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A fronte praecipitium a tergo lupi. (In front of you, a precipice. Behind you, wolves.)

Friday, May 29, 2020

Spectacular Lakes

I just saw a picture of the tri-color lakes on top of Mount Kelimutu on Flores Island in Indonesia and had to run them to ground as I'd never heard of them before.

Flores Island sits near the northern coast of Australia and features the only volcanic peak in the world with a lake system like these. Two of them (Tiwu Nua Muri Koo Fai or lake of Young Men and Maidens, and Tiwu Ata Mbupu or Lake of Elders) share a wall of a couple of meters in breadth and the other (Tiwa Ata Polo or Enchanted Lake) is about a mile to the west.

The native peoples believe that Tiwa Ata Polo, which is often dark red or black, is the home of evil spirits. Tiwu Nua Muri Koo Fai, which ranges from greens to blues of all ranges, is thought to be the final resting place for the spirits of those who die young. Tiwu Ata Mbupu is thought to be the place where the spirits of those who died of old age reside, and its colors range all over the spectrum, from a brilliant emerald to blues to mucky browns or deep red and beyond.

I wanted to know if these fascinating lakes are safe to swim in. Turns out if you do so, you are in a goodly amount of danger. The mountain is actually a volcano and the lakes all sport underwater fumeroles. These openings in the earth's crust spew steam rich in high mineral content gases such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, sulfides, sulfur dioxide (which needs only another oxygen molecule to be sulfuric acid), and  hydrogen chloride or hydrochloric acid. As these gases rise, they often bring with them blooms of various nutrients. The lakes are unlivable to plant and animal life, so have nothing to consume the nutrients except bacteria. The corrosive vapors have a distinctly irritating stench to them and can irritate your eyes and nose.

So if you visit these lakes, you're going to want to take your own water to drink, maybe some nose plugs, and your camera. The scenery is spectacular.

Lake of the Young Men and Maidens and Lake of the Elders
 Image credit :  by unknown via www.placestoseeinyourlifetime.com

Further reading:
Gregory B. Paternack and Johan C. Varekamp. Geochemical Journal, 28, 1994.
Hikmahtullah, H. Subagyo and B. H. Prasetyo. Indonesian Jour. of Agricultural Science, 4(1), 2003, pp. 1-11.
Enchanted Lake

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