10 Deadliest Lakes on Earth

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Image: Jack Lockwood, USGS

Imagine living in a remote village. Darkness has fallen and villagers are getting ready for bed, when suddenly you hear a loud ‘boom’. Nothing too much to scare you in itself, but then comes the strange fog, rolling, rolling over everything, spreading out its poisonous tentacles. You and your family start to have trouble breathing. Desperate for air, you go outside – right into the deadly fog. This actual event befell 1,700 people and 3,500 animals on August 21, 1986 in Cameroon.

Beautiful and calm lakes created from volcanoes conceal silent death in their depths. Here are 10 killer lakes deadly for this and several other reasons.


Image: United States Geological Survey

10. Lake Nyos, Cameroon

Lake Nyos is one of only three ‘exploding’ on earth lakes where a pocket of magma leaks CO2 into the water and changes it to carbonic acid – a lethal chemistry. The largest asphyxiation (suffocation) of people by a natural event ever occurred when Lake Nyos exploded in 1986.

What happens in such cases is that the CO2 is trapped in the water, which acts rather like the cork in a champagne bottle. Release the cork and you get an explosion of CO2 gas that has catastrophic consequences if the build up is too large. In this case, thousands of villagers lost their lives as well as many more thousands of livestock animals.

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Image: Jack Lockwood, USGS

Interestingly, Lake Nyos does not produce anywhere near the amount of carbon dioxide that California’s Horseshoe Lake does, as we will see later. If the gas had the devastating effect here, the people who live in the valley adjacent to Horseshoe are all in danger of the same fate. Lake Nyos was a warning sign to everyone: these killers are real. Men, women and children can die in a single evening from poisoned air!

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