History Meme- 2/2 Natural Disasters 

I could not speak. I became unconscious. I could not open my mouth because then I smelled something terrible. I heard my daughter snoring in a terrible way, very abnormal. I collapsed and fell… I was surprised to see that my trousers were red, had some stains like honey. I saw some… starchy mess on my body. My arms had some wounds; I didn’t really know how I got these wounds. I wanted to speak, my breath would not come out. I went into my daughter’s bed, thinking that she was still sleeping. I slept till it was 4:30 p.m. in the afternoon. My daughter was already dead. I managed to go over to my neighbors’ houses. They were all dead.

-Joseph Nkwain, describing the horrific events that took place on August 21, 1986. 

Lake Nyos is a crater lake in Northwest Cameroon, formed by a series of volcanic explosions, the most recent taking place only four or five centuries ago, though the exact date is not known. 

Scientists still debate over what exactly triggered the tower of water,one hundred fee tall, that emerged from Lake Nyos that horrible night. It could have been a small, otherwise in significant volcanic eruption. It could have been the result of a small earthquake or landslide that altered the chemical balance of the lake. Or it could have been something as simple as a rainy summer raising the water level. 

The water was just the beginning. A cloud of some horrible poison filled the air. It was as though people were being suffocated by a ghost. Their bodies were burned. In the twenty-five miles surrounding Lake Nyos, the people, and the animals, gasped desperately for air until they stopped moving. It was nighttime, so most were in their beds. Perhaps many simply never woke up. Seventeen-hundred and forty-six people perished. In the village closest by, only six out of eight-hundred survived. 

It was shortly afterwards that science, as it usually does, explained away the horrific event. Crater lakes, like Lake Nyos, are produced by volcanos. Volcanoes also produce magma, which produces carbon dioxide. Typically, this is not a problem. Small amounts of carbon dioxide naturally occur in the environment, and humans are used to breathing it. When the percentage in the air gets above 10%, that can be fatal. The amount that would be normally released by a crater lake would not pose a danger. But there is something horribly unique about Lake Nyos. The gas was trapped in cold water at the bottom of the lake. It built up over time, become more and more dangerous. Then, on that dark, horrible night in August, it exploded. 

It’s called a limic eruption. Only two have been documented in history, though local legends suggest it had happened more often. In August of 1984, about sixty-miles south of Lake Nyos, Lake Monoun similarly exploded, but the consequences were far less devastating and only thirty-seven lives were lost. In the years since, pipes have been built under both lakes to pump out the carbon dioxide and prevent this bizarre phenomena from reoccurring. Even so, there is still something deeply unsettling about the idea of a lake killing over a thousand people without even getting them wet. 

More information:

*University of Arizona* *BBC* *Atlas Obscura* *Strange Sounds* *Wired*

  1. momo-chan100 reblogged this from strangebiology and added:
    Like I said. Mother Nature is a scary bitch.
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    Just erase all the people of colour and you’re set…
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