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Destination Details

Cameroon

Lake Nyos is a few square kilometres in area, and is around 200 m deep.  It is situated in the crater formed from the collapse of the pipe feeding a now extinct volcano. The lake is compositionally stratified, with fresh water in the upper 50 m and heavier sodium and carbon dioxide rich water below that.  The water below 180 m is particularly rich in sodium and carbon dioxide.  Most of the sodium and carbon dioxide come from numerous sodium-bicarbonate bearing springs - derived from an underlying magma chamber - feeding into the bottom of the lake. In August of 1986 some event – perhaps a mudslide, heavy rain or wind blowing across the lake – caused the water column to be disturbed.  Some of the deep carbon dioxide rich water moved towards surface where it was subjected to lower pressure.  The dissolved carbon dioxide quickly converted to carbon dioxide gas and rushed to the surface starting a chain reaction of degassing the deeper water.  A huge cloud of carbon dioxide spilled over the lake’s outlet and down into the surrounding valleys.

A chain of volcanoes extends in a straight northeasterly line from Annobon Island in the Atlantic Ocean into the western part of Cameroon.  It is thought that this feature is related to a rift which was first activated during the initial formation of the Atlantic Ocean (although the existence of a mantle plume has not been ruled out).  The volcano at Lake Nyos is now extinct, although the Mt. Cameroon volcano, near to the coast, 400 km to the southwest, is still active

Disater of 1986

In the middle of an August night in 1986 in the west-African country of Cameroon a misty cloud of carbon dioxide bubbled out of a lake and swept silently down the surrounding valleys - thousands of animals and 1700 people died, many in their sleep.

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