Asbury Park Press from Asbury Park, New Jersey on December 28, 1986 · Page 19
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Asbury Park Press from Asbury Park, New Jersey · Page 19

Asbury Park, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 28, 1986
Page 19
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Science Jack HASTINGS Gas-containing ivater cause of lake deaths nlore than 1,500 African tribal III people died in their sleep on Aug. 21 at Lake Nyos in Cameroon, Overcome by a mysterious gas which erupted from the lake and drifted over nearby villages. e A Belgian chemist, W.R. Ruston of Brussels, has concluded that whatever the cause, water containing gas from the deep high-pressure zone of the lake leached the upper low-pressure zone where spontaneous degassing triggered self-sustaining eruptive process that lasted until the total overturn of the lake's water. Ever since the mysterious deaths occurred scientists of many disciplines have sought to explain how it happened. At the time, all that was known was that on Aug. 21 something apparently triggered the release of poisonous gas from Lake Nyos (also spelled Nios). The gas drifted from the lake to nearby villages where men, women and children were overcome as they slept On the surrounding hills some 2,000 livestock were found dead by the first rescuers to appear at the scene. r In a letter to Chemical and Engineering News, Washington, Ruston explained what probably happened at Lake Nyos on that fateful night in August ' He said convection, an accidental idestabilization of the lake's vertical structure, led to an uncontrolled iipwelling of gas-bearing waters at an exponentially increasing rate and resulted in an explosion with catastrophic consequences. Ruston's letter was published in the magazine's Dec. 1 edition. Ruston's explanation is very likely jcorrect, according to Dr. Datta V. Naik, chemistry department chairman at tMonmouth College, West Long Branch. '.Naik was one of the first to explain the action of gases immediately following the tragedy at Lake Nyos. I The incident at Lake Nyos resembled what took place just two !years earlier, on Aug. 15, 1984, at Lake Monoun, 150 miles from Lake Nyos. Because both lakes are in volcanic ".craters, at first it was thought that some 'volcanic activity resulted in an 'upwelling of poisonous gases. However, ;now that is not thought to have been the cause. I Gases from rotting matter may lie 'for hundreds of years in lakes. Limnologists who study lakes say August is the time of minimum 'stability for lakes in Cameroon. J The Belgian chemist, Ruston, s studied the findings of a Belgian ' research team which in 1953 made a study of the great lakes in Africa. A study of Lake Kivu, which resembles ' Lake Nyos, showed it contained large ;t amounts of carbon dioxide and methane. Both lakes are very deep and V-shaped. The Belgian expedition found gases "' at a depth of 275 meters downward in Lake Kivu. Kivu is at the frontier between Zaire and Rwanda. The 4 principal gases found were methane, 25 J percent, carbon dioxide, 74 percent, and small amounts of hydrogen sulfide 5 and inert gases. Z 4 On average, Ruston said, one cubic meter of water was found to contain ' 1.62 cubic meters of gas at normal ' temperature and pressure. At Lake Nyos, contrary to earlier i assumption, there never was any "gas bubble" at the bottom that suddenly J. could have burst, Ruston said. The gas ! present was simply dissolved in the t- water under high pressure. i I "It could have been present at a depth below 200 meters (220 yards) for I thousands of years," Ruston said. s He theorized that a relatively minor t event may have upset the lake's V precarious equilibrium. A large boulder railing down the slopes may have " accelerated a column of gas-containing ' water toward the surface. However, Ruston doesn't discount the possibility 4 that an injection of hot volcanic if magma at the lake bottom might also i have been responsible. i But whatever the cause, gas from I the deep reached the upper low-i pressure zone where a spontaneous ? degrassing triggered a self-sustaining total overturn of the lake s water. Cooking or heating fires in villagers' huts may have ignited the seeping gas, causing the bum injuries later found on the bodies of victims. 1 Naik of Monmouth College, who has worked on gas research for the Air Force and NASA research projects, believes the Belgian chemist is right about Lake Nyos. "His theory is the best of all I have heard on the subject," he said. "In all probability Lake Nyos, prior to eruption, was similar to Lake Kivu." Peter Kilham of the University of Michigan has described the rotten-egg smell of deadly hydrogen sulfide he encountered up to eight miles from lakes in Tanzania. He also said gases from decaying matter are held in the lakes until the lake waters turn over. However, he said, in Africa the water of very deep V-shaped lakes are sheltered from the winds by high cliffs around the lake. The lake water may not turn over for many years, with the result that lethal gases accumulate, slowly gathering force. . Jack Hastings is a staff writer for The Asbury Park Press. Science clears on Sunday? Sydney Omarr Astrological forecast IF TODAY is your birthday you are dynamic, independent, romantic, can be self-indulgent, you also are an original thinker who seldom "follows the crowd." Leo, Aquarius persons play important roles in your life. You are an idealist but also pragmatic. You abhor imitations, false flattery, condensed versions. You imprint style, members of opposite sex find you intriguing no matter what your chronological age. During 1987, you could go into business, marriage, establish solid reputation. June will be memorable. ARIES (March 21-April 19): Truth shines through love is reflected in eyes of family. Scenario accents reunions, collections, security, home, gourmet dining. Long-distance call relates to holiday travel, surprises. TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Forces tend to be scattered, leave details for another day. Grasp overall view. Make contacts, satisfy curiosity. Settle basic issues with members of family. Good news received concern