experts think the changes will be devastating to the lake's ecosystem.

"The chance of the lesser flamingoes continuing to breed in the face of such mayhem are next to zero," said Chris Magin of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. "This development will leave lesser flamingoes in East Africa facing extinction."

Brandt's haunting photos of Lake Natron can be seen here.