East Africa's Afar depression is one of the world's most geologically hyperactive regions. Fly over it in an airplane -- or in a one-person motorized paraglider, as photographer George Steinmetz did countless times -- and it may appear as frozen and still as Arctic ice. But the Afar's timeless visage hides its true nature. Below the surface, Earth's rocky rind is ripping apart, and underground chambers of magma are fueling 12 active volcanoes as well as steaming geysers, boiling cauldrons, and a fiery lake of lava.
Images courtesy of George Steinmetz and National Geographic. Captions courtesy of National Geographic. Images can be seen in the January 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine, on newsstands now.