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A special place found in the Afar depression at 613m is called “Erta Ale”. It is a shield volcano, which has a base diameter of 30km and is only 500m high. In its vast summit caldera (1600x700m) there are two pit craters. The larger one (300-400m diameter) in the northern part contained a lava lake in 1968 and 1973 but is now inactive. A central, but smaller pit (140m diameter, 60 to 90m deep) now has an active lava lake 60m wide and 100m long.

Erta Ale is one of the spectacular and unique places in Afar- Ethiopia. It is the most active isolated shield Volcano in Ethiopia famed for its long-standing lava lake activity. On its Summit, the volcano hosts cryptic shaped caldera (mouth of volcano) of about 1600 x 700 meters width. Fresh looking basaltic lava flows fill much of the caldera and have overflowed its rim on the southern side.

The northern half of this caldera contains two steep sided pit craters of different size; one on its northern tip and the other a little down south. Lava containing of up to 20 meters high occurred in different areas at the Crater Lake, but mainly in the west, south and center. There are some records which tell that some very adventurous earth, scientists have dared to walk on top of the temporarily crusted lava with the intention to document the activity of the Lava Lake.                        

 The surface near the crater rim is broken by cracks of different width that run in concentric circles around the crater pit. Many parts of the edge can be seen hanging over the empty space. The crater walls are very instable and rock falls (avalanches) are not uncommon. If one happens to be there at the time of such rock falls one is very likely to see a dramatic cloud of Orange brown dust covering the pit. Recently, after the dramatic eruption of 2005, both the crater pit and the lava lake within have been found to have expanded remarkably. The composition of the rock at Erta Ale ranges from basalt to hyalite. According to earth scientists, Erta Ale has erupted seven times in the past 125 years and has been erupting continuously since 1967.

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