Tranquil and nestled among luscious green hills, Lake Nyos in Cameroon is one of the most stunningly beautiful places on Earth. Yet it is far from being the sort of hidden paradise you’d find on a Travel Channel documentary. Deep below the surface, this lake hides a deadly secret.
Lake Nyos lies on the side of an inactive volcano, some 200 miles to the northwest of the Cameroonian capital, Yaoundé. It’s what’s known as a crater lake – a deep body of water that sits inside a volcanic crater. And, indeed, it was volcanic activity that led to an appalling tragedy 30 years ago.
On August 21, 1986, something changed in the lake. Far from being its usual aquamarine shade, in fact, the water was now a foreboding shade of red. Scientists now believe this was the result of iron deposits from the bottom of the lake being forced to the surface. One thing seems more certain, though. It was merely the first act of a drama that ended in one of the most tragic natural disasters in living memory.