As drought has caused Lake Van to recede, leaving something beautiful, but disturbing to be revealed: ancient fairy chimneys in Turkiye’s biggest lake.
These fairy chimneys are really microbialites, underwater structures that look like rocks or reefs but are really made of millions of microbes. Microbialites are found around the world and date back to ancient times. Thanks to Turkiye’s drought, people can now see Lake Van’s microbialites above the water, especially from the nearby village of Incekaya in northern Turkiye. The microbialites may be up to 800,000 years old, and reach up to 104 feet tall.
Beautiful as they are, they attest to the super-dry conditions afflicting Turkiye. As the Hürriyet Daily News newspaper quoted a citizen who lives near the lake, “Unfortunately, Lake Van also received its share from the drought in our country. The microbialites were previously at the bottom of the water. Unfortunately, they came to light due to drought. We are very sorry about this. Indeed, Lake Van is a valuable heritage for us.”
Being suddenly exposed to dry conditions could make the fairy chimneys crumble.
Lake Van’s water level has been dropping for years, caused by global warming. Not only is this cause for environmental alarm, but it’s bad for business. International diving enthusiasts have brought their tourism dollars to the area in recent years, drawn by the fairy chimneys.
Drought is a common problem in Turkiye. The country is located in the Mediterranean macroclimate region in the sub-tropical zone, which means rainfall varies greatly from year to year. In recorded history, Turkiye has suffered intensive periods of drought in 1804, 1876, 1928, the early 1970s and 1989 to 1991, to name a few. In 2012, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “concluded that there is medium confidence that since the 1950s in particular southern Europe has experienced a trend toward more intense and longer droughts.”
Conditions have been especially severe in interior parts of Turkiye during autumns.
Lead image via Pexels