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article imageAfrican Continent Splitting Apart

By geozone     Mar 17, 2007 in World
In September, 2005, a team of geologists from the University of Addis Ababa had scarcely stepped out of their helicopter onto the desert plains of Ethiopia when the ground under their feet shook violently.
Before they could scramble back into the helicopter, numerous crevices split open and raced toward them like zippers opening up in the Earth. It took mere seconds. When the ground stopped shaking, the geologists knew they had witnessed history. This was the beginning phases of the birth of an ocean...right in the midst of the African continent.
A human lifetime is far too short to witness an epic event such as the birth of an ocean, river or sea, the rise of a mountain or the opening up of a valley. Yet this is precisely the process which is taking place in northern Ethiopia in a region called the Afar Triangle.
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Since the Addis Ababa team's first visit to the region, hundreds of crevices have cracked open and spread outwards, covering an area of 345 square miles. A series of earthquakes shook the ground for a week after the geologists left. Small earthquakes continue to shake the area and the ground continues to split open and sink. Some parts of the region shifted 8 meters (over 26 feet) virtually overnight.
At the same time, magma (molten rock) began to rise from below, almost 2 billion cubic meters of it. This magma is settling into a crack between two tectonic plates (African and Arabian) and forcing them further apart. Eventually it will form a basalt ocean floor which will be flooded by the Red Sea in about one million years. An ocean will then have been born and split Africa apart.
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Geophysicist Tim Wright is leading a research team to study seismic activity in the region. He expressed enormous excitement over the geologic events in the Afar Triangle: "It's very exciting because we're witnessing the birth of a new ocean. In geological terms, a million years is the blink of an eye. We don't precisely know what is going to happen, but we believe that it may turn parts of Northern Ethiopia and Eritrea into an island, before a much larger land mass -- the horn of Africa -- breaks off from the continent."
The new ocean which forms will connect the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. The latter body of water is an arm of the Arabian Sea.
Note: I had de-activated this post when I discovered franklin has actually posted this story on February 10 here.
franklin graciously and kindly let me know it was okay to keep my post up and after re-considering, I decided to do so mainly because I thought people would benefit by seeing the images I have included.
Thank you franklin and for those people who think my story here is important enough to vote for, please also vote for franklin's original story as well in the link I gave above. It would be an acknowledgement to the importance of the story itself which goes beyond that of the posters. Thank you.
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