One of the earth’s most beautiful places is quite possibly the earth’s most terrifying location, because of its veiled potential for unparalleled devastation. In 1986 a sudden and devastating event occurred in the vicinity of Lake Nyos in Cameroon, Africa. Over 2,000 people perished in one night as a giant cloud of poisonous gas erupted from the depths of the lake. Below is a National Geographic report on the tragedy; a more comprehensive treatment with a realistic reenactment can be found on my first blog post: “What’s it all about”.
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The event at Lake Nyos has been attributed to a rare and not very well understood natural phenomenon referred to as an “exploding lake”. This occurs when the waters of a deep lake become infused with vast quantities of carbon dioxide. This appears to be connected to volcanic activity in the region. When the lake water undergoes an inversion, it results in the carbon dioxide being released as the rising water depressurizes.
The frightening thing is that Nyos isn’t the only exploding lake in Africa. Lake Kivu, one of the Great Lakes of Africa, also has this dubious distinction. Kivu, however, is far larger and deeper than Nyos, containing immensely greater volumes of deadly carbon dioxide. In addition, Kivu holds a vast quantity of methane, suspended in the high pressure of over 1,000 feet of water. Unlike the rural area of Cameroon, Kivu is the center of a population of over a million people from two nations, Ruanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The lake is part of the East African rift valley and is connected to the potential volcanic activity of the region. An inversion of Kivu’s waters could release a nightmare of destruction, dwarfing to insignificance the Nyos disaster. In addition to the poisonous nature of the gases, methane gas is highly flammable and explosive. Ruanda is in the process of extracting methane from the lake waters to generate electricity. It is hoped that this will also reduce the danger of the lake exploding, but most scientists doubt that this will have any effect on the phenomenon.
This is the backdrop of my upcoming action novel. Physicist Tom Chambers and his wife Kathy from Journey into Legend and Beyond the Darkened Veil, come to Ruanda as part of a project to study the lake’s extraordinary properties. Brad and Ann Conner soon arrive with their two children to assist at a church mission for the summer. When Tom discovers what he believes is the key to the lake’s mystery, he encounters violent opposition from a group wishing to exploit the lake for its vast store of methane. As Tom’s theory is confirmed, they all are caught up in a desperate struggle against an unimaginable wave of devastation as they attempt to save their own lives as well as the 14 mission children they have with them.
I hope that this story will capture the interest of my readers as it has me. I hope too that it can serve as a warning to the potential destruction of this beautiful yet deadly region in the heart of Africa.