On the fateful night of August 21st, the villagers at Nyos went to sleep. They couldn’t have know that the carbon dioxide gas which had turned the lake blood-red was now reaching a critical point. As the people of Lake Nyos slept, the top of the lake was keeping the carbon down like a cap on a pop bottle.
But then the earth rumbled and a landslide took place, sending rock into the water, disturbing the surface pressure, and releasing the gas. The gas then rose to the surface and then like some alien monster emerged from the water. Droplets formed on it, turning the invisible gas into a visible fog. The fog then rolled across the water and across the land, suffocating everything in its path. And as suddenly as it appeared, it disappeared, dissolving harmlessly into the atmosphere.
The next day, those who had been sleeping on higher ground woke up to find some 1800 people dead. Hundreds of cattle and small animals also dead. All around there was deathly silence.
And all of the dead stuff leaves evidence. Lake Nyos and Lake Monoun not only left piles of dead animals all over the surrounding landscape, but also left thick layers of sediments of dead aquatic critters (even little tiny plankton). That’s how it was discovered that Lake Kivu and the place in Germany had limnic eruptions, even though in the case of the latter it has been 50 million years since the last one. And there’s no sign of such a thing having happened on or around the Nile.
After the death of the firstborn, pharaoh finally relented, letting Moses take his people out of Egypt. According to the Bible, what made pharaoh give up was the selectivity of the death: the fact that it was only male firstborn who died. It was this selectivity that demonstrated to him that God himself was involved. How can we account for this?
Well, Egyptian firstborn males had a privileged position. They were the heirs to the throne, property, titles and more. They slept on Egyptian beds, low to the ground, while their brothers and sisters slept on rooftops, sheds, and in wagons. The Israelites, sitting up at their first Passover meal, did not feel a thing while the low-traveling gas suffocated the privileged Egyptian males sleeping in their beds.
Here we have Jacobovici simply making stuff up again. There is absolutely no evidence that I have ever seen anywhere indicating that the eldest son slept on a bed while everybody else slept on the roof or in wagons (the Egyptians of the time didn’t even have wagons).
Most poor people in Egypt didn’t have beds at all. They slept on mats. And during the hot nights the entire family would sleep on the roof, while during the cold nights the entire family would sleep indoors on the floor. So either everybody would be on the roof and the eldest sons wouldn’t be gassed, or everybody would be on the floor and everybody in the whole family would be gassed.
In the homes of the middle-class and upper-class, everybody in the family (not counting the servants) had beds. Houses often had many beds in them. Some of the bigger houses even had special rooms set aside for guests, and those rooms had beds in them. Of course, this was back before air conditioning really existed, so even the rich would sometimes sleep on their roofs to stay cool. The eldest sons would not be pleased to be forced to sleep indoors every night. It would not be a privilege.
And we’re supposed to believe, by the way, that not even the parents, including the head of the family, were permitted to sleep in a bed. I suppose that on cold nights, they all were supposed to sleep on the floor. Yeah. I can easily imagine the pharaoh sleeping on the floor while his eldest son slept in a bed.
Also, Jacobovici’s idea requires the entire region to be perfectly flat, and for everybody who slept indoors to sleep right at ground level. First off, Egypt of the time did have their own versions of apartment buildings. Egypt was a very constricted nation, being a little narrow strip of land along the banks of the Nile with desert on either side. Habitable places were scarce, and every square meter of land that could be used to grow crops on or to graze livestock had to be used for that purpose. Living space tended to be just as much at a premium in ancient Egyptian cities as it is today in Manhattan or Tokyo. So they built upwards as well as outwards.
Then there’s the matter that habitations were built up high, due to the Nile’s flooding. Some houses were built on stilts or raised foundations. Cities tended to be built on hills. And, as is usually the case in cities around the world, how high you were in social rank determined how high up the hill your house was. The upper-class lived near the tops of the hills, the middle class a bit lower, and the lower class at the lowest parts. Slaves, aside from house servants, would have been the lowest class in all senses of the phrase. So for the carbon dioxide to have reached the firstborn sons of the middle and upper classes (whether they slept in beds or on the roofs), the gas would first have had to totally flood the lower classes and the slaves. The Israelites would have been among the first people affected, and even sitting on the roofs of their slave quarters would not have saved them.
Pretty much every single horse, cow, goat, chicken, rabbit, hippo, crocodile, fish, and so on in the region would have died, of course. Not just the firstborn males. Most of these critters would have been in the lowlands outside of town.