Ethiopia: Danakil – Exploring Dallol Crater
Dallol is actually a volcano located completely below sea level in the Danakil Depression. In fact, the lowest points of the Depression, -125m below sea level, lie right in front of the Dallol Mount, which then rises 65m up from here. This is the land of surreal. Hiking around the actual crater of Dallol volcano is like walking on another planet – the ground is colored with all hues of red/yellow/red/brown, there are fumaroles puffing everywhere, mini geysers are boiling and spitting hot acid, sulphur smell in the air. The colors are the result of iron, magnesium, and sulphur deposits and mixing of them. The ground is covered with unusual features – salt and sulphur crystals, salt minitowers and cones, egg-shaped crusts, salt flowers, terraces, and so on. Walking around here is not particularly safe, there is a risk of ground collapsing under your feet and you dropping into the hot boiling cauldron – in fact we went knee-deep through the salt crust a couple times, but luckily it wasn’t in the active areas. The mini-geysers count in perhaps thousands and there are even more that are no longer active. The Dallol volcano is the lowest volcano on earth (not counting the underwater ones), and magma here comes close to the massive salt deposits from the broader Danakil Depression, heating and melting all this and creating the rainbow universe of colors. The combination in one place of such extreme physical and chemical characteristics (acidity, salinity, high temperature, low elevation, etc.) make Dallol one of not the most ‘poly-extreme’ places on earth – scientists study the Dallol system for astrobiological limits of life on a planet. I think they should come here and film the next Avatar movie here – Avatar The Way of Sulphur.