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Footbridges on Mount Kilimanjaro

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By Young Hoy Kim Kimaro

When Johannes Rebmann, a German missionary, reported sighting of a snowcapped mountain in the heart of Africa as he traveled inland from the coast in 1849, the Geographical Society of London was highly skeptical.

"What? Snow just 3 degrees south of the equator? Impossible! Perhaps the good missionary was hallucinating from a malaria attack." It wasn't till 12 years later that a special expedition confirmed Rebmann's surprising discovery.

Yes, despite its proximity to the equator, Mount Kilimanjaro's peak is snowcapped. Depending on how much rain fell the night before, the extent of the snow coverage on its peak varies.

Glaciers that had once covered the summit have dwindled in size considerably. Some even predict the snow cap may well disappear before the end of this century.

Plentiful rainfall (annual average precipitation of 1,200 millimeters) and the melting snow have corrugated Mount Kilimanjaro's slopes with numerous springs and streams. To cross them, villagers have typically built footbridges with tree trunks and wooden planks.

These bridges do fine when they are new. But high humidity and frequent rains causes wood to rot away fast. Bridges weakened thus wash away in flash floods, leaving villagers stranded until........

© The Korea Times