Photo of a person walking on mineral deposits to avoid yellowish-green toxic water

This man is stepping on mineral deposits to avoid the toxic water in the Dallol area of Ethiopia.

Nature Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo


Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.4, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.7, W.6-8.4

NCSS: People, Places, and Environments • Science, Technology, and Society


Watch Your Step!

Jim McMahon/Mapman®

After a long journey by camel across the hot, dry terrain of northeastern Ethiopia’s Dallol area, you top a ridge and gaze down at a surprising sight: large ponds of bright-green water surrounded by oddly shaped mounds. But resist the urge to guide your camel down to this valley for a swim—or even to dabble your toes in the water. These pools are filled with hot, bubbling water so acidic it would eat away at your skin. Not quite the refreshing break you’d hoped for!

This unusual location is the Danakil Depression of East Africa, one of the hottest places on Earth. Here, daytime temperatures can reach 125° Fahrenheit or higher.

Nature Picture Library/Alamy Stock Photo

Gases bubbling up through the water smell like rotten eggs. Microbes in the Danakil ponds may offer clues as to how life might exist in harsh conditions on other planets.

The Danakil sits in a highly volcanic area, near where three tectonic plates meet. Molten rock, toxic gases, and steaming-hot water ooze up through cracks in Earth’s surface.

As the water evaporates, it leaves mineral deposits that form the alien-looking mounds. Those minerals include salt, one of the few natural resources of value in the area. It is mined and traded by people of the region.

Jim McMahon/Mapman®


1. What is the capital of Ethiopia?

2. In which direction would you travel to go from that city to the Dallol area?

3. Which countries share a border with Ethiopia?

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