Scientists Probe Danakil Depression

The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia is one of the most inhospitable places on Earth. Water at near-boiling temperatures bubbles up from underground and chlorine and sulphur vapour fogs the air. (Europlanet)

Science Alert

Scientists just embarked on a world-first expedition to Ethiopia’s toxic hot springs

If you’ve ever wondered how weird, deadly, and crazy-yellow Earth could get, look no further than Ethiopia’s infamous Danakil Depression.

About 600 km north of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, the Danakil Depression boasts hot springs that creep near boiling point, toxic chlorine and sulphur-rich vapours that will sear your lungs and make everything smell like farts (seriously), and magma-heated brine that transforms the whole thing into a retina-burning nightmare with shades of neon.

It might be one of the most inhospitable places on the planet, but the scientific knowledge we can glean from the Danakil Depression is invaluable, particularly when we consider that the best candidates we have right now for life elsewhere in the Universe aren’t exactly lush with greenery and pleasantly mild temperatures.

The strange thing is, despite this place looking like a mad scientist’s backyard, with more unique geology, chemistry, and what could be the hardiest lifeforms anywhere on the planet, no one’s actually managed to study it properly. Until about three weeks ago, of course, when a team led by Felipe Gómez Gómez from Spain’s Centre for Astrobiology led the first ever field expedition into the Danakil Depression.

From April 5th to the 7th, Gómez Gómez and his team measured temperatures, humidity, and pH and oxygen levels across several sites in the region’s hot springs, while collecting samples of bacteria and testing out a new technique for DNA extraction. It might have been brief, but the trip was just the first in a series of planned expeditions that will see these researchers preparing the environment for access by the wider scientific community, which will help us to uncover its many secrets.


(Felipe Gomez/Europlanet 2020 R)


(Felipe Gomez/Europlanet 2020 R)

Read the full article and see more photos at Sciencealert.com »


Related:
Video: Amazing Places on Our Planet — The Unearthly Scenery of Dallol, Ethiopia in HD

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