In today’s cheap and superficial hype – too often the triumph of style over substance – many things are marketed as having various specified advantages “and so much more”. Well, here is a photograph that really does have “so much more”. It was taken from the eastern wall of the rift valley, near Kijabe, in Kenya, looking down westwards towards the rift’s floor, sometime in the late 1970s. The rift wall here is not a single escarpment, but a series of small escarpments that gradually descend to the rift’s floor like a flight of huge steps.

This photo was taken from the top of the escarpment, looking down upon the top of the first of these steps which, because it still has sufficient altitude to attract rain and mist, is green and fertile. This green but restricted area of land is covered in a close patchwork of cultivated plots, and dwellings roofed with thatch or corrugated iron. Beyond this step, the floor of the rift can be seen, browner and drier, many hundreds of feet below. Rising from these pale, dry lowlands is the dark and jagged bulk of Mt Longonot, a dormant volcano which last erupted around 1860. In the far distance, behind Longonot, the abrupt line of hills is the rift valley’s western wall.

So far so good, but there really is so much more here, for the fact is that the eastern edge of the African continent has been breaking apart for a long time. The island of Madagascar broke away from the rest of Africa many millions of years ago and, during this lengthy isolation from the mainland, many unique (i.e. endemic) forms of life have evolved there, e.g. the Lemurs (primates, like ourselves) and the Ground-Rollers (birds).

But that is not all. The Eastern Rift Valley (the one in Kenya) and and the Western Rift constitute further incipient splits in the eastern side of the African continent and, as I took this picture, I was standing on the western edge of another part of the continent that may split away to become an island like Madagascar in (the millions of) years to come. The floor of the rift is new crust that has moved upwards from the Earth’s extremely hot, molten interior to ‘seal up the cracks’ in the disintegrating continent, and hence the reason for the many volcanoes (including Mt Longonot) and natural steam vents on the rift valley floor.  Here, in this landscape, are the visible signs of a continent breaking apart.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.




About Adrian Lewis
Photographer working in monochrome, colour and combinations of the two - with a great liking for many types of subject, including Minimalism, landscapes, abstracts, soft colour, people, movement, nature - I like to be adventurous in my photography, trying new ideas and working in many genres. And I'm fond of Full English Breakfasts and Duvel golden ale, though not necessarily together.


  1. Pingback: ARCHIVE 435 – AFRICA, BREAKING APART — FATman Photos – Truth Troubles

  2. bluebrightly says:

    It makes you think! Seriously, it’s good to stretch one’s mind and think beyond the ordinary time frame of day-to-day life. And it helps when one has a good visual to go along with the mind-stretching. 🙂


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Knowing some geology brings a while new awareness and understanding of many things, and I’m so grateful for – decades ago now – having gone down that path. One thing that geology teaches is that all things change >>> and having been interested in geology since the age of about 5 or so, I went to Kenya (in professional terms) to lecture in geology >>> although I was actually going there to see African birds, the avifauna of another of the world’s great zoogeographical regions, Africa south of the Sahara. So I changed too! 🙂


  3. Sonali Dalal says:

    Wonderful landscape!


  4. Thanks for the plate tectonics lesson. I had no idea! (Well…I did know about Madagascar breaking away….)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting story!


    • Adrian Lewis says:

      Yes, Our World, far from dead, cold and immobile, still very internally active. I think you know that I used to be a geologist – don’t do any now but, having got into that kind of stuff, you never look at a great range of things in the same way again. 🙂


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