Volcanic Islands of Lake Turkana

Volcanic Islands of Lake Turkana
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Lake Turkana

Map Showing Position of Lake Turkana and its Three Islands

Africa is slowly splitting apart in the eastern part of the continent and has created a rift valley. For now, faults and volcanic dams along the rift valley have created a number of basins that are mostly occupied by lakes. One of these lakes is Lake Turkana; an alkaline lake located in Northern Kenya. The lake holds many titles; it’s nicknamed “The Jade Sea” owing to the greenish-blue appearance of its water from a distance. Lake Turkana is the world’s largest permanent desert lake and one of the world’s largest alkaline lake at a length of 300 km long in North-South direction and a width of 50 km. By volume the lake is world’s fourth-largest salt water lake and it’s fed by 3 rivers: River Omo, Kerio River and Turkwel River. There is no outflow river from the lake and all water loss is via evaporation.

Undoubtedly, the most outstanding features of the lake are its three volcanic islands; North, Central and South Islands. Two of these Islands (South and Central) together with Sibiloi National Park form The Lake Turkana National Parks. The Parks were inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1997. In this feature, we examine the formation of the famous volcanic islands of Lake Turkana; specifically the Central Island otherwise dubbed as the gem of Lake of Turkana.

The Central Island (The Gem of Lake Turkana)

The Flamingo Lake

A few thousand years ago, an explosive volcano busted through the waters of Lake Turkana, as part of a series of attempts by East Africa to escape the African continent into the Indian Ocean. In this case, instead of forming an expansive shield volcano like the ones that formed The Hawaiian Islands where flowing lava piled up to form landmasses, Central Island unleashed sudden, violent explosions of ash and blobs of slowly crystallizing melt. Instead of forming a single cone, the island formed multiple craters as each explosion vented through different cracks in the thin surface over the Central Island magma chamber. The ash and crystallizing basalt piled up to form steep cliffs and ridges and the craters filled with rainwater over many years, forming large isolated lakes.

The Three Lakes within the Central Island

The lakes are; Crocodile Lake, Flamingo Lake and Tilapia Lake. As their names imply, each lake has a different community of associated animals along with different sizes and chemistry. The most recent volcanic activity was seen from the mainland in the 1970s. Central Island is a breeding ground for crocodiles, and that’s why it is also known as Crocodile Island. Crocodile Crater is the breeding ground of the world’s biggest population of Nile crocodiles, with an estimated 12,000 reptiles.

You can read about other interesting geological features in Africa through this link: https://www.mininghubafrica.com/category/geology/


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