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What’s inside this crater in Madagascar?

On satellite imagery, we spotted a village inside a strange crater in Madagascar. We set out to learn how it got there.

Christophe Haubursin is a senior producer for the Vox video team. Since joining the team in 2016, he has produced for Vox’s YouTube channel and Emmy-nominated shows Glad You Asked and Explained.

Right in the center of the island nation of Madagascar there’s a strange, almost perfectly circular geological structure. It covers a bigger area than the city of Paris — and at first glance, it looks completely empty. But right in the center of that structure, there’s a single, isolated village: a few dozen houses, some fields of crops, and dirt roads stretching out in every direction.

When we first saw this village on Google Earth, its extreme remoteness fascinated us. Was the village full of people? How did they wind up there? And what did life look like in such a place? To find out, we teamed up with a local crew in Madagascar and fell down a rabbit hole of geology and mapping along the way. It’s a story of how continental shifts and volcanic geology came together to form a place for a group of people to call home.

You can find the video above and the entire library of Vox’s videos on YouTube.

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