Geological history of some beautiful landmarks in Tanzania

Geological history of some beautiful landmarks in Tanzania

STANDING for about 5,895 meters from the sea level above East African plains, Mount Kilimanjaro is located about 330 kilometers south of Equator and 270 kilometers from the Indian ocean which contribute on weather around it through equatorial trade winds from thousands of years ago.

On the other side, paleontologists and geologists say Mount Kilimanjaro was formed after the continental drift which happened about 150 million years ago when the present continents of the world were placed where they are found today. That happened as a result of underneath volcanic activities which rocked to cause thermal which tore apart the Earth’s crust which broke a mother or super continent into smaller ones which drifted away to form Africa, Americas, Australia   and Eurasia.

Geologists say that the volcanic activities continued to shape the Earth’s surface but 40 million ago, the Great Rift Valley which started from Lebanon made tremendous impacts when it flexed its muscles for about 6,000 kilometers to what is known today as East Africa to form the East African Rift Valley.

While on its way to different parts of East Africa, the Great Rift Valley created water bodies such lake Abaya of Ethiopia, lake Turkana, Lake Naivasha of Kenya, Lake Natron, Lake Manyara, Lake Tanganyika and Lake Nyasa of Tanzania.

Geologists say after crossing into the present day East Africa about about 30 million years ago when it stretched itself to the area which is known today as Kenya where through stratovolcano it contributed into the formation of Mount Kenya from about 3 million years ago.

Geological history shows the formation of Mount Kenya happened after the East African rift valley crossed to Tanzania about 12 million years ago when tensional forces created faults which made the eastern arm or what is known to some scientists as Gregory Rift

Geologists say about 8 million years ago the rift valley extended its tentacles southward but when it met a strong rock called Tanzanian craton  it formed the western arm or Albertine Rif which is located about 1,300 kilometers from the original rift.

Geological researches indicate about 3.5 million years ago, huge  tremors made by volcanic activities around the East African Rift Valley caused the collapse of an ancient volcanic mountain in Ngorongoro which had five peaks with the tallest standing more than 5,900 meters above sea level.

It was a big mountain taller than the modern days mount Meru but its structure could not withstand against the forces of nature from the East African Rift Valley which sent it peak to collapse and form a caldera with 610 meters depth while stretching 260 square kilometers which makes it one of the largest on Earth.


While standing 1,796 from the sea level, Engitati hill which is located inside Ngorongoro crater today is a remnant of the ancient mountain which dominated the skyline of the Maasai plains.

The above factors indicate the northern zone of modern Tanzania was hit by a supervolcano which reduced temperature of the area for many years due to huge amount of sulfur which was released into the sky above the East African plains.

Geological features indicate at a certain time in history, Ngorongoro was an epicenter of major volcanic activities which destructed ancient mountains and created others like Makarot, Oldeani, Losirua, Lolmalasin, Kerimasi, Ngorongoro, Empakaai, Olmoti and two active volcanoes of Oldonyo and Gelai.  

Meanwhile different scientific researches indicate the first layer of volcanic lava which created the base of Mount Kilimanjaro was put in place one of the earliest volcanic activities in the region which happened between 1.9 and 2.5 million years ago with its epicenter on the modern Shira plateau.     

About 1.9 million years ago the East African rift valley continue to play a key role on the formation of volcanic mountain when it made a 80.4 kilometers long fracture which enabled molten lava to create pressure with eruption which pushed part of the Earth’s crust skywards, creating the Shira volcano, the oldest peak on mount Kilimanjaro.

For about 1.4 million, at different time the volcano on Shira continued to erupt to form Kilimanjaro massif, with God’s grace the deadly volcano lost its steam and ceased erupting about 500,000 years ago when its peak collapsed to form a huge and deep caldera. Meanwhile geological evidence on the Great Barranco gorge shows the East African Great Rift Valley made another impact when it brought huge pressure on the Earth’s crust which caused gigantic volcanic eruption that set the base of both Mawenzi and Kibo between 486,000 and 1, 000, 000 years ago.

That was one of the most volatile periods in the history of East Africa region because volcanic activities continued to shape the area when Mawenzi was formed about 448,000 years ago from an eruption which occurred in a caldera on the oldest Shira summit.

From that point between 460,000 and 486,000years ago the stretching and thinning of the Earth’s crust laying under the East African region which shoved a volcanic duct that threw on the Earth’s surface the first lava on 4,600 meters above sea level.

Geological data shows that a group of second volcanic materials made of cinders, ash, and lava were laid between 460,000 and 360,000 years ago, the third layer which is made mainly by lava flowed between 359,000 and 337,000 years ago but between 274,000 and 170,000 years ago another layer of lava was laid on the crater rim which was cemented between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago during the last eruption on Kibo.

