Lake Nyos Disaster Reference Photos

I’ve been pretty quiet around here lately. Much of my time this semester has been spent focusing on teaching; I’ve found that I have significantly less time to work on comics than I would like, and even less time to spend writing apologetic blog updates for my lack of progress. Never fear, however! I have been making comics, albeit slowly. In a few weeks, my summer will begin, and I will be making comics with a vengeance and updating my blog like crazy (well, maybe not too crazy). So stay tuned.

For now, I thought I’d share with you some reference photos I used while working on a recent piece about the Lake Nyos disaster. The story will appear in issue #4 of the comic anthology Irene, which will be published this spring. If you’re not familiar with Irene I suggest you purchase issue #3 and check it out. It’s a fabulous series and I am thrilled to be able to contribute.

Nyos is a crater lake in northwestern Cameroon. If you’ve ever heard of it, it was almost certainly in reference to a tragic natural disaster in 1986, in which CO2 that had built up in the lake over time was suddenly released in a giant gas cloud, known as a limnic eruption.

The gas cloud spilled into the adjacent valleys, killing over 1,700 people and countless animals. In a few cases, the populations of nearby villages were almost entirely wiped out, with only a handful of survivors.

I think one of the more horrific aspects of this tragedy not adequately captured in these photos would be the disorienting silence that must have filled the valleys. Surviving residents of these villages would have been accustomed to the constant hum of thousand of insects, birds, and other animals inhabiting the area. Most of these creatures would have been killed by the gas cloud, making the aftermath of the eruption all the more unsettling.

Survivors of this event were evacuated to nearby hospitals and resettlement camps. Some of the hardest-hit villages still haven’t been repopulated.

I find this story to be both depressing and horrific; the fact that a person can wake up to find their families, livelihoods, and entire communities gone is panic-inducing. Limnic eruptions are very uncommon, and I would imagine that for many survivors, at least at first, it would have been unclear as to exactly what had happened. I think if I saw every living thing around me asphyxiating for no discernible reason, I might be inclined to think the world was ending.

This story is pretty dark, even by my standards, but hopefully not so dark that you’re unable to enjoy it. Here’s a sample page from the piece:

Look for my story about the Lake Nyos disaster in the upcoming issue of Irene, set to debut at TCAF this year.