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Erta Ale (Ethiopia) : activity continues both at the summit and the 2017 flank eruption site

Wed, 25 Jul 2018, 15:54
15:54 PM | IS
The lava lake inside the Southern Crater of Erta Ale’s summit caldera, shown here on 26 June 2018, is slowly rising and growing (image: Rebecca Wu)
The lava lake inside the Southern Crater of Erta Ale’s summit caldera, shown here on 26 June 2018, is slowly rising and growing (image: Rebecca Wu)
A plume of volcanic gasses rises up from the South Crater, obstructing the view of the lava lake inside during the day time (image: Simeon Brown)
A plume of volcanic gasses rises up from the South Crater, obstructing the view of the lava lake inside during the day time (image: Simeon Brown)
Looking down from the rim of the Southern Crater to the active lava flowing about 60 – 70 me below (image: Simeon Brown)
Looking down from the rim of the Southern Crater to the active lava flowing about 60 – 70 me below (image: Simeon Brown)
Danakil expedition organiser Enku reports after our recent tour to this Ethiopian shield volcano that activity continues both at Erta Ale's summit caldera and the fissure eruption site on its SE flank with sustained lava lakes.

In late January 2017 dramatic changes occurred at Erta Ale's summit caldera where both active vents partially collapsed due to drainage of the magma from the summit reservoir to a newly opened fissure eruption site on the volcano's flank. (A similar change of volcanic activity has occurred at the Hawaiian shield volcano of Hawaii in the past 2 months). The South Crater lava lake that was overflowing just before this summit collapse thereby disappeared within the over 100 m deep hole that was formed. However, with time red hot lava re-appeared at the bottom of the South Crater. Volcanic gasses often obstruct the view of this new lava lake during the daytime, but intermittently clear out at night when the cracked surface of the lava lake and its flow can be observed. On 26 June 2018 the lava was about 60 – 70 m below the rim of the South Crater, seemingly coming out from underneath the western crater wall at high pressure and disappearing again underneath the eastern crater wall. This lava flow direction is the reverse of what was observed in February 2018 when the surface pattern of the lake indicate flow from east to west. By now most of the material that collapsed into the south crater in January 2017 has been consumed by the new lake which is slowly rising up and growing in size.

Meanwhile a large new lava flow field formed at the flank eruption site, spreading both south-southwest and east ward from the summit. Exploring these new flows, lava lakes and hornitos is treacherous as there is often only a thin crust covering a still liquid and hot interior. On 27 June our group viewed a lava lake of the southern flow field from a short distance. They observed the sluggish motion of lava welling up on one side of the lake, its thin black crust cracking as it slowly moved before being consumed at the other end of the lake. All in all it seems that the effusion of lava at the 2017 flank eruption site shows no signs of slowing down. With time the outer parts of these lava fields will become more solid so that flow fields can be explored in more safety. The newly founded peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea will now also allow exploration of the eastern part of the flank eruption site which is located close to the border between the two countries.

During the summer time no expeditions are undertaken to the Danakil depression which is the hottest place on earth. But late September a reconnaissance trip will be carried to check the volcanic activity and possible access routes to the different lava lakes in preparation of our adventurous Erta Ale and Dallol tours which resume again in the autumn!

Previous news

Tue, 17 Jul 2018, 16:50

Danakil Depression (Ethiopia): Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea increases safety of volcano expeditions

Observing the nighttime glow of Erta Ale's active lava lake
Although visitor numbers increased significantly over the past years, the active lava lake of Erta Ale volcano and unique colourful scenery of Dallol's hydrothermal fields remained more risky travel destinations due to their proximity to Ethiopia's border with Eritrea. The decades long violent conflict between the two countries included the killing of 5 and kidnapping of 2 tourists visiting Erta Ale in January 2012. Following this deadly incident new safety measures involved military presence at all times on Erta Ale's summit as well as armed Afar escorts for anyone traveling in these parts of the Danakil depression. Increased security made adventure travellers return to this one-off destination which recently saw a large increase in visitors as well as documentary coverage. The region will undoubtedly become even more popular now that the 8 July 2018 peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea unexpectedly made an end to one of Africa's longest running conflicts. ... Read all
Sat, 16 Dec 2017, 08:58

Erta Ale volcano update: security and volcanic activity

Observers at the edge of Erta Ale´s summit lava lake around dawn, November 2015 (photo: Ingrid Smet - VolcanoAdventures)
Our Danakil expedition organiser and tour guide Enku has returned from a short visit to Erta Ale and informed us about both the security situation on the volcano as its activity at the summit. ... Read all
Show more
Erta Ale volcano
Shield volcano 613 m / 2,011 ft
Danakil depression, Ethiopia, 13.6°N / 40.66°E
Current status: erupting (4 out of 5) Erta Ale volcano eruptions:
1873(?), 1903(?), 1904(?), 1906, 1940, 1960, 1967-2004, 2005-ongoing
Typical eruption style
Effusive. Persistant lava lake.

Erta Ale volcano tours

Danakil desert (Ethiopia)
Desert, salt and volcanoes
14 days expedition to Erta Ale volcano and Dallol hydrothermal field (Danakil desert, Ethiopia)
14 days / 13 nights - Moderate
Price $ 4530
no scheduled dates at present
Danakil desert (Ethiopia)
Erta Ale Volcano Special
in response to recent high activitiy in the Southern crater and growing lava lake (Danakil desert, Ethiopia)
8 days - Moderate
Price $ 2590
Custom and group dates
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