Humanity may soon boast two motherlands.
Geologists studying plate tectonics of Africa have revealed that the continent that’s home to 54 countries is splitting up.
The fault line, called the East African Rift, stretches from the Afar region of northern Ethiopia down to Mozambique, severing eastern coastal countries including Kenya and Tanzania from the larger part of the contingent.
The two pieces of land are pulling apart at a rate of seven millimeters per year, according to a new study published in the journal Nature. As it happens, countries such as Uganda and Zambia will get their own coastline.
Along the rift, scientists say that a range of currently active volcanoes, such as the Ol Doinyo Lengai in Tanzania and the Alu-DallaFilla in Ethiopia, are shedding new light on the process. One Ethiopian volcano in particular, the Erta Ale, has existed in a perpetual state of eruption for more than 50 years.
Nestled between each side of the rift, the Victoria microplate, the largest of its kind on Earth, has been rotating counter-clockwise for the last two years. With respect to all of the other plates on the continent, including the main African plate, the Victoria microplate is turning in the opposite direction. This anomaly, according to scientists, may accelerate the rift’s separation.
Researchers mark a Y-shaped intersection where the African, Somali and Arabian tectonic plates meet, between Djibouti and Eritrea, as the site where the ocean will begin to form.
Scientists say they are unsure about the fate of the two land masses and whether or not a new ocean will form, but note that it will take tens of millions of years to find out.