A Crack Opens in the Ethiopian Landscape, Preparing the Way for a New Sea

By Eliza Strickland | November 4, 2009 11:07 am

Ethiopia-cracksIn 2005, the earth cracked open in Ethiopia. Two volcanic eruptions shook the desert, and a 35-mile-long rift opened in the land, measuring 20 feet wide in some places. Now a new study adds weight to the argument that the opening of this crack marks the first step in the formation of a new sea that may eventually separate East Africa from the rest of the continent. Says lead researcher Atalay Ayele: “The ocean’s formation is happening slowly, likely to take a few million years. It will stretch from the Afar depression (straddling Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti) down to Mozambique” [ABC News].

The study, to be published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, explains that the seismic movements observed in Ethiopia are very similar to the changes wrought by faults and fissures on the seafloor, where the processes that move tectonic plates usually begin.

Seismic data from 2005 shows that the rift opened in a matter of days. Dabbahu, a volcano at the northern end of the rift, erupted first, then magma pushed up through the middle of the rift area and began “unzipping” the rift in both directions, the researchers explained in a statement today. “We know that seafloor ridges are created by a similar intrusion of magma into a rift, but we never knew that a huge length of the ridge could break open at once like this” [LiveScience], says study coauthor Cindy Ebinger.

The active volcanic region in Ethiopia’s Afar desert sits at the boundary of the African and Arabian tectonic plates, which have been gradually spreading apart for millions years; the new study shows that large-scale seismic events can speed up that process. The gradual separation has already formed the 186-mile Afar depression and the Red Sea. The thinking is that the Red Sea will eventually pour into the new sea in a million years or so [LiveScience].

Related Content:
DISCOVER: Meet the New Continent: East Africa
DISCOVER: The Thrill-Seeker’s Travel Guide points tourists towards the Afar desert
80beats: Tremors Point to a Stressed-Out Stretch of the San Andreas Fault
80beats: Armed With Data, Scientists Still Mystified by Antarctica’s Hidden Mountains
80beats: Ancient Continental Collisions May Have Provided Air to Breathe

Image: University of Rochester

  • Gary

    Stop Plate Tectonics!

  • http://drvitelli.typepad.com Romeo Vitelli

    There’s a hypothesis that the Great Rift Valley in East Africa may have dramatically affected the local climate and played a direct role in human evolution. Plate tectonics rule.


  • DES

    That is the exact place where Dinknesh, Ardi and Idaltu were found. That is where humans were incubated.

  • http://Palscience.com Palscience

    We are experiencing part of evolution.

  • http://yahoo.com mege

    So, this means that East african countries will be separated and formed as an island in a million years?

  • Wizard Of Hamilton

    I believe that the new cracks discovered here are part
    of the early stages of the Polar Shift and Earth Changes that’s been predicted
    many years ago and this may be another important piece of evidence ,
    of a foretold prophecy coming into play.
    The news of the discovery just about coincides with the
    upcoming premiere of the prophecy-based movie, “2012”.
    Increased geological activity would speed up the process
    of the continental split.
    Meanwhile, this is the perfect time to for geologists to
    gather as much data possible for further research.

  • mykey

    Finally, ethiopia is going to have a sea port !
    Big ships..get ready to doc at the port of denknesh.

  • Lucy

    you must be kidding me, it is a pitty w are not there to witness it. i really would love to see it.

  • Doug

    Thank God no one blamed the crack on mans impact on this world. Every other global change has been traced to my deodorant can or a cow fart. It’s all part of an ever changing world. Just experience it, don’t analyze it. Nothing is forever.

  • redman

    Not one scientist will recommend draining the oil from your automobile engine and then driving it ! If you do , the outcome is a definate blow out . Before this happens , cracks (fault lines) appear in the engine block’s metal prior to it’s eruption . Our auto engines are just like our Earth and visa-versa , both need/use this oil for the very same reason , coolant and lubrication . The depletion of oil from the Earth is having the same effect as it does on your automobile engine . A dormant volcano now active . A crack 35 miles long in 2 days , another eruption or major quake could open another 1000 miles just as quick . As is , many new cracks are being found with each journey to this area . This event has just begun . 100000 years maybe but could happen tommorrow . Let’s hope no scientist gets the bright idea of sending a rocket down into this crack ! Anyone remember this old movie ?

  • almi

    elllllllllllllllllllll finally god will give as sea port wat we lost in man made teritory

  • Neb

    Ethiopia will no longer be a landlock country…..assuming that there will be things called countries when it happens.

  • alvin

    the earth has already started its change with catrina, the out brake of harricans, landslides, earthquakes, eradic weather, valcanos acting up, even activity at yellowston national park off and on. its not the end of the world yet just the begining of the evolving. but it if we all can get our heads out of our butts and and our hand out of the money jar and work together it wont be the end of the world but but a new begining of life and history.

  • erick

    guess time to strategically buy land on projected new coastal cities anyone have a map heloo

  • Dick Kintu

    The world is changing very first. All this happened in three days if another eruption occurs won’t this crack become dipper and wider?

    And i want to know isn;t there water in this crack from springs and rain? Scientist should guide the people along this crack just in case the volcano errupts again.

  • Justin

    Well this area kinda looks like the United States which leads me to believe the U.S. could be in the early stages of Ethiopia?


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