Lake Turkana

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: African Geography

Lake Turkana (Jade Sea)
Lake Turkana (Jade Sea) - View over Lake Turkana
View over Lake Turkana
Coordinates 3°3′N 36°1′E
Lake type Saline
Primary sources Omo River
Turkwel River
Kerio River
Primary outflows Evaporation
Catchment area 130,860 km²
Basin countries Ethiopia
Surface area 6,405 km²
Average depth 30.2 m
Max-depth 109 m
Water volume 203.6 km³
Surface elevation 360.4 m
Settlements El Molo

Lake Turkana, formerly known as Lake Rudolf, is a lake in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya, with its far northern end of the lake crossing into Ethiopia. It covers a surface area of 6405 km² (2473 mi²), making it the world's largest permanent desert lake. It is also the world's largest alkaline lake. The area is hot and very dry. The rocks of the surrounding area are predominantly volcanic. On-shore and off-shore winds can be extremely strong as the lake warms and cools more slowly than the land. Three rivers (the Omo, Turkwel and Kerio) flow into the lake, but lacking outflow, the only water loss is by evaporation. Despite this, the water level of the lake fell by 10 meters between 1975 and 1993.

The main town on the lakeshore is Loyangalani, while smaller settlements include Kalokol, Eliye Springs and Ileret in Kenya, and Fort Banya in Ethiopia.

The lake was named Lake Rudolf (in honour of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria) by Count Samuel Teleki and Lieutenant Von Höhnel in 1888, and renamed Lake Turkana in 1975. The area has been preserved by its remoteness and still sees few Western visitors, being a three-day drive from Nairobi. Local people are predominantly of the Gabbra, Rendille and Turkana tribes. One of the villages adjacent to the lake is El Molo. The Turkana refer to the lake as anam Ka'alakol, meaning the sea of many fish. It is from the name Ka'alakol that Kalokol, a town on the western shore of Lake Turkana, east of Lodwar, derives its name.

Satellite image of Lake Turkana
Satellite image of Lake Turkana

Lake Turkana, sometimes referred to as the Jade Sea, contains Nile perch, a handful of obscure and pelagic cichlids of the genus Haplochromis and tilapia, and formerly contained Africa's largest population of Nile crocodiles: 14,000 breed on Central Island. The presence of water in such an arid area makes the region internationally important as a staging post for migrating birds. Lions, cheetah and giraffe as well as many other species of mammal live in the area. Elephants and rhinoceros are no longer seen, although Teleki reported seeing (and shot) many. Lake Turkana National Parks are now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Siboloi National Park lies on the lake's eastern shore, while Central Island National Park and South Island National Park lie in the lake. Both are known for their crocodiles.

Around 2 million–3 million years ago, the lake was larger and the area more fertile, making it a centre for early homonids. Richard Leakey has led numerous anthropological digs in the area which have led to many important discoveries of hominin remains. The two-million-year-old Skull 1470 was found in 1972. It was originally thought to be Homo habilis, but some anthropologists have assigned it to a new species, Homo rudolfensis, named after the lake. In 1984, the Turkana Boy, a nearly complete skeleton of a Homo erectus boy was discovered by Kamoya Kimeu. More recently, Meave Leakey discovered a 3,500,000-year-old skull there, named Kenyanthropus platyops, which means "The Flat-Faced Man of Kenya".

The lake in popular culture

The lake is featured in Fernando Meirelles's film The Constant Gardener, which is based on the book of the same name by John le Carré, although some of the footage was actually filmed at Lake Magadi.

In the Kim Basinger movie I Dreamed of Africa (2000), the lake is briefly mentioned early in the film as Lake Rudolf and later as Lake Turkana.

The lake is also featured in the video game series Xenosaga as being the location of an excavation to discover the original Zohar and the Anima Relics.

In his book "A Lifetime with Lions", George Adamson (best known from the movie Born Free) describes various adventures along Lake Turkana, including a harrowing attempt to cross it in a makeshift raft.

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