By Virginia Carraway
I confess everything.
I prefer the extraordinary to the ordinary, the fantastic to the mundane. Does this make me normal? Probably, but maybe not. Ask yourself this: do you prefer a scenic lake with a peaceful serene outlook or is their an eight year old inside of you that thinks the lake really would be cooler if it had the potential to explode with cataclysmic force?
Do you remember playing danger games when you were a kid?
Do you remember the game where if you touch the floor it’s really lava, or maybe swamp water filled with deadly crocodile? Or maybe it was shark infested waters? If you remember being a kid then you’ll get what I’m saying, and if you don’t, I send my sincere condolences to the funeral pyre of your inner child.
So here’s the thing, there is a lake in Rwanda that could literally one day explode.
It isn’t the only one in the world. There have been instances in the past, in one case especially the quite recent past where a lake has actually exploded. On August 21, 1986 lake Nyos in Cameroon suddenly and violently exploded and tragically killed seventeen hundred people. Some people were unconscious for up to thirty six hours afterward only to wake up and find their friends, relatives and livestock all dead from the poison gas cloud that erupted out of the lake.
The grown up, humanist part of me says, “Why the hell am I only hearing about this now???”
This was an enormous and largely unsung tragedy. A lot of people died. Seventeen hundred people were killed. It is hard to conceive of that number of fathers, mothers, grandparents, children and tiny babies all struck down at once. This should be one of the Tragedies we all hear about and yet I cannot recall ever once learning about the dangers of exploding lakes in school.
As mentioned, Lake Nyos is in Cameroon, a part of west Central Africa.
Before I learned about Lake Nyos I would have had a hard time finding Cameroon on a world map and maybe that contributes to how little I know about exploding lakes. There are a lot of very socially unsavoury reasons why we never learned about lake Nyos in school. The fact of the matter is that there are lakes out there that will kill you and your entire family and your city given half the chance.
I have seen a lot of very high budget movies with much thinner premises than deadly lake attacks.
I don’t want to appear insensitive. I have never been to Cameroon and I sadly do not have a lot of reality on the tragedy that occurred there.
On the other hand I have an extremely healthy inner child and that inner child thinks this is pretty cool and that probably I should write a screenplay about another exploding lake, Rwanda’s Lake Kivu.
This is the way it unfolds:
Scene: Lake Kivu, peaceful.
Tourists play on the manicured sands of the Serena Resort Hotel, local types to traditional activities with an idyllic background. There are some shots of local flora and fauna, some really big eyed lion cubs and maybe even a gorilla. We zoom in to the protagonist, a visiting geologist who has just arrived along with his picture perfect family. He has a pretty wife who is a little on the vain and vapid side, she gets evacuated long before the real trouble breaks out. He has two kids, a pretty but slightly sullen teenage daughter who is about to experience her first relationship and her preteen brother who tags along and is constantly teasing his big sister about her new boyfriend.
The scene is set, we bond as an audience with the protoganist who has established that he is a geologist in a clever way that I’ll come up with later.
We zoom out and then in…
From our lofty view of the scene to… without a splash… the underwater camera. A fish swims by, sees the camera and like a flash is gone. Deeper we go through the oddly deserted lake water… until we find a cleft in the floor… and then we dive, deeper… where we see the pulsing menace of magma and methane that is a ticking time bomb to all those things we suddenly feel a bond with.
Credits overlay the ominous image- Death Lake. Or, It Came From Lake Kivu.
I’d watch that movie.
I would also visit Lake Kivu. From what I can find, ‘Kivu’ means lake. So, I would visit Lake Lake. Exploding Lake Lake.
I started with a true confession and now it’s your turn, you have to admit, it’s got a bigger draw on it then the average lake because we humans always are a little interested in the ‘What if’. We all hope that tragedy doesn’t strike and that all the plants, animals and people we have just bonded with in our opening scene survive, but the truth is that isn’t the reason we are watching the movie. We all want to see Lake Lake cut loose.
That’s not all about Lake Kivu either, it’s not only full of explosive potential, it’s also haunted. It’s ok if you don’t believe in hauntings. Even skeptics like a good ghost story.
This is why I say, Rwanda is remarkable place. Fascinating and a little bit terrifying it’s far better then the boring. That’s why I like the place, no one will ever accuse Rwanda of being the worst thing of all: boring.