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9 Apocalyptic Scenes From the Decaying Salton Sea

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The inland Salton Sea, south of Palm Springs, is, by all accounts, a depressing place. It's California's largest lake and--thanks to its toxic water and resultant abundance of dead fish--gives off a smell that's so powerfully rancid it's been known to waft all the way to Simi Valley. Its glory days are many decades in the past, the lake is shrinking, and many of its residents have left (or, in some cases, fled). There are a few traditional tourist attractions left (the International Banana Museum!) and a state park, but if this Vice article is anything to go by, it's stock-in-trade these days is disaster tourism. Here are the most apocalypsey parts from a pretty damn apocalyptic scene:

-- "As I was leaving, I asked the fisherman if he'd caught anything. He told me, 'there's no fish here. I just do this to get my sons out of the house.'"

-- "The white beaches, it turns out, are white because they're made up of the pulverized bones of millions of dead fish. The birds probably aren't doing too well, either. Avian botulism is a persistent problem in the Salton Sea, killing off thousands of birds each year."

-- "In the 80s, it became apparent that nothing could be done about it, so officials built a dike around half of the town and just let the sea take what it wanted."

-- "Of the town that hasn't sunk into the ground, about a third of it is abandoned."

-- "Judging by the packaging on the food that's still in the cupboards, people bailed circa the early 90s."

-- "After driving for quite some time down a dirt road, I got to the point where my GPS said the Salton Sea History Museum should be. There was nothing there but a locked gate and a man fishing in a creek with his two sons."

-- "Grief-documenters are so commonplace in Bombay Beach that, when I bought a bottle of water from the shop down the street, the owner, immediately recognizing me as an outsider, asked, 'are you here making a documentary?'"

-- "The older of the two shops had products on display that seemed to have sat unsold for at least 20 years. There was a 'Have a Nice Cruise!' card with a picture of a boat on the front. I opened it up, and there was a dead moth crushed inside."

-- "According to the BBC, if the sea dries out (which seems pretty likely) it will unleash 'clouds of toxic dust across Southern California.' Taking a little bit of the Salton Sea to some four million people."