VISA. Maxipedic Firm A f011-! Firm, beautifully constructed and 3Itillx5o--A 555" with a built'in bedboard-Just like c TTaA l orthopedic surgeons recommend. I II Maxipedic Extra Firm I EiS I! fmm BcaBtytcst 1 For I nvnnn Oil-8Sfi5B! B Comfort, DaiabiUty and Value TT I sirr i I : ; i i i I f I t j ! I I 1 fl ' .4.., ......,4 - -4- -w-4 1 I 1 ..1 highway 70 JSL T nmQEg I I t l -p" j i manasquan river Sj II I JJ u imuljimj ! T J t 4 ' I I - phone 528-8300 ; J J J L J I ! . ing one in transit GEMINI (May 21-June 20. Focus on rights, permissions, legal tics, partnership prospects, marital status. You'll be on more solid emotional-financial ground. Keep options open, realize your own worth. Cancer, Scorpio persons play roles. CANCER (June 21-July 22): Be ready for discoveries, excitement physical attraction. What previously was taken for granted now looms large. You'll be invited to travel, to disseminate pertinent information. LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): Domestic issues dominate children figure prominently. Creative style is emphasized, member of opposite sex is intrigued and issues challenge. You'll receive gift representing genuine token of affection. Watch Libra! VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Define terms, recognize spiritual values. Focus on security, home, family relationships. Individual who attempts subterfuge will be discovered to your advantage. Pisces individual plays role. LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Relative confides dilemma. Give helping hand, realize by accepting challenge of more responsibility you ultimately gain. Scenario features achievement, money and love. Cancer, Capricorn persons play significant roles. SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): Many of your best qualities surge to forefront. Scenario highlights personal magnetism, charisma, ability to locate MASTFpCHARGE AMERICAN "missing link." Love will be present! Ancs, Libra natives figure in dynamic roles. SAGITTARIUS (No. 22-Dec. 21): Emphasis on fresh start ability to erase past mistakes. Get going, have confidence in timing, structure, design, intuition. You'U receive pre-holi-day gift means addition to wardrobe. CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): You'll be more secure, you'll have "backstage view." You'll be given access to privileged data. Money comes from unusual source. You get favorable publicity, might appear before the media. Watch Cancer! AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Moon position highlights friends, aspirations, speculation, gain through business or career. Powers of persuasion are heightened you'll be "very romantic." Gemini, Sagittarius persons play outstanding roles. PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20): You'll be asked to revise, review, possibly to rebuild. Focus on added responsibility, career, participation in community project. A "passionate suitor" suggests sea journey. Protect self in emotional clinches. IF TOMORROW is your birthday you are intuitive, unorthodox, a natural psychologist and teacher, loyal to family in your own way. You could have had early problems with left eye. You are fascinated by communication, television, books, aviation. Can EXPRESS MON.-FW. 9 A.M.-9 P.M.-SAT. 9 A.K.-6 P.M. (CLOSED cer, Capricorn, Aquarius persons play important roles in your life. Project you undertook in September is due to bear fruit ARIES (March 21-April 19): What had been monbund, lacking in luster, begins to shine and move. Focus on communication, popularity, positive answers to inquiries. You no longer are left in doubt TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Be ready to rebuild, revise, to receive suggestions from one you admire. Funding will be made available, architect could be involved. Source material should be brought up to date. GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Dialogue proceeds with one whose views may not parallel your own. You'll be offered contract, but don't be in hurry to sign. Focus on travel, variety, minor deceptions. CANCER (June 21-July 22): Domestic changes occur, family member talks about employment residence, health. Be sympathetic without becoming inextricably involved. Message should become crystal-clear. Taurus, Libra persons play roles. LEO (July 23-Aug. 22): What appeared to be certain could now be shrouded in doubt. Don't permit temporary delay to discourage you. Be-hind-scenes maneuvers are taking place you could ultimately emerge victorious. Pisces figures prominently. VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Stick to practical matters, leave fantasies for another time. Focus on responsibility, Asbury Park PressSunday, December 28, 1986 A19 pressure, challenge, deadline. You'll have chance to hit financial jackpot. Key is steadfast approach. LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 22): Plans subject to change, be flexible, keep options open. Sudden trip could be part of exciting scenario. Individual at distance will communicate. Puzzle pieces fall into place. Gemini, Sagittarius persons play roles. SCORPIO (Oct. 23-Nov. 21): New approach brings desired results, including possible profit Emphasis on sales ability, intrigue, glamour, physical attraction. SAGITTARIUS (No. 22-Dec. 21): Cycle high, judgment and intuition will be on target You could locate article that had been lost missing or stolen. Guard possessions, take nothing for granted where money is concerned. CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19): Obtain valid hint from Sagittarius message. You'll have more responsibility, popularity grows, you'll be invited to travel. AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18): Wishes are fulfilled in "practical manner." Means you could get money or gift certificate. Someone behind scenes serves as your private "cheering section." Means you have hidden ally. PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20). Make inquiries, give full rein to intellectual curiosity. Individual in position of authority has change of mind and heart. You'll be asked to go in "different direction." SWDAYS)

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