July 25, 2021

The strange eye of Africa: Guelb er Richât

There is a place in Mauritania where walking “you travel” in time, going back centuries, millennia and even millions of years. If you rest your feet on it, it is impossible for you to feel anything special, but you must know that you step on rock formed more than 480 million years ago, in the Ordovician, and this is only the beginning. If you start walking now, the rock under your feet will gradually become older gradually until you get back at least another 60 million. In it there are sediments dated from the end of the Proterozoic eon. However, you will not see anything strange, only sand and rocks, the same as in any other area of ​​the planet. You might think that this time travel lacks epicity, something that looks like fantasy to the moor where the action takes place, but you’re wrong. All we need is to change our perspective, we have to travel to space to look Africa in the eye.

From Sahara to space

It was 1965 and the Gemini 4 mission was already in orbit. James McDivitt and Edward White were preparing to make history. White would be the first human being to embrace the emptiness of space. There were many hours of training behind him, but nothing awaited him for what he would find out there. Below, on the surface of the planet, there was a kind of rock eye looking at it without losing detail. What was that?

We now know that this “eye” was the formation of Richat, the porthole, of Africa, of the Sahara, the Guelb er Richât. The same Mauritanian plain that we have imagined walking. From space its 38 kilometers in diameter looked different. Concentric circles of reddish, black, and white colors. Without a doubt, the eye of Africa is one of the most impressive natural wonders in the world. A geological gift that has remained hidden from the naked eye for several thousand years. Although now that we know its existence, the question that interests us most arises: how has something so impressive been formed?

An amputee mount

If I ask you to venture an answer it is very likely that you will reach the same conclusion reached by the first geologists who studied it: a meteorite. But the truth is that you would be wrong. We now know that the culprit is not a meteorite that had collided with Earth thousands of years ago. That is what experts supposed before we saw its strange color from space, when it was just a crater-like plain.

But think again. We have said that from space we can see concentric circles with different colors and that, when we walk on its surface, the exterior of the eye of Africa is formed by rock younger than the center. Do you suggest anything?

The earth under our feet moves. That is the key to understanding everything. The Tectonic plates It tells us about large blocks of rock moving over each other, compressing or separating and causing earthquakes, mountains and volcanoes during your trip. We usually look at what happens at the edges between two plates, but these areas are not the only ones affected by the collision. During these movements the plates that are subjected to other forces, such as masses of magma that push the ground from below, wrinkling it and creating elevations. Now that we have this clear, what interests us is the filling.

These plates are formed on its surface by layers of rocks, each deposited at a different time in the geological history of our planet. The deepest are the oldest, and they have been deposited on them younger layers as they passed. In principle these deposits are flat, smooth and parallel to each other, like the layers of a lasagna. But what happens when we put a guru of foil under the lasagna?

Leaving aside the culinary destruction that Chicote would never forgive you, what happens is that all the layers are folded at once, arching in what is known as an anticline dome, more or less as it happens when a mass of magma rises in the depths. But don’t forget your lasagna with hump, let’s talk about it again. Imagine that you freeze it a little with the gurruño underneath so that it does not disassemble and then you give it a parallel cut to the ground, as if you generously shave the surface. What you will find will not be so different from the eye of the Sahara.

Of course, in the real world the dome was not eroded by a giant knife, but by wind, and water. It is true that we have a good idea of ​​how and when it eroded, the details are still not entirely clear, nor do we know all those elements of which Guelb er Richât is composed, but every time we discover more things about its geology. And now that we have answered the relevant question, let’s talk about the one that most worries Internet forums. Is it possible that the eye of Africa is Atlantis?

Do not

It has been quite straightforward, but it is good to start by making things clear. It is not Atlantis and never has been, but why would anyone say such a thing? It seems that all this speculation was viralized through the video of a YouTuber of conspiracy.

According to the creator of the video, it is based on the story made by Plato of Atlantis in two of his texts (Critias and Timaeus). In them it is reported that Atlantis was crossed by several water channels shaped like concentric rings, which had a diameter of 23 kilometers and is surrounded by a small plain. To many this has convinced them without caring too much that the size of the dome is much larger, that there is no trace of water channels and that the concentric circles of our formation are folds of the land itself. As for the plain that surrounds it, it does not seem to refer to an extension as vast as this, especially considering that Atlantis is presented in myths as an island and the eye of Africa is more than 500 kilometers from the nearest coast.

Moreover, spectacular as it is, the eye of Africa is not the only geological accident of this type, the closest thing is the dome of Semsiyat. So no, neither Atlantis nor meteor crater or anything. Guelb er Richât is a dome mowed by millennia of erosion, an amputee mount of the Earth whose roots draw a geological mandala only visible from space. Is it necessary to add more magic?


  • Richat’s formation is not due to a meteorite nor are the remains of Atlantis. There is no reason to think such things.


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