New Ocean Forming, Africa To Split In Two

It won’t happen for millions of years, but this story is still utterly fascinating:

Africa is witnessing the birth of a new ocean, according to scientists at the Royal Society.

Geologists working in the remote Afar region of Ethiopia say the ocean will eventually split the African continent in two, though it will take about 10 million years.

Lead researcher Tim Wright who is presenting the research at the Royal Society’s Summer Exhibition, described the events as “truly incredible”.

Used to understanding changes in the planet on timescales of millions of years, the international team of scientists including Dr Wright have seen amazing changes in Afar in the past five years, where the continent is cracking open, quite literally underneath their feet.


Dr James Hammond, a seismologist from the University of Bristol – who has been working in Afar – says that parts of the region are below sea level and the ocean is only cut off by about a 20-metre block of land in Eritrea.

“Eventually this will drift apart,” he told the BBC World Service. “The sea will flood in and will start to create this new ocean.

“It will pull apart, sink down deeper and deeper and eventually… parts of southern Ethiopia, Somalia will drift off, create a new island, and we’ll have a smaller Africa and a very big island that floats out into the Indian Ocean.”

Changing the very face of the globe. Very cool.

FILED UNDER: Africa, Science & Technology, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Franklin says:

    I claim drilling rights.

  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Would it be too early to start thinking about beachfront property?

  3. John Burgess says:

    Volcanic activity in western Saudi Arabia is suggesting a new split there, too. It’s likely part of the same Rift Valley process as is affecting Afar. Perhaps, with a little encouragement, it could run all the way up the Jordan River valley, through the Dead Sea, and make Israel an island. That might resolve some of the geopolitics, as I don’t really see them being solved before a few million years.

  4. Forget beachfront property, I want the naming rights for the new mega-island/continent that will be in the Indian Ocean

  5. Tano says:

    This is very old news. I remember learning about the incipient ocean forming in the Rift Valley back in college days. Its pretty basic plate tectonics. I don’t really see what the hook is here for claiming something new.