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Lake Abbe is a salt lake, the largest and last of a chain of six connected lakes on the Ethiopia-Djibouti border. The lake lies on a basin called the Afar Depression at a point where the Arabian, Nubian, and Somalian plates are pulling away from each other. The strain caused by the splitting Nubian and Somalian plates has created a strange landscape around Lake Abbe. As the two plates drift apart, the crust above them thins until it cracks. Magma pushes to the surface through the thin spots and warm underwater springs. As the boiling water bubble up to the surface, they deposit the dissolved calcium carbonates creating towering chimneys, the same way water trickling down the roof of limestone caves create stalactites and stalagmites. Some of these chimneys reach heights of 50 meters, and puffs of steam vent from the top. The otherworldly landscape inspired Charlton Heston to shoot his classic 1968 film, "Planet of the Apes", on the shores of Lake Abbe.

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Photo credit: George Steinmetz

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