Lake Nyos

Posted by Freddy on May-9-2009

When ever, I have a chat with my non mariner friends, they often talk about the dangers hidden in the sea , the sea accidents, ship wrecks etc. But sea is not that dangerous and the land is more dangerous as the sea. If you just have a quick overview, we can find that land tragedies are more in number than sea tragedies. Villains like Earth quakes, Land slides, Volcanic eruptions, Epidemics, have plundered plenty of human lives and possessions. Of course, we have been able to forecast and resist these calamities, to a certain extent, but there are some dangerous Silent Killers, who can’t be predicted , averted or even given any scientific justification. Such a destroyer rests in the Oku volcanic plain along the Cameroon line of volcanic activity- Lake Nyos.

Lake Nyos is a 1 mile wide and 600 ft deep Crater Lake, in the Northwest Province of Cameroon, located about 200 miles northwest of Yaoundé.The land surrounding the lake is very fertile and is thickly populated.

On 1986 Aug 21 a minor landslide struck the area and the lake began to emit a dark cloud, which began to spread over the surrounding villages, Cha, Nyos, and Subum, silently casting a dark shadow of doom. Before the villagers could find out, what’s happening, most of them had to succumb to death. A government official in Wum village was the first to report this mishap and soon the investigation and medical teams rushed to the area and were greeted by the carcasses of people and livestock.

Almost 1700 people were killed and 3500 domestic animals died . Nyos village was almost wiped out, leaving just 4 of its inhabitants alive. The world is giving different reasons for this tragedy ranging from scientific explanations to superstitious believes like the “Revenge of the Demons”. The real fact is still unknown.

The widely accepted reason is that a pocket of magma lies beneath the lake and leaks carbon dioxide into the water, the fumes are then trapped by the natural springs encircling the lake, ultimately rising to the surface of the water and leading into the lake. The lake is thermally stratified, with layers of warm, less dense water near the surface floating on the colder, denser water layers near the lake’s bottom. Over long periods, carbon dioxide gas seeping into the cold water at the lake’s bottom is dissolved in great amounts. Most of the time, the lake is stable and the CO2 remains in solution in the lower layers. However, over time the water becomes supersaturated, and if an event such as an earthquake , land slide or volcanic eruption occurs, large amounts of CO2 may suddenly come out of solution.

This is just a satisfactory explanation and not the exact reason. It may perhaps be the answer of the earth to inhabitants, who enjoy experimenting deadly weapons and shedding blood on her surface!!..

  1. Tabot Tabot Said,

    I am happy that for the first time since the tragic event in 1986, I have fallen on a site that mutes the possibility of alternative explanations to the ’scientific’ ones. I am Cameroonian and like many Cameroonians, I do not quite buy these ’scientific’ explanations of Lake Nyos disaster. There is a body of growing empirical evidence that point to the likelihood of deliberate human action.

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