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Image Album: Lake Natron Gives Up Its Dead

rick-brandt
The body of a flamingo on Lake Natron, as captured by photographer Rick Brandt.
(Image: © © Nick Brandt 2013 Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NY)

Image Album: Lake Natron Gives Up Its Dead

rick-brandt

(Image credit: © Nick Brandt 2013 Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NY)

The alkaline water in Africa's Lake Natron has a pH as high as 10.5 and is so strongly caustic it can irritate or burn the skin and eyes of animals that aren't adapted to it. The alkalinity in Lake Natron is due to the sodium carbonate and other minerals that flow into the lake from the surrounding hills.

Image Album: Lake Natron Gives Up Its Dead

rick-brandt

(Image credit: © Nick Brandt 2013 Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NY)

Sodium carbonate — which was once used in Egyptian mummification — also acts as a fantastic type of preservative for those animals unlucky enough to die in the waters of Lake Natron. 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).

Image Album: Lake Natron Gives Up Its Dead

rick-brandt

(Image credit: © Nick Brandt 2013 Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NY)

Brandt discovered the remains of flamingos and other animals with mineral deposits outlining their bodies in sharp relief. "I unexpectedly found the creatures — all manner of birds and bats — washed up along the shoreline of Lake Natron," Brandt wrote in his book.

Image Album: Lake Natron Gives Up Its Dead

rick-brandt

(Image credit: © Nick Brandt 2013 Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NY)

Despite some media reports, the animals didn't die simply because they came into contact with the lake's water. In fact, Lake Natron supports a thriving ecosystem of salt marshes, freshwater wetlands, flamingos and other wetland birds, tilapia and the Spirulina algae on which flamingos feed.

Image Album: Lake Natron Gives Up Its Dead

rick-brandt

(Image credit: © Nick Brandt 2013 Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NY)

Lake Natron in Tanzania is one of the most serene lakes in Africa — except when enormous flocks of flamingos descend upon the lake during breeding season. More than 2 million lesser flamingos (Phoenicopterus minor) use the shallow lake as their primary breeding ground in Africa.

Image Album: Lake Natron Gives Up Its Dead

rick-brandt

(Image credit: © Nick Brandt 2013 Courtesy of Hasted Kraeutler Gallery, NY)

"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," Brandt wrote, referring to the way he repositioned the animals. "Reanimated, alive again in death."