On the face of it Lake Nyos just looks like a beautiful gem in Mother Nature’s crown, but it hides an incredibly dark secret.
Back in August 1986 one of the strangest and most mysterious natural disasters in history took place at this picturesque location in northwestern Cameroon.
A giant cloud of carbon dioxide bubbled up from the lake, flowed into the valley below and stripped the air of oxygen, suffocating 1,746 villagers and 3,000 animals to death.
It sounds like something right out of a horror film, but for those who witnessed it was unfortunately so real.
Crater lakes, like Lake Nyos, are formed by subterranean volcanic activity and they commonly have high levels of carbon dioxide.
In most crater lakes, these gases disappear, but not at Lake Nyos. Unbeknown to the local villagers, over hundreds of years its deep waters became a high-pressure storage unit loaded with gases.
Lake Nyos was a ticking time bomb and no-one could have known.
On the 21st of August 1986, something triggered it. It could have been a landslide, a small volcanic eruption, or even something as small as cold rain falling on an edge of the lake.
But whatever the cause, the result was totally catastrophic. The lake exploded, sending a fountain of water over 300 feet into the air and creating a small tsunami.
Hundreds of thousands of tons of carbon dioxide burst out at 60 miles an hour, suffocating people up to 15 miles away.
Out of the 800 residents of nearby Nyos, only six survived. Over 5,000 people and livestock perished in a matter of minutes.
To combat such a disaster happening ever again, French scientists have implemented a degassing program.
An alarm system also monitors carbon dioxide levels, so should the lake explode again, there will at least be a warning this time.