Just 40 years ago, when the Norwegian government funded a fish-processing factory on Ferguson's Gulf, they positioned it near Kalokol and not far from the Lakeside. Now, the white elephant project is more than 2 km from the water's edge.
If we go back furher in time, a 100 000 years or so, neolithic people were living on the side of Lake Turkana. When they abandoned their temporary encampments and moved on in the endless hunter-gatherer search for food, they left the bones of their meals amongst the ashes of their fires, their broken tools and, occassionaly, a scaping or etching on the rocks. When we come across these sites today we find them at a great distance from the present Lake. A good example is found at Moite mountain on the east shore. A distinct horizontal line, darker below, lighter above, crosses the lakeside face of the mountain; it is most clearly evident when Moite is viewed from a boat out on the Lake.
Yet, we all know 100 centuries is like a mere minute in geological time. Going back millions of years, it is possible Turkana was more like a vast inland sea than a lake. However, let us not dwell too much on such ancient times as it will involve consideration of the forces of plate tectonics, volcanic upheavals and extreme climate change ------ and too complex a picture will result.
Staying within a more understandable 100 to 200 century span of time, the morphology of the region and the contours should have changed relatively little. That being the case, the addition of 60 m or so to the depth of the Lake would push it far to the south into the present Suguta Valley, and, more significantly, far beyond its present northern extrmity (the Omo river delta) and through an umbilical cord of low-lying plains to the Lokipiti plateau of Southern Sudan; from there, flowing into the basin of the White Nile. In other words, lake Turkana was not just enormously bigger, it was greatly longer and connected to the great Nile ---- in fact it was one of the sources of the Nile. This, of course, provides us with the explanation for hippos, crocodiles, Nile perch and many other, typically, fresh water species of fish being found in Lake Turkana; yet the lake's moderate alkalinity is not that of their normal habitat. At some point in time the umbilical cord connection to the Nile was severed and Lake Turkana was left isolated, with no outlet and many species trapped within its depths ---- the situation up to the present day. Water can still leave, and does so in vast quantities, through evaporation, but dissolved salts cannot and so the lake becomes gradually more and more salty. The trapped species had to adapt, and rapidly, to the changing conditions or perish. Some such as the Nile crocodiles have never fully succeeded and display an unusually slow rate of growth. Others, such as the Nile perch have done much better and often grow to huge sizes.
Throughout the colonial era, there was a steady trickle of white farmers and administrators to the Turkana lakeside, arriving in their 4-wd landrovers, with trailer and boat behind, for a week or two of "deep lake fishing". Along the sandspit of Ferguson"s Gulf there was, up to recently, a line of simple, palm-thatched huts that would serve as their holiday accommodation. Their angling successes are documented in the archives by numerous black and white pictures of man and fish, victor and victim, side by side --- the fish invariably suspended from hook and weighing scale to display the record weight to doubting-Thomases back home.
What is quite amazing is that the Turkana people, despite their nilotic heritage, have never been interested in catching or eating fish, regarding their fish-loving neighbours in the Omo delta and the Lel Molo on the South east side of the Lake to be unclean scavengers. Even extreme droughts and starvation, in which their livestock died, would not drive them from their pastoralist traditions to the sedentary lifestyle of fishermen.
Can it be that our beautiful "Jade Sea" is headed for the same fate as the former "Aral Sea" in Europe ; -- to become a deserted, wind-blown dustbowl ? For all Turkana-lovers this is a nightmare scenario. Thank God, many of us will not be around long enough to see it.