THE SITUATION: In 1986, around 1,700 people died in a Cameroonian village when Lake Nyos suddenly released large quantities of carbon dioxide stored in its water. Two years before, Lake Monoun, another Cameroonian lake, released a toxic cloud that killed 37 people. Now, you’re somewhere near Lake Kivu, a third Cameroonian lake that doubles as a reserve for carbon dioxide and methane. Except, due to some recent volcanic activity, those gases are suddenly being released into the air, which you need to breathe in order to continue living.
WHAT DO YOU DO? The higher you can get yourself, the better. “There isn't much scientific analysis to back this up,” says Professor Anthony Vodacek of the Rochester Institute of Technology, “more just common sense. One would want to keep the quads in good shape and head straight uphill—and there are generally plenty of hills along the shore of Lake Kivu."
Professor Robert Hecky of the University of Minnesota Duluth echoes Vodacek’s advice. “The most certain danger would be asphyxiation, as the CO2 is heavier than the air and would tend to spread laterally over the lake and nearby land. The best advice is to head for high ground trying to stay above the layer of CO2 which would slowly be mixed into the overlying atmosphere.”
In addition to the poisonous air and a possible volcanic eruption (which you’re already set with), the rising gases would also probably cause a giant tsunami-like wave in the lake, so you’d have that to deal with, too. “The survival strategy is the same: head for high ground," Hecky says.