A mystery lake seems to have simply appeared out of nowhere in the African desert. In the middle of drought-stricken Tunisia, on the north-central edge of the Great Sahara Desert, a rather large body of water that wasn’t there suddenly was, prompting some to refer to it as a “miracle” lake.
The Guardian reported August 1 that a huge body of water seemed to just manifest itself in a declivity in the sands of the Tunisian desert in recent weeks. Locals quickly flocked to the beautiful turquoise anomaly, naming the place Lac de Gafsa, or Gafsa Beach. And although warned to stay clear until the water could be tested, the lake was just too much temptation for people rarely in the presence of great amounts of fresh water, not to mention being constantly hammered by 40-degree Celsius (104 degrees, Fahrenheit) desert heat.
“Some say it is a miracle, while others are calling it a curse,” Lakhdar Souid, a Tunisian journalist, told France 24 television (per The Guardian).
Water in the desert a curse? How could that be?
The journalist explained that what was once a pristine turquoise body of water that was crystal clear had become “green and full of algae, which means it’s not being replenished.” There are also fears that the water could have some form of toxic contaminant(s) or chemicals within its alluring expanse. Since the area is phosphate rich (Tunisia being the world’s fifth-largest producer of phosphates), authorities fear radioactive residue in the water, making it carcinogenic. And with the green algae infestation and stagnancy of the water, the area has become a breeding ground for disease.
Local Mehdi Bilel, who had been driving for two hours through the desert on his way home from a wedding. He thought he was seeing a mirage.
“After several long hours on the road without a break, I honestly thought I was hallucinating,” he told reporters. “I don’t know much about science and thought it was magic, something supernatural.”
The “miracle” lake was discovered by shepherds three weeks ago. It is 18 meters (59 feet) deep and roughly covers 10,000 square meters (32,808 feet) and is located 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from the city of Gafsa (hence the designation Gafsa Beach).
Accoring to Courier International (a French language report passed on by Huffington Post), officials investigating how the lake formed still are at a loss as to the source of the water, but the consensus theory is that a tremor fractured a layer of rock holding an underground reservoir, allowing groundwater to flow through the subsequent crack in the rock and fill the desert canyon. A resettling of the retaining layer of rock could have resealed the reservoir, which would account for the non-replenishment aspect of Gafsa Beach.
There seems to be an uptick in geological mysteries of late. The mystery lake in Tunisia appeared about the same time as the first of the mysterious holes that were discovered in Siberia. Those odd geological formations — thus far, three have been discovered — may be a new type of sinkhole, one which forms in conjunction with an ejection event produced by pressurized gas.