Researchers Believe Africa May One Day Divide Into Two Continents

In around 50 million years, Africa could split in two due to a massive crack discovered in the East African Rift Valley

Major crack in East African Rift Valley could lead to continent becoming two separate entities
Ben Curtis / AP Images

In around 50 million years, Africa could split in two due to a massive crack discovered in the East African Rift Valley

The continent of Africa may one day become two continents, say researchers. Geologists have recently found a large crack which stretches several miles in length, one that is likely to result in a massive split leading to two separate areas being formed; however, residents of this continent do not have to worry about this happening any time in the near future.

According to USA Today, this division of the world’s second-most-populated continent will take tens of millions of years. Geologists have been aware of this possibility for some time now, but it only recently became real when they discovered the aforementioned crack, which made its appearance in southwestern Kenya after a period of severe rainfall.

A section of the Narok-Nairobi highway actually ended up collapsing as a result of the crack, with this being followed by significant seismic activity in the surrounding area. This information was provided in an interview statement given by Royal Holloway postdoctoral researcher Lucia Perez Diaz, who studies tectonics. Royal Holloway is a prestigious university located in London, England.

The actual size of the crack, located in Africa’s East African Rift Valley, is quite astonishing. As reported by National Geographic, it is more than 50 feet deep and measures an incredible 60 feet across. The fact that the crack occurred in this area of the continent is not entirely surprising, as rift valleys are where the shifting of tectonic plates is quite a common occurrence, due to them being lowland regions.

Given that the crack continues to grow, researchers are positive that it will result in Africa being split into two continents; the big question, however, is exactly where this division would occur. The African Rift Valley itself stretches between the Gulf of Aden, located in the north of the continent, toward Zimbabwe, which is in the south, totaling a distance of over 1,800 miles. The plate is thus split into two unequal parts, the Somali and the Nubian, with the latter being the much larger of the two.

Once the rift expands, the predicted split would occur with the smaller continent including what is present-day Somalia as well as parts of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. The larger will include the rest of what Africa held when it was a single continent.

This is not the first time a division like this has been heard of in the scientific community; a similar rift once separated the African and South American continents, thus forming the Atlantic Ocean. In the United States, the Rio Grande Rift Valley splits the southwest, with the valley stretching from the Mexican city of Chihuahua to the state of Colorado. This split took place around 30 million years ago and is the reason why the Rio Grande River straddles the southern U.S.