There’s a lot to like about lakes. Big lakes, tiny lakes, freshwater lakes, briny lakes… and more than a few that are one-of-a-kind natural wonders. These 10 amazing lakes “shore” are special; inland seas that are truly sights to see!
Jellyfish Lake, Palau
(images via: Ah Boon)
Most people first learned about Jellyfish Lake while watching Survivor: Palau or Survivor: Micronesia, in which a trip to swim in a secluded lake full of stingless jellyfish was the prize for winning a reward challenge. Rewarding it was – and is, if you’re ever in Palau! The lake is on Eil Malk, one of Palau’s Rock Islands and formed around 12,000 years ago, when geologic uplift raised the island sufficiently above sea level that water was trapped in its central depression. Here’s a short video taken at – and in – Palau’s Jellyfish Lake:
(image via: ECheng)
Millions of jellyfish live in the lake, subsisting via a symbiotic relationship with algae they host within their bodies. El Nino events which occur roughly once every decade tend to raise the lake’s temperature and this can cause severe die-offs of the jellyfish population – but the tough li’l guys always bounce back.
Mono Lake, California, USA
Mono Lake, located near the California-Nevada border east of Yosemite Nat’l Park, is superlative in a great many ways. Considered to be “hypersaline”, the lake has no outlet and evaporation over tens of thousands of years has concentrated salts and minerals to extremely high levels. Even so, life thrives at Mono Lake – as many as 6 trillion brine shrimp (yes, “Sea Monkeys”) provide migrating birds with a crucial food source and anchor an ecological niche found nowhere else. Mono Lake, with its trademark tufa towers and the look of what Mark twain called “the loneliest place on earth” has inspired generations of artists, photographers and filmmakers.
(image via: The Living Moon)
The above photo perfectly captures the near-surreal atmosphere surrounding Mono Lake; a combination of the otherworldly tufa formations, the ethereal high-altitude skies and the soothingly familiar rippling surface of the lake itself.
Diego de la Haya, Costa Rica
Diego de la Haya is a crater lake that fills one of the 5 main craters of 11,260 ft high Mount Irazú. The lake has been known to change its color from its usual brilliant green to gray, pink, or red depending on the type of gas released by underlying volcanic activity inside the mountain.
(image via: Sanchiri)
Mount Irazú last erupted from 1963 through 1965, with the initial blast coinciding with President John F. Kennedy’s arrival in Costa Rica for a state visit. The volcano is very active, having erupted 23 times since historians first noted a major eruption in the year 1723.
Lake Nyos, Cameroon
Usually “before & after” photos show an improvement in the subject but that’s not the case with Cameroon’s Lake Nyos. The lake’s sickly, greenish-yellow hue is visible evidence of a deadly 1986 eruption of carbon dioxide that killed upwards of 1,700 people by suffocation. Scientists believe that an underwater rockslide tipped the delicate pressure balance that had kept CO2 dissolved in the lake. Once gas bubbles formed and rose, the pressure was reduced, much like popping the cap on a shaken bottle of soda.
(image via: Pagesperso-Orange)
Could the August 21, 1986 disaster at Lake Nyos happen again? Perhaps not – thanks to several outgassing “autosiphon” pipes sunk vertically into the lake like, well, soda straws. The international Nyos Organ project has succeeded in reducing the Lake Nyos’ CO2 levels and has also done the same at nearby Lake Monoun, scene of a similar event in 1984 that killed over 30 people.
Lake Baikal, Russia
Lake Baikal is the Queen of lakes, holding more fresh water than all of North America’s Great lakes combined! It’s also the world’s oldest lake, 25 million years or so, and around 2,500 unique species (such as the Nerpa, or Baikal Seal) are found in and around Lake Baikal – and nowhere else. This presents a problem… global warming is threatening to change the environment at Lake Baikal, and change is not a good thing to the uniquely adapted plants and animals who call it home.
(image via: Daily Galaxy)
A rocky outcrop standing out from Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal symbolizes the rugged beauty and echoing isolation of this magnificent lake that holds 20 percent of the world’s fresh water.
Loch Ness, Scotland, UK
As Scotland’s second-deepest loch (lake), Loch Ness is estimated to hold more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. Both the loch’s depth (754 feet) and constant murkiness (due to peat in the surrounding soil) have contributed to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. Some say that what has occasionally appeared to be a prehistoric plesiosaur is merely the occasional sunken log floating to the loch’s surface but we know better, don’t we?
