In 1942 a Nanda Devi game reserve ranger name H K Madhwal was trekking through a remote area high in the mountains in the Uttarakhand state of India when he found a quiet lake in an uninhabited area in the Himalayas. The temperatures were warm enough at the time that the layer of ice on the top had cracked and broken. Madhwal was shocked when he realized that beneath the surface were the skeletal remains of hundreds of people.
Initially, he believed the remains belonged to Japanese soldiers who had died in the ongoing World War II. He notified British authorities, who launched an investigation. They found that the bones were much older than the war, dating back to 850 AD.
The site was explored fully, but until 2005 the cause of the death was not determined. That’s when researchers happened to hear of a song about a goddess named Nanda Devi. In the song and related stories, Nanda Devi rained massive stones down upon travelers. The pieces began to fall into place for researchers, who had found large skull fractures on the skeletons.
New research was conducted based on this observation, it was finally determined that a massive hailstorm had caught these people unaware and caused their deaths before they could reach cover. It was estimated that the largest hailstones measured nine inches in diameter.
After the discovery, the site became a popular hiking destination, and many people took bones or skulls with them as souvenirs. Because of this, the inhabitants of the lake could completely vanish in the years to come. Local authorities are taking steps to attempt to prevent the artifact collection, but it is proving difficult because of the remoteness of the location.
The lake is now known as the Skeleton Lake of Roopkund, and it remains frozen for most of the year, melting only briefly to expose its 1,200 year old occupants.