Thursday, August 9, 2012

Danakil Depression (Dallol Depression) – in Ethiopia, Out of This World



Note: You can click on all images to enlarge them.

The Dallol Depression also known as the Danakil Depression is a place in northeastern Ethiopia that is famous for many reasons. The main reason is of course that it is the all year round hottest place in the world. The temperature averages around 34°C (94°F) and the fact that is one of the lowest points on earth at 130 meters below sea level.





The Dallol or Danakil Depression in the NE of Ethiopia


The Danakil Depression is located in the Afar region of Ethiopia. This region is famous for being the cradle of mankind as it was here that various human fossils were discovered: Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus) and Lucy (Australopithecus afarensis).

Ardi (Ardipithecus ramidus)


Apart from the Dallol Depression, Afar is also home to the mount Erta Ale (or Ert’ale – smoking mountain in Afar language), is known to hold the longest-existing lava lake in its summit. It is thought to have existed since 1906. Lava lakes themselves are very rare phenomena with only four currently existing in the whole world.






Ertale (Ert'ale) in the Danakil Depression with its two crater lakes on its summit
Ertale at night

The Ertale crater at night
 The Dallol Depression is quite rich in mineral resources. Potash is currently being mined by various companies – but little do people know that Potash was being exported from Ethiopia in the 14th Century (Yes, you read it right – 14th century) – and is today quite abundant in the area. It is estimated that there are 140 – 150 million tons of it in the area.


Salt mining in the Dallol Depression

Another mineral that comes out of this region is salt. Salt mining is one of the very few ways that the local people can make money. But luckily, salt is very abundant. As a matter of fact the whole region lies on a salt bed that is about 3 kilometers thick. The miners risk the harsh conditions of the land and brave the heat to mine the salts with their bare hands. The salt is then transported on the backs of camels (the only form of transportation that can survive this hostile environment) to where they are sold.


Camel Caravan Lake Dallol - Danakil Depression

But, what is truly amazing about the Dallol or Danakil Depression is the beauty of the place. The salt flats, the desert and the myriad of colors that the landscape has in general. There are blues, whites, yellows, purples, reds and greens in a place where not even a single leaf grows.
These colors are the result of the volcanic nature of the area. The heat pushes up hot springs which in turn bring out various minerals from the earth’s core. As soon as the water reaches the surface it is rapidly evaporated by the intense heat leaving behind various colored minerals.
To have an idea of what picture is naturally painted and yet, out of this worldly landscape, have a look at the following images:




























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