(image via: Modern Mechanix)
Though the first “reported” mention of the Loch Ness Monster dates from St. Columba’s encounter with it in the 6th century AD, modern reports date from the early 1930s and didn’t always depict the creature actually in the lake, er, loch. The above illustration was composed to complement a 1934 article about a motorcyclist who claimed Nessie crossed his path during a midnight ride. Was alcohol involved? Neither the rider nor Nessie are telling.
Dead Sea, Israel/Jordan
The Dead Sea, regardless of its name rooted in ancient origins, is a lake with some very odd characteristics. Like Mono Lake and other hypersaline lakes, the Dead Sea has only one main inlet – the Jordan River – experiences minimal rainfall and has no outlet save for evaporation. It is also exceptionally low: at 1,385 ft below sea level, the shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest dry areas on earth. How low can it go? Step into the Dead Sea itself and you’ll find its deepest point 1,240 feet below the surface.
(image via: Travelblog)
The waters of the Dead Sea are over 8 times as salty as ocean water, though the “salt” in the seas are 97 percent sodium chloride… only 30.4 percent of the Dead Sea’s salts are NaCl with the rest being potassium chloride, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride and various bromides. With an average salt concentration of 33.7 percent, the Dead Sea is unusually dense and thus allows people to float much easier due to the property of natural buoyancy.
Lake Toba, Indonesia
Located in northern Sumatra in Indonesia, Lake Toba is one of the most serene and silent places one could visit… 73,000 years ago, not so much. Lake Toba, you see, is a water-filled caldera formed after the largest volcanic eruption to occur in the last 25 million years. In the aftermath of the eruption, the Indian subcontinent was buried beneath an average 7 inches of ash and the entire planet entered into a “volcanic winter” for approximately 6 years.
(image via: The Travelrag)
The eruption of the Toba super-volcano had severe human consequences as well. It’s estimated that the population of Homo Sapiens was reduced to just a few tens of thousands, and that tribes living east of Sumatra migrated to Australia in an effort to escape the disaster.
Aral Sea, Russia
(image via: Think Twice)
Once one of the world’s largest lakes, the Aral Sea has become the poster child for environmental mismanagement. We can blame Soviet central planning for this one; though the present governments of successor states Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have to share the blame for their reluctance to repair the damage. In a nutshell, a grand scheme to convert the wider region into a cotton-growing center saw the rivers which formerly fed the Aral Sea dammed and/or diverted to provide irrigation. Without incoming water, the sea began to evaporate, becoming progressively saltier and ever more polluted with agricultural runoff. The disappearance of the Aral Sea – over the course of a single human generation – is a shockingly sad story chronicled by orbiting satellites and spacecraft.
Today the situation has somewhat stabilized though only the northern part of the lake (the North Aral Sea) stands a reasonable hope of survival over the long term. Effects on the region’s climate are mainly negative – reduced rainfall stunts non-irrigated crops while fierce westerly winds blow powdered pollutants and acrid, salty dust over urban and rural areas, contributing to a massive health crisis among the people living there.
Lake Vostok, Antarctica
Deep beneath nearly 12,500 feet of Antarctic ice lies, improbably, a lake – Lake Vostok. Approximately the size and shape of Lake Ontario, this most isolated lake somehow manages to stay liquid while being totally deprived of sunlight for tens of millions of years.
A Russian expedition has been trying to drill down into Lake Vostok to sample the water and any possible bacteria it may contain. Perhaps more than just bacteria have managed to survive – lakes in caves often host specialized plants and animals who have evolved and adapted to survive extremes of heat, cold, darkness and pressure. Since it’s likely Lake Vostok had a varied and viable ecosystem when Antarctica began to freeze over 40 million years ago, one wonders what, if anything, has survived in its depths… and if so, will those lifeforms take kindly to being disturbed?
Our planet’s lakes have always been a source of fascination mixed with an undercurrent of fear – who can say what lurks unseen beneath their placid surfaces? Perhaps this combination of appreciation and anxiety is what draws us to lakes. According to Dr. Seuss, Luke Luck likes lakes… do you?