Travel

The 10 ways a lake will one day kill you

Lakes make for chill, classic, all-American Summer weekends. But if you're not paying attention, they can also KILL YOU DEAD. In many, many ways. Or these 10, to be specific. Somehow this is all serious.

1. Freshwater crocs, water pythons, and you
Would you rather get crushed by the jaws of a crocodile and chewed to bits, or be strangled by a water python and slowly digested in its the belly? Hmmm. No need to answer now, but should you hop into Lake Moondarra or Lake Argyle in Queensland, Australia (homes to both species), you may not have the choice. Unless the snake fancies croc meat, in which case you're safe.

2. Melt like Smeagol
More reminiscent of a scene from Lord of the Rings, or the Star Wars where Hayden Christensen (thankfully) dies, there are actually five real lava lakes on Earth -- Nyiragongo in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Erta Ale in Ethiopia, one on Mount Erebus in Antarctica, and two in Kilauea in Hawaii.

3. Die like a Wooly Mammoth
It's unlikely, but wander off the path on a visit to Trinidad's popular La Brea Pitch Lake, and you could end up suffering the same fate as one Mammoth 40,000 years ago -- drowned in a pit of tar. It's the largest natural deposit of pitch on planet earth and, since its discovery in 1595 by Sir Walter Raleigh, has been a main source of the world's asphalt.

4. Pollution
By dumping toxic, human, and nuclear waste into Lake Karachay, the Russians have turned it into the most polluted place on Earth. In fact, they've deposited so much nuclear waste there that, it was once reported, standing on its shores exposed one to enough radiation to kill. They've since solved that problem by dumping enough cement in to at least keep the death rays at the lake's center.

5. Hydrothermal explosion
There's only one known lake in danger of a hydrothermal explosion -- Yellowstone Lake. In 2003, the United States Geological Survey found a bulge beneath the body of water that they believe is caused by gas from Yellowstone's system of subterranean hot water. Were the underground water to heat up rapidly by a rush of magma, it would expand and blow the lake to bits. It happened on a smaller scale to Porkchop Geyser on September 5, 1989, sending rocks as far as 216 feet away and transforming the vent into a "gently rolling hot spring."

6. Shark attack
Avoiding sharks used to be one of the best reasons to swim in a lake (other than making fun of rednecks waterskiing), but it's time to lay that myth to rest. Meet the Bull shark; one of the top four killer sharks in the United States, it has somehow evolved the superpower to swim in both saline and fresh water, as well as built up enough muscle to swim up river.

As in, the Mississippi River --  all the way to the Great Lakes. More disturbing, a group named Michigan Shark Fishing is dedicated to breeding and stocking "new, bigger, more aggressive species of sharks" in the Great Lakes. So, goodie.

7. Surfing accident
Waves on The Great Lakes average between two and six feet, but can swell up to 30 in the right conditions. The dangers are pretty much the same as ocean surfing, and include hypothermia (waves are best in the Winter), concussions from hitting hard and rocky lake floors, rip currents, being staked by a board, and as previously noted, Bull sharks.

8. Killer. Lake. Farts.
Some lakes have gas. And some lakes have such bad gas that it kills. In 1986, 1,746 people in Cameroon died near Lake Nyos (one of world's three exploding lakes) after a build up of carbon dioxide beneath the surface reached critical mass and sent a 300ft torrent of water into the air. But wait, the torrent was followed by a tsunami, which was followed by a 60mph release of CO2, which then turned into a toxic cloud that killed any living creature in its path. Whewwww. 

Today, American and French scientists have installed a system of piping that slowly releases the gas from Lake Nyos. Unfortunately, the two other exploding lakes on the continent (Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Lake Monoun in Cameroon) still have not been given their Beano.

9. Cook you like a lobster
Most lakes would be content simply freezing you to death (if they could express feelings, and were cold-blooded killers), but not Boiling Lake on the island of Dominica. It's believed to be a flood covering fumarole (a vent for subterranean lava heat) and stays at a constant rolling boil -- so hot that no one has been able to get an accurate measurement in the middle. That said, the 180-197 degree shoreline temps are high enough to keep folks from jumping in.

10. Turn you to stone
Who needs Medusa when there's Lake Natron in Tanzania, which has the uncanny ability to turn animals into perfect stone statues. Yup, you read that right. This. Lake. Turns. Sh*t. Into. Stone.

Its beguilingly still waters are a perfect mirror which, experts think, draws birds and bats to dive in. Except they don't remerge until the waters, which can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit, deposit them out along the shore in the form of a statue; photographer Nick Brandt recently captured this phenomena in a book called Across the Ravaged Land.

How's it work? The lake is infused with a toxic compound called "Natron," which comes from the ash of surrounding volcanoes and has the ability to petrify animals.