Sitting around thinking about the name of oceans is not something most of us tend to do. We have come to accept there is a Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, and others. It probably never entered our minds on why the Atlantic Ocean is not re-named the Afrikan Ocean, considering the hundreds of thousands of Afrikans who died in it. It was once referred to as the Ethiopic or Ethiopian Ocean when the Greeks called the whole of Afrika, Ethiopia (land of burnt face).

Another argument for the naming of an Afrikan Ocean is that the birth of humanity happened there. What greater tribute can one give than to name an ocean after the place that gave the world its human race? Of course, that sounds too much like right, especially since it would have been named during the slave or colonial period.

However, there is a real, more natural reason why there may finally evolve an Afrikan Ocean. “Africa is splitting apart at the seams-literally. From the southern tip of the Red Sea southward through Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, the continent is coming un??stitched along a zone called the East African Rift. (Eltan Haddock, Birth of an Ocean: The Evolution of Ethiopia’s Afar. Scientific American)

The British Broadcasting Company (BBC) describes how it sees this happening. “The largest tear in the Earth’s crust seen in decades, if not centuries, could carve out a new ocean in Africa, according to satellite data. Geologists say a crack that opened up last year may eventually reach the Red Sea, isolating much of Ethiopia and Eritrea from the rest of Africa. The 60km-long rift was initially sparked by an earthquake.

“Dr. Tim Wright from the University of Oxford, UK, said if the ripping of the crust continued, the horn of Africa would eventually split off from the rest of the continent, in about a million years.
We think if these processes continue, a new ocean will eventually form. It will connect to the Red Sea and the ocean will flow in.

“An earthquake on the 14th of September is said to have sparked the growing tear in the African desert, followed up by moderate tremors and then, finally, a volcanic eruption.” (“Secrets of the ocean birth laid bare.” Helen Briggs, BBC News science reporter, July 19, 2006.)

Late last year, the South Jersey News weighed in on the subject. “An 8-meter wide, 60-kilometer long rift (1 meter = 3.28 feet, 8 meters = 26.24 feet / 1 kilometer = .621 miles, 60 kilometers = 37.278 miles) developed in the Afar desert region of northeastern Africa in just 3 weeks. An earthquake on the 14th of September is said to have sparked the growing tear in the African desert, followed up by moderate tremors and then, finally, a volcanic eruption.

“Scientists are saying the event is ‘unprecedented in scientific history,’ though they do say the events of September would only be a minor portion of what would need to occur for an ocean to form, and that millions of years would be needed for the entirety of the process to take place.” (The New Ethiopian Ocean. October 3, 2008)

It was never understood why the Indian Ocean was not named the Afrikan Ocean, since the first Indian civilization, which began in the Indus Valley, was created by Afrikans, including the civilizations of Indonesian and Australia, which border the Indian Ocean.

In historian John G. Jackson’s book Ethiopia and the Origin of Civilization, George A. Dorsey states, “Whenever that Indian Ocean touches land, it finds dark-skinned people with strongly developed jaws, relatively long arms and kinky frizzly hair.”

Speculation could go on forever on the naming of oceans, but if the scientists are correct, there may finally develop an Afrikan Ocean, but none of us will be here to see it.

– Dr. Kwaku’s class, Afrikan World Civilizations, with all new lessons, will begin Friday, 7-9 p.m., Feb/ 20 in Leimert Park. See for details.

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