Highest lava tubes found on Kilimanjaro


JF-Expert Member
Jan 9, 2010
Highest lava tubes found on Kilimanjaro

By Jack Mikaili

Mount Kilimanjaro

It was only a dream. For two years Sjoerd Vander Schuit, Arjan Van Waardenburg and Bert Tindemans lived with a faint hope that one day they would be able to ascend Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro with a hidden mission.

They played the climbing in their minds, visualising the excitement, capturing that moment only in the lenses deeply hidden in their hearts.
Then it happened recently. "It does not seem real. We have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and more significantly we have realised our dream of discovering lava tubes," says Sjoerd Vander Schuit, a team leader of the three Dutch explorers.

Lava tubes are natural conduits through which lava travels beneath the surface of a lava flow, expelled by a volcano during an eruption thousands of years ago. They can be actively draining lava from a source or can be extinct, meaning the lava flow has ceased and the rock has cooled and left a long, cave-like channel.

Briefing journalists shortly after descending from Mount Kilimanjaro, Schuit said lava tubes or lava tunnels which they have discovered on Mount Kilimanjaro is exactly where molten lava ran through tubes, when a vent erupted. At times volcanoes spew lava that is very fluid running in rivers creating channels. The lava crusts cool and form a roof. Inside it is still the molten lava, flowing down hill but now in a tube.
"Mt. Kilimanjaro has lava tubes. These tubes had been part of a huge tube swarm or network. Over thousands of years most of these tubes have been eroded away by glaciers, ice sheets and rivers," Schuit noted. In their 17 days of painstaking mission, the Dutch team discovered ten significant lava tubes on Kibo slope.

Clive Ward, a member of the Cave Exploration Club of East African and Tanzanian Kilimanjaro Mountain Guides, has confirmed the discovery of ten significant tubes on the northern slope. "What is left today gives us an indication of a phenomenal event. The largest tube is 150 metres long and in places between 8 to 10 metres wide at 3,780 metres above sea level (ASL)," Ward told The Guardian on Sunday in a separate interview.

The highest tube found on the northan side is at 4,330 metres ASL. In September this year, two lava tubes have been surveyed on Mawenzi southern slope. One is at 4,365 metres and the other is at 4,387 metres. These are considered to be the highest lava tubes found in the world.
For his part, Arjan Van Waardenburg said the full report on the lava tubes discovery will be out after three months and promised to circulate it widely across the globe through magazines and websites. "We have collected data and enough photos of Lava tubes so the biggest task before us now is to compile a comprehensive report on our discovery. This assignment will take us three months," Waardenburg explained.
Tour guide Gadiel Majefu is urging the Kilimanjaro National Park Authority (KINAPA) to preserve the newly discovered tourist attraction.
Mt. Kilimanjaro is attracting 35,000 tourists who climb it and pay $50million annually.

Seven New Wonders of Nature
Tanzania Rift Valley Tours Ltd Managing Director Rashid Mtungi who hosted the team said as a local tour operator, the discovery of lava tubes on the mountain, currently in the list of 28 finalists of new seven world wonders of nature, is encouraging news.

"This milestone discovery of lava tubes is tantalizing news because it adds value to our unique mountain.

"I hope this discovery is timely, taking into consideration that Mt Kilimanjaro is among the 28 finalists of the new seven world wonders of nature," Mtungi said, adding that the breakthrough will encourage more people to vote for it. Africa's highest peak, Mt Kilimanjaro, is listed among 10 leading tourist destinations nominated as candidates for the seven natural wonders of the world. It is listed in a voting competition that was organized by an organization known as Seven Natural Wonders in which tourist attractions from all over the world are voted to be nominated as the Seven Natural Wonders of The World.
Out of the 28 contestants that have made it to this stage, only two nominations are from Africa - Mt Kilimanjaro (Tanzania) and Table Mountain (South Africa), with tough competition between the two African destinations.

It is expected that Tanzania would gain much from the listing of Mount Kilimanjaro in the new list of Seven Natural Wonders of the World and will be able to use this opportunity to promote Mt Kilimanjaro. Voting trends have shown that most people who are voting for Mount Kilimanjaro are foreign holidaymakers and other mountain friends, as compared to Table Mountain which has attracted a good number of South African voters.

The volcanic mass that makes up Kilimanjaro is a national park situated in northern Tanzania on the southern border of Kenya.
It is a combination of three separate volcanoes of different ages. The most recent and famous is known as Kibo. On both sides of Kibo are Mawenzi and Shira. Kilimanjaro is not only the highest mountain in Africa. It is also the highest free-standing mountain in the world.



JF-Expert Member
Jan 9, 2010
Mourning `death` of handwritten letters

By Wilson Kaigarula

In metropolitan Dar es Salaam, the Old and New Post Office (Posta ya Zamani and Posta Mpya) have lent their names, and small stretches of the sidewalks along which the buildings within which they render services are located, to commuter bus services, as passenger drop-off and pick-up points.

Other entities have done the same, such as Msikitini (Mosque) Kanisani (Church) , Chama (Party in relation to CCM) and Sheli, a corruption of ‘Shell', as a reference to all petrol stations.

But Posta ya Zamani and Posta Mpya are arguably the most famous, due, obviously, to being located in the heart of the Central Business District. Over the past few days, ahead of today's World Post Day, I have been musing: how many of the city's residents who are so familiar with ‘posta' as a ‘daladala' station concept patronize postal services?

