Giant crack in Africa will create new ocean

It’s likely that a 35-mile rift in the desert of Ethiopia will give way to a new ocean, say researchers.

The crack, which began to surface in 2005, is 20 feet wide in some spots and appeared over days. In a statement today, researchers explained why they believe the crack will create a new ocean in Africa:

Using newly gathered seismic data from 2005, researchers reconstructed the event to show the rift tore open along its entire 35-mile length in just days. Dabbahu, a volcano at the northern end of the rift, erupted first, then magma pushed up through the middle of the rift area and began “unzipping” the rift in both directions, the researchers explained in a statement today.

“We know that seafloor ridges are created by a similar intrusion of magma into a rift, but we never knew that a huge length of the ridge could break open at once like this,” said Cindy Ebinger, professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Rochesterand co-author of the study.

The rift activity, identical to the activity at the bottom of oceans, is also believed to be parting the Red Sea. Research shows that volcanic boundaries along the edges of tectonic ocean plates may, instead of in small pieces, suddenly break apart in large sections. The new ocean would connect the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.