Continental rift valleys are huge fractures on the surface of the Earth that break continental plates with the eventual development of new oceans. Although instrumental in driving climate and biosphere in certain regions, this process is poorly documented and understood. In a new study, an international group of scientists has shed new light into the recent evolution of the African rift valley by conducting fieldwork, and integrating the results with laboratory analysis of volcanic rocks, analysis of the seismicity, morphology and numerical modelling.