Stopovers - ETHIOPIA. Dallol and Erta Ale Volcanos

DALLOL - The Danakil depression, - 125 metres, was during the geological eras repeatedly covered by the Red Sea waters, then dried up, forming the lake of salt Karoum. The Dallol, a phréatomagmatic type active volcano, unique in the world, has been constituted further to the explosions of magmatic chambers of the Big Rift Valley. It peaks today at hundred meters or so above the salt field, at an altitude of - 48 meters. The access to it is delicate, the salt crust of the lake Karoum being by places unstable or periodically flooded.

The selenian landscape of the volcano permanently requests the sight, the hearing and the sense of smell. It is however careful to provoke neither the taste, nor often the touch...

No animal or vegetable life develops there.


Dallol is not much visited because of its difficult access, as well geographical as administrative, and because of the political instability of the region (the border with Eritrea passes at


10 kilometres). The expedition requires a rigorous material organization, adapted vehicles, as well as the accompaniment of local guides and armed guards.

   - continued under the slide show -

The site lives, breathes, expresses itself.

Small geysers, gaseous emanations, pools of sulphuric acid, fumaroles; stalagmites being formed, ledges and crystals; salt pillars, evaporites, brine flows, sulphur flows and mountains, salt and sulphurous concretions.

Gurglings, rumblings, smells, corrosive or ardent jets, fragile crusts overhanging and hiding acid ponds.

Under a temperature often exceeding 50 °C in the shade. In an environment without shade…


More west, abandoning the coloured symphony of the concretions formed by the combined  action of soda, sulphur and sulphuric acid, the landscape mutes into deep cracks, canyons and earth pillars; they result from the erosion of the successive deposits of salt layers.


ERTA ALE - A 3 or 4-hour march by night on the basalt slopes to reach the summit of the Erta Ale volcano. The descent in the caldera, the crossing of fragile hardened lava flows on several hundreds of metres, and finally, one of the three active lava lakes in the world, in a 140 metres wide pit crater, 90 metres under my dazzled eyes.

Zigzagging fissures tear the dark surface. A rumbling, an explosion, a fountain of lava spouts up. A second one, higher, again amplified by a sudden convulsion of the magma. The whole site brightens up in red. Then goes dark.

Lull. New incandescent cracks. Next scene…


In the early hours the site reveals other atmospheres, under the gaseous mists, on the corded or slab shaped lavas, over tunnels, around the abyss in fusion which grumbles and growls.


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