Lake Tanganyika – the world’s longest freshwater lake
Despite the ferocious surface storms that occur, driving waves up to six meters high (20 foot), no mixing of the lower relict waters occur. The bottom 1 200 meters of the lake remain ‘dead’ – either too high in hydrogen sulphide or too low in oxygen to support life. This ‘fossil water’ may be as old as 20 million years. By contrast, the oceans, because of currents and upwellings have life forms even as low as 11000 meters (36 080 feet).
Lake Tanganyika has a remarkably uniform temperature. The lower regions are only a mere 3° C colder than the surface. The reason for this strange phenomenon has yet to be discovered.
Lake Tanganyika is an African Great Lake.
It is estimated to be the second largest freshwater lake in the world by volume, and the second deepest, after Lake Baikal in Siberia; it is also the world’s longest freshwater lake.
The lake is divided among four countries – Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Tanzania and Zambia, with the DRC (45%) and Tanzania (41%) possessing the majority of the lake. The water flows into the Congo River system and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean.
The lake is situated within the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the geographic feature known as the East African Rift, and is confined by the mountainous walls of the valley. It is the largest rift lake in Africa and the second largest lake by volume in the world.
It is the deepest lake in Africa and holds the greatest volume of fresh water.
It extends for 676 km (420 mi) in a general north-south direction and averages 50 km (31 mi) in width.
The lake covers 32,900 km2 (12,700 sq mi), with a shoreline of 1,828 km (1,136 mi) and a mean depth of 570 m (1,870 ft) and a maximum depth of 1,470 m (4,820 ft) (in the northern basin) it holds an estimated 18,900 cubic kilometres (4,500 cu mi).
It has an average surface temperature of 25 °C and a pH averaging 8.4.
The enormous depth and tropical location of the lake can prevent ‘turnover‘ of water masses, which means that much of the lower depths of the lake is so-called ‘fossil water‘ and is anoxic (lacking oxygen).
The catchment area of the lake covers 231,000 km², with two main rivers flowing into the lake, numerous smaller rivers and streams (due to the steep mountains that keep drainage areas small), and one major outflow, the Lukuga River, which empties into the Congo River drainage.
The major river that flows into this lake, beginning 10.6 ka, is the Ruzizi River, entering the north of the lake from Lake Kivu.
The Malagarasi River, which is Tanzania’s second largest river, enters the east side of Lake Tanganyika. The Malagarasi is older than Lake Tanganyika and was formerly continuous with the Congo river.
In 1965 Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara used the western shores of Lake Tanganyika as a training camp for guerrilla forces in the Congo. From his camp, Che and his forces attempted to overthrow the government, but ended up pulling out in less than a year since the National Security Agency (NSA) had been monitoring him the entire time and aided government forces in ambushing his guerrillas.
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