Jos Plateau

A satellite view from Google Earth

Jos, Nigeria: Home of Hillcrest School

This satellite image depicts the northern part of the Jos Plateau in central Nigeria. Large, gray-colored urban areas show that the city of Jos, capital of Plateau State, has grown considerably since I was a student there in the 1960s. Back then, Jos had less than 100,000 people; its population is now approaching a million. Part of the reason for this rapid growth is the mild climate of the plateau due to its elevation about 4000 feet above sea level. The Jos Plateau is a island of coolness in a sea of heat.

This image area has a relief of more than 3000 feet. The lowest elevation (about 2800 feet) occurs in the green-rimmed valley in the northeast part of the image. The floor of this valley, known as Neil's or Hidden Valley, is actually part of the larger and lower Bauchi Plateau upon which the Jos Plateau perches like a Mesozoic sculpture on a pre-Cambrian pedestal. The dark green areas bordering the valley are the steep slopes of the Naraguta and Shere Hills.

The Shere (pronounced Sherry) Hills are the orange-colored area decorating the east half of the picture like a hacked-up cheese ball. Those 'hack marks' are lineaments, zones of preferential erosion that follow along natural faults or fractures in the granite. Some of these linear features, especially in the northern half of the range, are spectacular canyons that have been carved into the rock by streams approaching the escarpment of Neil's Valley. In Shere Hills canyons, such streams are more often heard than seen, often roaring eerily from somewhere below a tangle of trees and boulders at the bottom of a canyon.

The highest point of the Shere Hills, and of the Jos Plateau, is 5829 feet above sea level. It is located about 90% of the way across the image west to east and 35% down north to south. This peak has a survey marker (YK 509) but no official name. Unofficially, my brother Stanley bestowed upon it the name Vops in 1967, and that name was still in use by Hillcresters when I revisited Jos in 1973. But officially the crown of the Jos Plateau remains nameless. This is unfortunate for 2 reasons:
1) Some climbers have made the grueling ascent to the twin communication towers of Shere Peak (just beyond the east edge of the image at an elevation of 5548 feet) with the mistaken impression that they were heading to the high point. Needless to say, such climbers are disappointed when they reach the top of Shere and see the true summit 2 miles to the west and nearly 300 feet higher.
2) If the name Vops became sanctioned by cartographic officialdom, then Vops Peak would become the first major African summit named after a pet gerbil. Every continent ought to have one of those!

Hillcrest is a private school about 2 miles SSW from the center of Jos. It was founded in 1942 by the Church of the Brethren Mission. [Note: the Wikipedia page cited above includes a link to the Hillcrest School Official Website. There is not a link directly from here, because links only to motionless pages.]

As a Hillcrest student from 1957 to 1968, I grew to appreciate the unique geologic setting of Jos. During my high school years, I spent many enjoyable Saturdays climbing awesome granite peaks and collecting alluvial topazes from the tailings of tin mines. By the way, the 3 water bodies clustered near the center of the image are not tin-mining lakes; they're reservoirs for the Jos water supply. (The largest of the 3 was not yet there when I attended Hillcrest.) Tin mining begins a few miles farther south in the area Google Earth has identified as "Barakin Delimi Subuwa," but which we knew as "Rayfield."

The first few years were less pleasant, however, because I missed my parents. Jos was almost 300 miles away (by horrible roads) from Tivland, where my parents lived and worked. A boarding school can be a bewildering and frightening place to a child of 6 or 7 who has never been away from his or her parents for more than a few days.

Paul Terpstra, June 24, 2007