Erta Ale is a continuously active basaltic shield volcano in the Afara Region of northeastern Ethiopia, the most active volcano in Ethiopia. It is in the Afara Depression, a badlands desert area spanning the border with Eritrea, and the volcano itself is surrounded completely by an area below sea level, making it a relatively low-elevation volcano.
Erta Ale is 613 metres (2,011 ft) high, with one or sometimes two active lava lakes at the summit which occasionally overflow on the south side of the volcano.It is notable for being the longest-existing lava lake, present since the early years of the twentieth century (1906). Volcanoes with lava lakes are very rare: there are only five in the world.
Erta Ale means "smoking mountain" in the local Afar language and its southernmost pit is known locally as "the gateway to hell". In 2009 it was mapped by a team from the BBC using three dimensional laser techniques.As the lakes have searingly hot temperatures, laser scanning, which can map any surface at a distance, was used.
There was a major eruption on 25 September 2005 which killed 250 head of livestock and forced thousands of nearby residents to flee.There was further lava flow in August 2007, forcing the evacuation of hundreds and leaving two missing.An eruption on 4 November 2008 was reported by scientists at Addis Ababa University. Not much is known about Erta Ale as the surrounding terrain is some of the most inhospitable on earth and the native Afar people have a legendary reputation for viciousness towards outsiders; one travel guide recommends hiring "one or maybe two armed guards or police" to visit Erta Ale.However, they welcomed and helped a team from BBC.
The lava lake on Erta Ale was recently shown briefly during the 2010 movie Clash of the Titans during the journey sequence where Perseus travels to the underworld.