Explosive Heat – Ethiopia

danakil-depression-1Few people can stand the heat of the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia. Active volcanoes sizzle inside this desert basin, and sulphur springs emit choking gases. No wonder some have called it the cruelest place on Earth.

The Afar triangle is a vast low area created where Earth’s tectonic plates are pullling apart. The huge forces in play as Earth’s crust is stretched and thinned causes earthquakes and volcanic eruptions along the plate boundaries. The Danakil Depression, in the north of the triangle, owes its sulphur lakes and active volcanoes to these tectonic forces.

Earliest Ancestors

Fossilized remains of our earliest ancestors have been found in the Afar triangle, not far from the Danakil Depression. In 1974 a team working here found the bones of an early hominid. Dubbed “Lucy”, she is thought to have lived a mind-boggling 3.2 million years ago.

As well as fierce volcanoes and sulphur springs, the Danakil Depression in the Afar triangle is home to acid lakes and occasional earthquakes. It has little to no rainfall and searing temperatures day and night. For centuries local merchants have collected salt from the region’s salt flats, and today the most intrepid tourists brave the dangers to marvel at the otherworldly landscape.