Giant Crack in Africa Suggests an 8th Continent Is Coming

Rift in Kenya means Africa might split in 2, but it will take millions of years
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2018 1:01 PM CDT
Africa might split in two, eventually.   (Getty/Harvepino)

(Newser) – Some 250 million years ago, Earth had one continent—Pangaea. Today, there are seven, and in another 50 million years or so, there could be eight. That's according to geologists studying a massive crack that recently appeared in southwestern Kenya, taking out homes and a section of highway, after seismic activity and heavy rain in the area. Located within the appropriately named East African Rift Valley, where two tectonic plates pull away from each other, the crack is several miles long, up to 65 feet across, more than 50 feet deep, and still growing, reports National Geographic. As Christy Till of Arizona State University explains, per USA Today, "a rift like this once eventually separated the African and South American continents to form the Atlantic Ocean and the rift in east Africa may be the very early stages of this."

If that is the case, the breakup of the African continent is still tens of millions of years away. "The process just occurs very slowly," Till says. Still, geologists have an idea of how it might happen. With one tectonic plate moving to the west, and the other to the east, researchers predict a portion of east Africa—including Somalia and parts of Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania—will eventually break apart to float between Madagascar and the larger African continent. (USA Today has a diagram.) While the region's residents don't need to worry about the breakup itself, the rift does present plenty of infrastructure issues, per Daily Nation, though portions of it have reportedly been filled with concrete and rocks. A geologist tells Daily Nation the crack was probably there a while, but filled with volcanic ash that rain only recently washed away.

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