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Fire lake Erta Ale. Ethiopia

Erta Ale is an active basaltic shield volcano located in the Afar Region, Danakil desert, in northeastern Ethiopia. Erta Ale reaches 613 meters. The name Erta Ale in the local Afar language means “smoking mountain”. Or it is also often called the “road to hell”. The constant activity of the volcano continues since 1967. About every 30 years, the volcano shows its terrifying power that makes the local residents flee. It is the most active of the volcanoes in Ethiopia and one of five volcanoes on the planet, in the heart of which there is a lava lake.

For the first time, the lava lake was discovered on Erta Ale in 1890. More precisely, there was evidence of its occurrence on the basis of the red glow on the top of the volcano. It was impossible to get there. And only in 1960, the researchers were able to formalize the first documented evidence of a lake of fire.

Lava lake is a huge accumulation of magma. Gradually, it is stirred by the currents that arise from underground. These currents never stop, and a red-hot magma rises higher and higher. It comes up to the surface, cools down and plunges back. This process is called convective exchange. The balance of heat of the currents is very complicated, and when it is violated, the lake cools down. Thus, this lake cooled in 2004 and remained in a frozen state for 20 months, so that you could walk on it. It covers an area of six hundred square meters. The lake just explodes, throwing the fiery spray to a height of 40 meters, and then cools down again and becomes covered with black armor.

The life of the lake and the volcano itself is fickle and unpredictable. Thus, in November 2010, the volcanic tremors significantly affected the state of the faults in the north-eastern Africa – so, Erta Ale woke up with such an unexpected strength. These serious shifts of the plates, as well as an increase of the width of the faults, are able to significantly influence the entire continent of Africa, and moreover, change the geographical map of the world.

There are no fences and prohibitions, you are free to approach the lake. However, you should be guided by the common sense and do not neglect safety precautions. Of course, it is an incredible feeling and unimaginable sight – to see the lake of fire with your own eyes. Seething lava spills out, hardens, cracks, breaks down and sinks in fresh magma by pieces – all this is accompanied by flashes of glow, jets of vapors and disturbing sounds. Being close to the center of the volcano is incredibly difficult – the air temperature is around 50° C, without mentioning the acidic vapors. About 500-1000 tourists and researchers come to the crater of the volcano each year. However, not all the visits end safely.

Erta Ale volcano

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Erta Ale

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