Brandberg Massif, Namibia
Over 120 million years ago, a single mass of granite punched through Earth’s crust and intruded into the heart of the Namib Desert
in what is now northern Namibia. Today, Brandberg Massif towers over the arid desert below. The locals call it Dâures—the burning
mountain. The granite core of this now-dormant volcano is a remnant of a long period of tumultuous volcanic and geologic activity
on Earth during which the southern supercontinent of Gondwana was splitting apart. The mountain influences the local climate, drawing more rain to its flanks than the desert below receives. The rain filters into the mountain’s deep crevices and slowly seeps out through springs. Unique plant and animal communities thrive in its high-altitude environment, and prehistoric cave paintings decorate walls hidden in the steep cliffs gouged in the mountain. This 2002 Landsat 7 image also captured an older and more-eroded granite intrusion in the southwest. Along the Ugab River at the upper left, cracks line the brown face of an ancient plain of rock transformed into gneiss by heat, pressure, and time.