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Lake Tanganyika

the longest freshwater lake in the world

satellite view of Lake Tanganyika

Lake Tanganyika is 418 miles long north-to-south, but only 31 miles wide on average (with a maximum of 45 miles). With a maximum depth of 4,280 feet, it is the second deepest lake in the world, behind Lake Baikal. The average depth of the lake is 1,870 feet, and the deepest part of the lake bottom is 2,106 feet below sea level. With a surface area of 12,700 square miles, Lake Tanganyika is the fifth largest in the world in that metric.

Lake Tanganyika is fed by a number of rivers and streams, the largest of which is the Rusiziz River, which drains Lake Kivu and enters Lake Tanganyika at the north end. The only outlet is the Lukuga River, which flows out from about the midway point of the western shore.

map of Lake Tanganyika and region

One of the many ancient lakes found in the East African Rift, Lake Tanganyika is 9-12 million years old. Because the lake is extremely deep and located in a tropical area, the bottom of the lake contains "fossil water" that may actually be older than the lake. The lake is also known for its ferocious storms which generate 20-foot waves. Despite these storms, mixing between surface and bottom waters doesn't occur. Water temperatures in Lake Tanganyika are amazingly uniform considering the depth, with the lower regions a mere 37 F colder than at the surface.

Thanks to its great age and stability, Lake Tanganyika is home to one of the most biologically unique habitats on Earth. Ninety-eight percent of the lake's cichilds are endemic, as are seven of itscrabs, five of its bivalves, more than half of its gastropods, and eleven of its copepods.

The first Europeans to record observations of Lake Tanganyika were Sir Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke, who reached Ujiji on the eastern shore in 1858. The nations that border Lake Tanganyika are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Lake Baikal
John Hanning Speke
Democratic Republic of the Congo

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The Robinson Library >> General and Old World History >> Africa >> Central Sub-Saharan Africa

This page was last updated on 12/16/2017.