A Giant Crack Is Slowly Creating a New Ocean in Africa Right Now

Politics and country borders change all the time, but the actual physical layout of the planet was presumed to be constant, right?

It started with a small crack in 2005

A surveyor from the Ethiopian Mapping Agency examines a ground rupture created during the September rifting event. Image: Tim Wright, University of Leeds.

It began in 2005 when a 60 kilometer-long-crack (37 miles) opened up in the middle of the Afar desert in Ethiopia. For any region to change this much and this quickly is pretty astonishing, but there is a reason for it.

The crack opened up in a matter of days and was as much as 6 meters (20 feet) wide at some points. While we tend to view geography as something that moves slowly, it turns out this isn’t always the case.