Geologists say the last major volcanic activity on Mount Kilimanjaro happened about 100,000 years ago when subterranean pressure forced Kibo to erupt several times which pushed the summit into its maximum height of 5,900 above the Indian sea level. 

Meanwhile, history shows between 360 and 260 million years ago during Karoo Ice age, the lake zone and other parts of Africa was covered by a huge blanket of ice. Many factors caused this part of the world to experience this kind climate change, the decrease of carbon dioxide which allowed Oxygen to increase by 35% played a key role into the accumulation of ice on the Earth’s surface.

Geologists estimate that before the collapse, Shira stood 4,900 meters above sea level but internal ring fracture caused the mountain to lose its peak and height to the current status of 3, 962 meters above sea level. Scientific researches indicate that this period was dominated by a continuation of El Nino and trade winds which affected temperatures on Pacific and Indian oceans.

These climate changes led into recession of the ice sheet from many parts of the World including Africa where three million years ago when volcanic activities broke walls of several lakes which were located in what is called today East Africa to form one gigantic water body. The water body I what is called today lake Victoria which covers more than 69,484 square kilometers and surrounded by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania which occupies 49 percent or 33,700 square kilometers of the total water body.   

Geological history shows that actual formation of Lake Victoria took place about 400,000 years ago when a powerful Earthquake rocked this part of Africa. That happened when volcanic activities from the East African Rift Valley created walls by an up throw of surrounding rocks which blocked all rivers which passed through and created several lakes.

On the other hand, geological history continues to show that about 2.58 million years ago, glaciations periods left behind large bowls as results of erosions. After the ice age was over, these hallows were later turned into millions of lake found in different parts of the World including the original once which occupied the place where Victoria is found today.

Paleontologists say due to drought, about 17,300 years ago, lake Victory lost all its water and became completely dry. That happened when the world experienced a decline on precipitation.

Geological samples from its floor show that when things returned to normality, the refilling process of Lake Victoria started about 14,700 years ago. With annual rate of 2,000 millimeters of rainfalls, from those days to modern days, Victoria receives more than 80 percent of its supply from direct showers.

There are more than eight small rivers from Kenya pour their water into the lake but with its source in lake Rweru in the border between Rwanda and Burundi, Kagera river is the single major supplier. From more than 5.3 million years ago, as a remnant of ancient river systems which flowed around the lake zone, Kagera river is the major source of Nile river.

Starting from the northern shores of Lake Victoria, Nile flows more than 6,853 to empty its massive water into the Mediterranean Sea after crossing Uganda, Southern Sudan, Sudan and Egypt.

This shows that Nile is the single major natural outflow of Lake Victoria, this make the largest lake of Africa to be the source of longest river of the World. Size of the Lake Victoria and the richness of its water lured zoologists of the colonial government of Uganda to introduce Nile perch in 1963.

From that time to date, these fishes have conquered the lake and become main source of protein and income for people living in Kisumu, Kisii, and Homa Bay in Kenya, Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe in Uganda, and Bukoba, Mwanza and Musoma in Tanzania. 

On the south western corner of Lake Victoria about 150 kilometers from Mwanza lays Rubondo island with an area of 237 square kilometers join with other 11 islets to form a national park with a total area of 456.8 square kilometers.

The national park harbors rare mammals, birds and reptilians which are not available in other animal’s sanctuaries in Tanzania such as Sitatunga.

This is medium sized antelope found in marshy and swampy areas with tall and dense vegetation where they live and forage on new foliage, fresh grasses and different species of aquatic plants.

Nzohe is the Swahili for Sitatungas which are recognized by their brown coat which brighten among females and darken to male as they grow older. The tough, shaggy, water resistant coat is minimally affected by plant materials and muddy vegetation.

Females have white spots which are arranged vertically to form lines on their side but male carry long horns which carve once in their entire life.

Unlike other antelopes, sitatungas have bodies which are specially adapted to move around swampy habitat, their legs are equipped with banana like hooves which enable them to stay afloat on muddy areas.

Though sitatunga commonly form pairs or remain solitary, larger groups have also been observed, a study in Rubondo national park indicates that they form a herd of eight adult females, a male, four females and four juveniles.

At time of danger, sitatungas are known to submerge their whole body in water leaving nose and eyes on the surface. Sitatungas bread throughout the years and during the estrous period a dominant male separate receptive female from the herd as he stays with her for not less than two days.

Throughout Africa the population of these antelope is estimated to be 170,000 individuals and in Tanzania, together with Rubondo island national park Sitatungas are also available in Selous, Moyowosi and Kigosi game reserves.

Other animals which are found in Lake Victoria are hippopotamus, crocodiles, African fish eagle and African grey parrot which dwells mainly inside Rubondo island national park.

Email:  rstanslaus@yahoo.com


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