photo by filippo_jean (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

Scientists at the Royal Society – the UK’s national academy of science – have determined that the continent of Africa is literally splitting in two.

According to Geologists, in 2005 a rift opened up in the Afar region of Ethiopia as a result of underground eruptions, which will eventually cause the horn of Africa to drift away and a new ocean to form.

From a BBC News report:

The sea will flood in and will start to create this new ocean. It will pull apart, sink down deeper and deeper and eventually… parts of southern Ethiopia, Somalia will drift off, create a new island, and we’ll have a smaller Africa and a very big island that floats out into the Indian Ocean.

–Seismologist Dr James Hammond, University of Bristol

Don’t expect to be swimming in this new ocean anytime soon, however, as the process will take about 10 million years.

There are many rifts in the world – the Rio Grande rift in the United States, for example – but this one is at a particularly late stage. The Earth is shifting all the time, the tectonic plates are continually moving, but what’s unique about this is that it’s so magma-rich, so we’re actually seeing new ocean floor forming.


Find out more about this story in the Independent article ‘Under the Microscope: What will the Earth’s tectonic plates do next?’