How would you like living in the hottest place of earth? Imagine even setting foot on a scorched,barren plain where dry dust and the hot air drains you of moisture, where the climate is so cruel that only microbes exist, but yet surprising as it may seem, people actually live here,in Ethiopia’s Danakil Depression. At 410 ft below sea level, it is one of the lowest, driest and hottest places on the planet.
The Danakil depression is located, north east of Ethiopia on the Ertirean border. Situated in the Afar region, it is inhabited by the Afar population who have adapted to the inhumanly arid conditions.
An alien environment like that of another planet
There is no rainfall in the Danakil depression except for a meager200mm, which is the maximum received annually. Such factors make it the most inhospitable and driest regions on earth and the area is one of the most famous places of study among scientists in finding proof and specimens linked to evolution. In fact, it was in this very region that the famous female fossil skeleton called Lucy was discovered in 1974. Belonging to the hominini species, Australopithecus afarensis, it was dated as 3.2 million years old and was the first sample of evolutionary changes suggesting that ape like humanoids first walked on two feet before brain development.
The entire depression features strange and weird geographical features which look like some alien environment of another planet. Lava filled lakes in volcanoes, a panorama of hydrothermal fields in different colors and vast stretches of salt pans dazzling in the sun. The region is made up of three tectonic plates called the Asar junction from where the depression was formed.
A New Ocean Will Be Created Millions of Years from Now
The Danakil depression is part of the East African rift valley where tectonic plates are constantly moving apart, at the rate of almost 2cm annually. The result is the widening rift and new crust formation on the earth’s surface which is the main reason for the bubbling lava lakes , hot springs and fissures scarring the entire landscape.
An amazing fact derived from scientific research says that a day will come in the future when this depression disappears forever. When the tectonic rifts will have moved wide apart, the red sea will then spillover into the area creating a new ocean on earth. Perhaps it will be named the Danakil Ocean. However, this can only happen millions of years from now.
Host to Several Microbes and Microorganisms
Subsequent to the finding of Lucy, several fossils of similar species were discovered. Scientists then turned to the depression as one of the best places to investigate the possibilities of how life might exist on other planets in the universe. Hence, the depression earned the name, the cradle of humanity’ and the hottest place on earth.
The several hot springs and geysers in the area are host to a variety of microorganisms and extremophiles, so called, because of their adaptation to life in an extreme environment. Microbes present in the depression are a constant source for study on the evolution of extraterrestrial life forms.
Home to One of the Most Unique Rivers in the World
The most surprising factor of the Danakil depression is the local population who has actually managed to adapt to such inhospitable conditions. The Afar tribes in vast comparison to sweaty scientists and researchers are always cool and appear to be totally relaxed in the heated conditions. Due to their remarkable adaptation to the unbearable heat, their bodies require less water and nourishment in comparison to normal human beings.
There is just one river in the region called the Awash River and it is one of the most unique rivers on earth. It is an amazing fact to know that this is the only river that doesn’t open up into the sea. It flows down from the Ethiopian highlands and straight into the lakes of the Danakil depression where the heat evaporates the waters constantly, resulting in vast stretches of salt. This is a valuable source of the mineral for the people and the river, perhaps is the only sustenance to life in the region.
A Multicolored Diverse Environment
The Danakil depression is a diverse environment where stretches of land remain looking like broken pottery due to the sun baked earth. Elsewhere, there are multiple hues of geothermal; springs and geysers, while in various parts of the depression one can climb up to volcanoes bursting with lava filled lakes, such as the one inside the Erta Ale crater. The mini lakes of water in the depression aren’t suitable for human use as it features water colored red by the chemicals present in it. There is no way a normal human can ever hope to survive in the Danakil depression, truly the hottest place on earth.