Africa > DR Congo / Uganda

Lake Albert, DR Congo,Uganda

lakeLake Albert
countryDR Congo, Uganda
surface area5,527 km2
maximum depth58 m
average depth25 m
lake typeRift lake
length160 km
width30 km
catchment area416,661 km2
altitude615 m
volume139 km3
inflowsVictoria Nile, Semliki River
outflowsAlbert Nile
shore length782 km
mixing typeMonomictic
settlementsButiaba, Pakwach
residence time737 days
frozenNever freezes
originTectonic
average discharge2,171 m3 / sec.

Lake Albert Information and Facts

Lake Albert, also known as Albert Nyanza and formerly known as Mobutu Sese Seko, is Africa’s 7th largest lake by surface area, and is the northernmost of African Great Lakes’ Albertine Rift. Its elongated body is 160 kilometers in length and has a maximum width of 30 kilometers.

The lake, situated at an altitude of 615 meters, is the 27th largest lake in the world by water volume and is guarded to the West by the Blue Mountains, which reach a maximum height of 2,444 meters. The maximum depth of 56 meters if about 7 km off the mid-western shore. Transparency is 2-6 meters.

Its main sources are Semliki River and the Victoria Nile. Even though Rwenzori Mountains (also known as the Mountains of the Moon) stand between lake Albert and lake Edward to the South, the waters of the latter still drain into lake Albert through Semliki river. Several kilometers of rapids act as a faunal barrier between the two lakes. Other lateral inflows into the lake are small, seasonal, and contribute very little.

The waters of the Victoria Nile form a swampy estuary in the northern part of the lake, and this is also the starting point of the Albert Nile river (which becomes Mountain Nile once it enters South Sudan). Because the waters of the Victoria Nile are much less saline than those of Lake Albert’s, it has been possible to demonstrate that they don’t affect the lake for more than 10 kilometers in its northern end, even in times of floods. Consequently, it serves only to maintain the lake’s level, even though its rate of flow is considerably greater than that of Semliki’s.

The massive amount of sediments brought in by tributary rivers led to the formation of many swampy plains. The most important settlement on DR Congo’s shore is Kasenyi. In western Uganda, Murchison Semliki Landscape extends to the shores of the lake. Murchison Falls, inside Uganda’s biggest national park (the Murchison Falls National Park), is found on Victoria Nile just before it flows into the lake. Inside the park, protected animal species include buffalos, leopards, elephants, lions, and more. Other protected areas include Bugungu Wildlife Reserve and the Bugoma Forest Reserve. Settlements along the shore include Pakwach and Butiaba.

Flora

Phytoplankton, Stephanodiscus astraea, Nitzschia bacata, Anabaena flos-aquae, Melosira nyassensis.

Fish

Alestes baremose*, Lates niloticus, Hydrocynus forskalli, Clarias lazera*, Mormyrus kanume, Polypterus sp., Tillapia spp*., Citharinus cithanus*, Barbus spp., Distichodus niloticus.

*Economically important.

Utilization

The lake is mainly used as a source of water and for fisheries.

History

Lake Albert was discovered in 1864 by Samuel White Baker, who was looking for the source of the White Nile. He called it Albert Nyanza, after the recently deceased at the time, Prince Albert. The Italian explorer Romolo Gessi circumnavigated it in 1876. Sir Henry Morton Stanley and Mehmed Emin PaÅŸa (Eduard Schnitzer) established forts on its shores. During the 20th century, the Congolese president Mobutu Sese Seko temporarily named the lake after himself.

Shipping on the lake was also operated by European colonialists. British interests in the region led to the planning of shipping on Lake Albert as part of a network of river steamer, lake steamer and railway services. The cargo and passenger ship SS Robert Coryndon was built for this purpose in 1930. The ship was described by Sir Winston Churchill as "the best library afloat", while Ernest Hemingway called her "magnificence on water". The ship’s fate remains uncertain, she was either scuttled in 1962, or sank in 1964. She is still partly submerged in the lake.

Major oil reserves have been announced in the lake’s basin, and estimates suggest that the multi-billion field will be the largest onshore field in sub-saharan Africa.