Afar

In Eastern Ethiopia ,near the southern end of the Red Sea,an immense ,more or less triangular depression descendes far below sea level (at some points 120 meter below sea level). Known as the Danakil Depression,this extremely hot and dry area is actually a part of the Africa's great rift valley. In this seemingly inhospitable area there live the nomadic Afar people who number about 3 million. Their external borders are Eritrea,Djibouti, and Somalia.

The region where these people live in, is also called Afar-one of the nine regions of Ethiopia. Its new capital named Semera on the paved Awash - Assab highway is under construction. 

The Afar Depression is a plate tectonic triple junction where the spreading ridges that are forming the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden emerge on land and meet the East African Rift  valley. The Afar Depression is one of two places on Earth where a mid-ocean ridge can be studied on land, the other being Iceland.At present ,the Afar is slowly being pulled apart at a rate of 1-2 cm per year. The floor of the Afar Depression is composed mostly of basaltic lava. The Afar Depression and Triple Junction also mark the location of a mantle plume, a great uprising of mantle that melts to yield basalt . 

This place which used to be part of the Red Sea has kilometers of salt deposites.In some places the slat deposites are about 3miles (5 KMS) thick. Below a salt lake is a substantial source of volcanic heat which causes hot water to rise through layers of salt and anhydrite deposits. Minerals get dissolved and are deposited, near the springs, and form shapes very much reminiscent (but smaller than) hornitos on basaltic lava flows. Sulphur, other minerals and possibly thermophyle bacteria cause spectacular colours. 

A special place called "Erta Ale" is found in the Afar depression at 13.6°N, 40.67°E, 613m . It is a shield volcano, which has a base diameter of 30km and is only 500m high. In its vast summit caldera (1600x700m) there are two pit craters. The larger one (300-400m diameter) in the northern part contained a lava lake in 1968 and 1973 but is now inactive. A central, but smaller pit (140m diameter, 60 to 90m deep) now has an active lava lake 60m wide and 100m long


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