Best Ethiopia Tours

Best Ethiopia Tours

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Danakil Depression and Erta Ale

Danakil Depression

The Danakil depression that straddles the Eritrean border to the east of the Tigrian Highlands it is renowned as the hottest place on earth with an average temperature of 34-35oc . Much of this vast and practically unpopulated region lies below sea level, dipping to an exhausted altitude of -116mbsl at Dallol near Lake Asale.

The Danakil is an area of singular geological fascination a strange lunar landscape studded with active volcanoes, fragrant sulphur-caked hot spring, solidified black lava flows and vast salt coated basins.

The Danakil is effectively a southerly terrestrial extension of the rifting process that formed the Red Sea set at the juncture of the African, Arabian, and Somali tectonic plates and its low lying surface was once fully submerged by saline water. Relic of those distant days include lakes Asale and Afrera, both of which lie at the centre at an ancient salt extraction industry linking the somewhat restricted economy of the Danakil to the more naturally abundant Tigrian highlands around Mekele.

It is some measures the Danakil’s geological activity that more than 30 active or dormant volcanoes roughly one-quarter of the African total as listed by Smithsonian institute global volcanism program are shared its Ethiopian and Eritrean components. Following a series of fault line running in a north and northwesterly direction, these volcanoes are geological infants having formed over the past million years, and a great many took their present shape within the last 10,000 years.

 Erta Ale

Erta Ale ranks as one of the most appealing and physically challenging natural attractions anywhere in Ethiopia rising from below sea level to an altitude of 613 m, Erta Ale is a shield volcano with a base diameter of 30km and 1km2 caldera at its summit nestled within the caldera are two pit craters the larger, more northerly one, though currently inactive held a lava lake in 1968 and 1973 while the smaller ellipsoid central pit contains the world’s only permanent lava lake which measures about 60m across and 100m long.

Scientists think the lake must have a continuous link to a shallow magma chamber which is itself fed on a regular basis by magma associated with the formation of rift. Significant changes in activity were noted at Erte Ale over 2004-05 including high levels of degassing, fissure eruption on the northern flank and a fresh breach on the southern crater that has caused the lave to over flow its terrace and rise up to within 20m of the crater rim. Several earthquakes have also been recorded in the vicinity of Erta Ale in the recent years suggesting that a major eruption may be about to happen.

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