Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Lake Nyos

Cameroon, 1986

   On hot humid summer nights such as this, Joseph was fond of sitting on the shore of Lake Nyos and watching the moon and stars reflect off the still waters. A cool refreshing breeze blew gently off the silent lake. Lightning flickered beyond nearby mountains, as it almost always did. Insects chirped in the darkness.
   Some rocks tumbled down the steep sides of the valley and splashed into the lake, sending little ripples across the mirror-like surface. Joseph watched the moon become warped and dance on the water before reforming. It was nice to get away from the hubbub of the village and come up here to the peaceful lake.
   More rocks began to tumble down the cliff on the far side, and suddenly with a great rumble a large landslide cascaded down into the water. Bigger ripples this time spread in expanding circles across the lake, taking several minutes to lap at the shore by Joseph in little waves. The moon on the water became a vague kaleidoscope of light. Once again the dancing reflections slowly came back together, restoring the lake's famous placidity. During the day it would be a beautiful shade of blue.
   Something odd caught Joseph's attention. The water wasn't entirely still now, little ripples reminiscent of a current had formed. But Lake Nyos never has a current, he thought to himself. Joseph couldn't see the currents on the further parts of the black mirror of the lake, but on this shore it seemed to be flowing out from the center. And then there was a strange sulfury smell he had never smelled from the lake in all his many years of living here. This was very odd. Joseph stood up.
   From the depths little flecks of silver began to appear, and soon they were popping onto the surface all over the lake in the form of dead fish. Silvery fish were rising from the cold dark depths in the moonlight. This was very alarming. It was very late, many in the village down the valley had gone to bed already, but Joseph was thinking he should probably tell one of the village elders about this strange occurrence. Was it some kind of sign from the spirits of the lake? Joseph considered himself a good christian, but lake spirits are a fact of nature.
   Suddenly there was a great rolling rumble and an enormous geyser of frothy water exploded out of the middle of the lake and shot hundreds of feet into the air. In his shock Joseph tripped and fell backwards into some shrubbery. He lay there, mouth agape at the spectacle. Then he realized there was a huge wave rolling towards the shore from where the tower of foam was still shooting out of the water, and he scrambled desperately up the embankment. Glancing over his shoulder after climbing some thirty feet he saw the onrushing wave still towering over him and banged his knee on a rock as he desperately scrambled further. The wave broke with a crash below him and the water rushed up and knocked him over, feeling cold and evil. It pushed him into a bramble and then tried to pull him back over the rocks into the lake's roiling heart, but he clung on and was left among the broken trees and twitching fish.

   He stared back down at the lake, there were still large waves rocking back and forth between the center and the outer edges but nothing like that first tsunami, nothing that would reach his elevated position now. On the lowest part of the bank, a natural dam separated the lake from the lower valley, and the wave had sloshed over the brim there.
   The column of froth dwindled away, but it had by now disgorged a large cloud hanging just above the lake, looking heavy and ominous, and blotting out the moonlight. It smelled tinny and sulfuric. As Joseph watched, the cloud seemed to settle down onto the lake surface. Joseph began to choke and feel sick, and scrambled further up the slope until he was above the settling cloud. It filled the valley over the lake like an eerie milk. At the lower end it began to slip over the natural damn, and then the whole thing started to rush that way like a liquid draining from a basin. Joseph remembered how it had made him choke and was suddenly filled with fear for his wife and children and friends in the village.
   He jumped up and immediately fell back down, feeling weak and nauseous. He was filled with terror for his family though, and forced himself back up and stumbled down the slope. As he neared the lake the smell got stronger and his breath began to feel short, so he stayed on the ridge descending toward the natural dam and angled his path on the outer side of it. The main part of the cloud seemed to have rapidly slid down the valley but an ominous vague white haze remained in its path. Joseph stumbled as quickly as he could down the valley towards the village, ignoring his bruised and hurting knees, his throbbing headache, and the noxious smell. He passed some vague dark shapes and realized they were goats, collapsed motionless on the ground. His heart in his throat he pushed himself harder, his lungs burning. Closer to the village he passed the larger shapes of cows, their large straight horns jutting up from the ground at odd angles as if they'd crashed. Joseph had to lean against a tree and struggle to catch his breath. He could barely breath and his whole body felt on fire. The stink of sulfur was overpowering. He forced his failing body to shamble the last hundred feet to the nearest huts in the village, but he could already see bodies on the ground, human bodies. He tried to make it to his own hut but he felt like no matter how hard he breathed he just couldn't get enough air, and despite his determination he was getting sleepy, so very sleepy. He crossed the village square and saw his family's hut twenty feet ahead in the moonlight, but he fell to his knees and his eyes lost focus, he clutched at his neck, he felt like he was suffocating, even while he gasped great gulps of air. With the ringing in his ears, he was able to bring his hut into focus again for half as second before it all went black, and he felt himself falling face first forward.


   Everything hurt. His body hurt, his lungs hurt, his mouth was incredibly dry, he had a splitting headache, and he had this strange sensation like he was swinging through the air. And hanging, as if being held by the ankles and arms. Was this some kind of afterlife? He became aware of the heat of the sun on his skin, and the movement of fresh air against his body. Suddenly he was airborn. He managed to open his eyes just a crack, they were swollen and hurt, and saw the blue sky careening above him and then he landed in soft dirt, a landing that would have been painful if he could have felt any more pain. He let his eyes close again and lay there awkwardly where he had landed. Then some dirt landed on his stomach, and he heard a scraping noise. A shovel on dirt, and another shovelful of dirt landed on his chest. He registered voices, and then some dirt rained down on his face. He groaned and attempted to move, but apparently no one noticed, and another shovelful landed on him. He attempted to move his left arm but realized it had been buried already and he hadn't even noticed. He managed to open his swollen eye enough to make out people with medical masks above him filling in the hole -- he was being buried with the dead.
   He put all his effort into letting out a moan loud enough to be heard. There was the scrape of another shovel and then rocky soil hit him right in the face.
   Then someone was brushing it away and there was a calloused hand on his neck, feeling for a pulse. "wait, wait! this one's alive!" a voice just above him called out.


On the night of August 21st, 1986, Lake Nyos in Cameroon explosively ejected an estimated third of a cubic mile of carbon dioxide and other gasses, which killed 1700 people in neighboring villages. It is believed it shot a fountain of water over 300 feet in the air, caused an 80 foot tsunami on the lake, and then sent a poisonous cloud down the valley at sixty miles an hour. Some survivors awoke thirty hours later to find everyone around them dead.

Read more on wikipedia
Or in furzicle's corresponding entry.


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Tags: historical fiction, lj idol entry, natural disasters
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