Plus, of course, those who cruise past the buildings in other forms of transport, as well as individuals for whom either of the two ‘postas' is a convenient meeting point as well as easy-to-locate for strangers on account of their high visibility?

True, business goes on in the post offices, as well as those who check on their mail in the boxes in the outer sections. My safe, guess, though, is that, the enthusiasm of postal services, and joy derived from some of them, has dwindled as we have become progressively captive to modern technology.

Many people in the young generation bracket haven't encountered postal services on a wide scale, and hardly miss them as constituents of a vanishing species, in the same way as they wouldn't bemoan the replacement of typewriters by computers.
Some, probably many, in the league of old timers are beneficiaries of new technology, but can't resist nostalgic feelings of the joys and even sorrows of the full-scale postal services of yesteryears.

Experiences dating back to the 1960s up to around the 1990s, spring to mind. There was no post office in my home village. A certain middle-aged shopkeeper was the agent, a role that bestowed considerable measure of importance on him, and he felt as such.
When he traveled to Bukoba town (some 50 kilometres away) to buy provisions, he collected letters from a box reserved for the village, which he put in an old carton box whose contents anxious people surveyed, in case they were lucky recipients. Occasionally, he assigned the crew of the village-town bus to pick up the letters.
The box was off-limits for us the kids, who no-one would bother to write letters to. However, we played the role of delivery boys and girls adults handing out to us, letters addressed to our parents, grandparents and other relatives; and delivering the ones for postage to the shop.
We were also agents of reading out letters loudly to illiterate relatives, as well as neighbours who didn't have schooling offspring, or whose literate children were away. The problem with the arrangement was that confidentiality was not easy to keep - a problem lessened substantially later via the Mwalimu Nyerere-spearheaded literacy campaign.

There was an unpleasant twist to the shopkeeper-postal agent set-up; some people patronized his shop circumstantially, fearing that he could retaliate by causing their letters to disappear if they bought items from his rivals.

Graduation into letter-writers and letter-recipients in boarding upper primary (middle) school was exciting and was spiced up by drama. Once a week, at the school baraza (assembly), the head prefect read out the names of recipients, who proudly walked upfront to collect them.
Since receiving letters was a big deal, a few mischievous chaps faked the deal by posting ‘letters' to themselves – they were blank inside, and they altered their handwriting to write their names at the outside, but the secret leaked !

We learnt that, the super-disciplinarian head teachers of some girls' schools read pupils' letters and withheld those whose contents they disapproved of, and the would-be recipients were duly cautioned!

The hearts of many boys were literally broken when they received letters containing rejection messages from girls whose intimate relationship they had sought.

During holidays once, some relatives to whom I had written letters in either Kiswahili or the vernacular, lambasted me for a strange reason.
Partly sincerely, but partly out of show-off, I had sneaked the respectful abbreviation ‘Mr' (Mister) before the names of the addresses on the face of envelopes or aerogramme forms. Somebody had cheated them that the English word denoted a big insult!

Aerogramme forms were popularly known as ‘by air', in reference to that partly misleading message at one corner of the blue, stylishly designed pieces of paper that one folded, run the tongue along tiny films of dried glue, closed, and affixed postage stamps onto! Erroneous, because not all letters were flown from point to point, buses and ships being the bigger carriers. Some old ‘by air' letters in my possession are among my most treasured mementos. Occasionally, particularly in boarding secondary schools, some students received registered mail (slightly thick, whitish envelopes whose front and back were crossed) which contained currency notes! Luckier ones received parcels with gifts like pairs of socks. Those were days when postal staff were by and large honest!

We kept track of postage stamps, debating on whether old ones were fancier than new ones; and used stamps gave rise to the stamp collection hobby, which I guess has at best slackened, and at worst, vanished. Within, but especially after school and as part of the working class, the telegram as its sender or recipient was frightening, as it was the bearer of sad news, such as death or accident. Another paper-based service was the money order – the ancient version of M-Pesa.

Back to letters, the sentimental touch of letters by parents to children; wives to husbands, and vice-versa; as well as exchanges between friends, one of the highlights being to associate with the handwriting of beloved persons, was quite strong. Contrast that to what's happening today: brief phone text, almost mechanical messages, such as CU2morrow;as well as e-mail, facebook notes, which, minus the handwriting aspect, somewhat lacks the human touch.

Interestingly, private individuals, companies and institutions have registered post office box numbers as a formality, but they are seldom used. One does, say, phone, or ‘e-mails' the technical manager of a refrigeration company to enquire about charges for repairing a faulty fridge, instead of writing him a letter. For most part, postal services are sought in compliance with particular conditions and not out of choice, such as companies requiring job seekers and aspirants for entry into institutions of higher learning, to submit their applications in their own handwriting and posting the letters. Plus, some documents must be posted rather than e-mailed.

And hey, while the much-orchestrated ‘mtandao' has made communication easier, some people, especially in villages, are complaining that frequent (in some cases half-a-dozen-times-a-day) phone conversations tend to be boring; it diminishes the excitement of the distant past, which letters triggered , after long periods of not hearing from one another.

An ideal situation may probably be achieved by striking a judicious balance between the old and the new, but what a tricky challenge!


JF-Expert Member
Jun 4, 2007
Thanx Gama for Kaigarula's article.
Imenikumbusha enzi hizo za kusomewa barua tukiwa "mstarini" (primary school) na baadae kupata yellow telegrams - PESA!

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