Dallol: A Boiling, Salty Landscape Hostile to Human Visitors

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Aug. 23 2013 8:30 AM

Dallol: A Boiling, Salty Landscape Hostile to Human Visitors

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In the north of Ethiopia, hours from any populated areas, is a vast expanse of brutal landscape unlike anywhere else in the world. Dallol, in the Danakil Depression, is a boiling, salt-formed world that, while beautiful, is aggressively hostile to human visitors.

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The Danakil Depression, also known as the Afar Depression, holds the distinction of being one of the lowest and hottest parts of the world. On top of year-round average daily highs of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, Dallol itself is surrounded by boiling hot springs which bring hot minerals and toxic gas bubbles to the surface. These geological forces have made the area somewhat picturesque, coloring the lowlands with rusty orange, yellow and green salt formations.

Dallol is extremely unwelcoming to inhabitation, but a number of people have still ventured into the region for work due to the high deposits of table salt in the area. Expeditions funded by Europe prior to World War I were shut down and dismantled throughout the first half of the 20th century. Later attempts by American, Indian and Italian companies have resulted in thousands of mines throughout the region, but no permanent settlement.

Although it is now uninhabited, small structures made of salt bricks were created by the Afar people, when they were employed by mining companies throughout the 20th century. However, the majority of these have been abandoned and few traces of these settlements still exist.

Arid alien landscapes:


View Dallol in a larger map

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