The Ever-Changing Lakes
On central Flores island in Indonesia is the volcano Kelimutu. At the base of the volcano, which is over 3,000 feet high, lies the small town of Moni, where visitors stay if they want to see the three colored lakes of Kelimutu. Called “Tiwu Ata Bupu,” “Tiwu Ko’o,” and “Tiwu Ata Polo” by locals, these bodies of water are known as the “Lake of Old People,” the “Lake of Young Men and Maidens,” and the “Bewitched/Enchanted Lake.”
Top view of Kelimutu lakes at mount Kelimutu
The lakes are deeply ingrained in local legend and culture because they inexplicably change colors. An ancient legend states that the lakes are human souls’ final resting places and that souls rest in different lakes based on living people’s actions.
Image of the Kelimutu lakes from the Indonesian 5,000 Rupiah bill
Although no serious research has been conducted under Kelimutu to discover the cause of the changing colors, theorists suppose that it is due to underwater volcanic activity that pushes minerals to the lakes’ surfaces. Depending on what elements are churning in the water, the lakes may turn blood red, brilliant turquoise, or olive green, but the lakes are never all the same color at the same time. This phenomenon of three differently colored lakes reacting to volcanic activity is not known to happen anywhere else in the world.
Kelimutu lakes change their color up to six times a year
Visitors to the island enjoy hiking or scheduling transportation up the mountain to grab a view of the lakes’ colors. Generally, visitors remain overnight so they can see the spectacular, one-of-a-kind sunrise over the lakes. Because of the high mineral concentration in the lakes’ waters, they are not believed to be safe for visitors, and the steep incline of rocks to the lakes’ shores makes descent dangerous.
“The most important determinant of color in the lakes is oxygen. Just like your blood, when the lake waters lack oxygen they look green (look at your wrist). Conversely, when they are rich in oxygen, they are a deep red to black.” – Dr. Gregory B. Pasternack
“Comparison of the individual lakes with their respective historic chemistries demonstrates that they are all approaching chemical steady state.” – Dr. Gregory B. Pasternack
How did you like the episode?
Get the word out!
Love Curious Peoples? Your friends will too.