“Road to hell”: Lake of Fire of Erta Ale Volcano in Ethiopia

Erta Ale is an active volcano in northeastern Ethiopia, situated in the Danakil Desert. The volcano reaches a height of 613 meters. In the indigenous Afar language, Erta Ale means “burning mountain”. The volcano is also known as the “road to hell”.

Since 1967, there has been continuous volcanic activity. Every 30 years, the volcano unleashes its deadly force, wreaking havoc on the population. Erta Ale is Ethiopia’s most active volcano and one of only five volcanoes on the earth, with a lava lake at its center.

In 1890, Erta Ale was the site of the first discovery of Lava Lake. A crimson light at the summit of the volcano signaled its emergence. However, it wasn’t until 1960 that scientists were able to get the first recorded proof of the lake of fire.

Erta Ale lava erupting
Erta Ale lava erupting

Lake Lava is a massive magma crater. It is continually supplied by never-ending currents from the volcano’s guts, and the red-hot lava rises higher and higher. It floats to the surface, cools, and then returns. Convective exchange is the term for this procedure.

Heat currents have a complicated equilibrium, and when it is disrupted, the lake cools. As a result, in 2004, the lava lake cooled and stayed frozen for 20 months, making it safe to walk on its surface. It has a total size of 600 square meters.

Erta Ale sometimes bursts, shooting a 40-meter-high fountain of fire, and then cools down and is coated in black armor. By the way, there’s an even more remarkable blue lava lake in East Java, which belongs to the volcano Kawah Ijen.

The lake’s and the volcano Erta Ale’s lives are both chaotic and unpredictable. Volcanic disturbances in northern Africa substantially impacted the status of the faults in November 2010, and Erta Ale awoke with surprising power. There have been substantial plate movements and growing fault widths, which might severely impact the whole African continent and alter the world’s geographical map.

Erta Ale magma
Erta Ale magma

There are no barriers or restrictions in this area; therefore, you are free to approach Lake Erta Ale. However, you should use common sense and take appropriate measures. Of course, seeing a lake filled with boiling lava, which pours, hardens, cracks, breaks, and descends into new magma, all while being accompanied by flashes of light, jets of vapor, and scary noises, is an astonishing experience and sight.

It’s quite difficult to go near the volcano’s core since the temperature is about 50 degrees Celsius, not to mention the oversaturation of acid fumes. Every year, between 500 and 1000 visitors and adventurers visit the volcano’s crater. However, not every visit is successful.

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