Tanzania's Lake Natron is the most caustic body of water on Earth – and that makes it a terrifying, if eerily beautiful, place.

Photographs by Nick Brandt via New Scientist

The ominously colored pool takes its name from the naturally occurring salt-mixture that saturates its depths. Natron (the mineral) was once used by the ancient Egyptians as a drying agent in the mummification process; and in the hellish brine of its namesake, where temperatures reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and alkalinity levels fall in the aggressively inhospitable range of pH 9–10.5, it serves a similar purpose. Via New Scientist:

Photographer Nick Brandt, who has a long association with east Africa – he directed the video for Michael Jackson's Earth Song there in 1995 – took a detour from his usual work when he discovered perfectly preserved birds and bats on the shoreline. "I could not help but photograph them," he says. "No one knows for certain exactly how they die, but it appears that the extreme reflective nature of the lake's surface confuses them, and like birds crashing into plate glass windows, they crash into the lake."

According to New Scientist, Brandt actually arranges these birds into the poses you see here. How he managed this if the birds are, in fact, calcified has left us a little bewildered (does he find them in these poses, or can they be positioned, to some extent?), but we think you'll agree the effect is stunning.


Read more about Brandt's new photo collection, Across the Ravaged Land, over at New Scientist.