New Africa

Ever since Durban’s tremor over the weekend, social media has been abuzz with talk of a new African continent in the making!

Africa in the Future
Source: FB/MyDurban

It turns out that the Somali Plate – which has a fault line stretching from the East African Rift southwards down through South Africa and exiting through Durban – is slowly breaking away…and will one day form a new continent separate from the rest of Africa!

According to social media users, this was the reason for Durban’s light earthquake (rather than the widely reported reason that it was probably a consequence of the larger 6.4 earthquake which had hit Tainan City in Taiwan earlier Saturday, as reported on SAPeople). Apparently seismic activity is usually more dominant up north, in East Africa, but can result in minor tremors in southern Africa.

Some said this plate is moving by 2cm a year, although according to Wikipedia the plate (which includes Madagascar) could be moving eastwards by as much as 4.5cm a year.


According to an article on The Basement Geographer in 2012 “Africa is literally being torn apart at the seams…as upwelling magma pushes up into the continental crust above… In time, this will result in a brand-new tectonic plate and with it a brand-new continent. The new plate being formed has been designated the Somali Plate” (and the remaining plate to the west of the fault is called the Nubian Plate).

But there’s no cause for immediate panic. The new continent will take millions of years (about ten million) to form. Phew!

Tectonic plates
The Tectonic plates as most of us have always known them. Source FB / Colin Campbell – “Hmm, and I always thought that Africa was on its own tectonic plate.. Guess we learn new things every day hey…”
Africa tremor
The Somali Plate which includes Madagacar. Source: FB/Robin Grant van den Heever
Swallow migration line
Coincidentally, as noticed by Samantha Melville on facebook it appears “the fault line is the same path the swallows migrate from SA to Finland annually!”

Nobby Natalie Clarke noted on facebook: “Ever since Zuma spoke about the biggest continent, then this happened. First the weakening of the rand now the Africa split…”

For those who want facts, according to Wikipedia “The Somali Plate is bounded on the west by the East African Rift, which stretches south from the triple junction in the Afar Depression, with an undersea continuation of the rift extending southward offshore. The northern boundary is the Aden Ridge along the coast of Saudi Arabia. The eastern boundary is the Central Indian Ridge, the northern portion of which is also known as the Carlsberg Ridge. The southern boundary is the Southwest Indian Ridge.”

There you have it!