Fairy Circles in South Africa

We recently took a trip from Cape Town to the Northern Cape Province in South Africa and on the way noticed what looked like patches of bare ground or nearly bare ground:

The above are photos we took, but you can also explore the region in Street View.

This reminded us of Fairy Circles, a phenomenon in Namibia. Last time we looked at Fairy Circles we also noted a similar phenomenon in Australia. We have also seen similar patterns around the world created by ants and termites. And in South America we looked at patterns that are apparently created by worm poo.

At the time, we did not think to try and find one near the road and see if we could see any ant activity. Once we got back from the trip we had a look in Google Earth and found the patches are even more visible from above and cover a vast region:

We believe these circles are created by ant or termite colonies. They can even be seen in cultivated fields, which suggests the soil is permanently changed. The Namibian and Australian fairy circles are found mostly on very flat land and scientists believe water plays a role in their formation. However, these ones can be seen on hillsides and slopes and seem to be stopped only by extremely rocky ground.

In most cases, the spots consist of areas of reduced vegetation, but in some places the pattern seems to be reversed, with more vegetation in the spots:

In some cases there are bare rings:

For the locations of some of the screenshots above see this KML file. But be sure to explore more as they cover a vast region.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.






PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.



PLEASE NOTE: Google Earth Blog is no longer writing regular posts. As a result, we are not accepting new comments or questions about Google Earth. If you have a question, use the official Google Earth and Maps Forums or the Google Earth Community Forums.