Kilimanjaro is a landmark and highest point in Africa. It consists of a mountain range of three connected volcanoes. The tallest of them, the Kibo, is 5,892 m high and has an ice cap. Its peak is called Uhuru (freedom).
Kilimanjaro is a successor of the tertiary fracture tectonics, which resulted in the East African rift valley.
A European first saw Kilimanjaro in 1848. The snow cover of the mountain, so close below the equator, was initially heavily questioned. The first to climb in 1889 were HANS MEYER and LUDWIG PURTSCHELLER.
On Kilimanjaro, certain levels of vegetation have developed with increasing altitude, which correspond to the vegetation zones in the northern hemisphere. Kilimanjaro has enjoyed the protection status of a national park since 1973. Kilimanjaro attracts tourists all year round.
Location and origin
Kilimanjaro is located in East Africa, 3 ° south of the equator (Fig. 1). The oval-shaped Kilimanjaro mountain range (approx. 3000 km²) consists of 3 interconnected volcanoes (Fig. 2).
To the west is the Shira Plateau with the Shira Summit (Klute Peak, 3962). The Shira crater rounding is only half there. Magma flows from the geologically younger Kibo broke through, flooded and partially eroded the crater. This is how the Shira volcano got its current elongated shape.
In the east of the mountain range rises the strongly fissured Mawenzi volcano (Hans Meyer Peak, 5149 m). This volcano was originally higher than the Kibo. After the Shira it became volcanically inactive, cooled down and was exposed to the intensive weathering processes.
In the center of the Kilimanjaro massif, the Kibo rises high with an ice cap (Fig. 3). Due to its majestic height of 5895 m above sea level (since the survey of September 1999 = 5891.77 m above sea level) it has become the “landmark” of Africa and is also known as the “roof of Africa”. Between Kibo and Mawenzi there is the Kibo saddle or saddle plateau at approx. 4675 m (Fig. 4).
The Kibo is – in comparison with the other volcanoes – a young volcano. The three volcanoes were formed around 750,000 years ago and began to merge into a mighty mountain range.
In several 100,000 years they “grew” in height until the main summit Kibo reached approx. 5900 m. Then huge eruptions and landslides as well as weathering processes changed the original conical shape of the volcanoes. In the course of time they got their present shape.
The Shira volcano was the first to go out, followed by the Mawenzi. The Kibo volcano, on the other hand, is a “dormant” or “sleeping” volcano. Major eruptions were about 200 years ago. At times, toxic sulfur gases and water vapor are still emitted.
The formation of the Kilimanjaro mountain range is a result of tectonic (mountain-forming) events of the modern earth era. When the Alps, the Caucasus, the Himalayas and the Andes were folded and pushed open in the Tertiary, a gigantic fracture tectonic occurred here (thousands of meters of clods were tipped, raised or lowered). This created huge, elongated collapse zones in the surface of the earth, which were flanked by highland thresholds, and in the depths of which large lakes were formed. The Viennese geologist EDWARD SUEß interpreted this phenomenon on the basis of travel reports available to him, he himself was never in Africa, as “digging”. The young British researcher JOHN WALTER GREGORY pursued this hypothesis. As a result of his on-site investigations, he coined the term “ Rift Vally“(Rift valley). We are talking about the East African Rift with Lake Natron and Lake Manjara and the Central African Rift with Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. Along the cracks between the clods of the earth’s crust, volcanic gases and magma (molten rock) could reach the surface of the earth from the interior of the earth and put a large number of mighty volcanoes on the highland thresholds. These include Kilimanjaro, Meru and Kenya on the eastern edge of the East African Rift.
The Kilimanjaro is not only the highest mountain in Africa, but also the tallest free-standing collection of the Earth’s surface. From the East African savannah (approx. 800 m above sea level) it rises to almost 6,000 m above sea level.
The discovery of Kilimanjaro
Until the 19th century, our knowledge of Kilimanjaro was limited almost exclusively to the world map by CLAUDIUS PTOLEMÄUS, the Greek astronomer and geographer from Alexandria (2nd century AD). He let the Nile arise at the “moon mountains” south of the equator. This confusion with the Abyssinian headwaters is due to the poor information from that time that he processed. More reliable was the statement of the Spanish writer FERNANDEZ DE ENCISCO, who reported in 1519 about a very high “Ethiopian Olympus” west of the port (Mombasa).
The German missionary JOHANN REBMANN was the first to see Schneeberg, the African “miracle” that mocked the equator (1848). He saw a mountain with a white cloud. His guide translated “white” with “cold”. REBMANN concluded that it must be snow. On a later occasion, having come closer to the mountain, he believed his assumption confirmed. His report on snow 3 ° south of the equator was heavily questioned in Europe or dismissed as an illusion. The London geographer DESBOROUGH COOLEY was particularly conspicuous.