Richat Structure (‘African Eye’), Sahara desert, Mauritania, Africa. Photo by NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team
Strange, beautiful and little known natural wonders of the Earth via Aquiziam:
1. Pamukkale, Turkey: Around for over two millennia, the terraced pools are believed to be created by fractures caused by earthquakes that exposed hot springs. These hot springs evaporated leaving a chalky material, lining the tiered pools with white. Pamukkale is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the pools have been closed to bathing.
2. Koekohe Beach, New Zealand’s South Island: Known as “Moeraki Boulders,” these large, spherical boulders were originally formed on the sea floor from sedimentary deposits that accreted around a core in the same way that a pearl will form around a particle of sand. The erosion of the cliffs often reveals these boulders from the surrounding mudstone allowing them to join those already on the beach. Maori legend attributes their origin to the arrival of the first ancestors / giants who came in the great Araiteuru canoe which was sunk by three great waves at nearby Matakaea.
3. Nine Hells of Beppu, Japan: Located on the Japanese island of Kyūshū, Beppu is the second largest producer of geothermal water in the world. Located in the same area are the “Nine Hells” or strange geothermal springs, each with its own remarkable character and color due to the variety of minerals in the outflows.
4. Las Canadas, Tenerife, Canary Islands: At the summit of Mount Teide, one of the largest Island volcanoes in the World is the Las Cañadas caldera. The crater, which is an enourmous sixteen kilometres across, is a picture of what Hell might look like if it cooled a little. Shear walls that formed when the caldera first collapsed encircle this dry and alien place.
5. Great Blue Hole of Belize: In the Light House Reef of Belize is a deep circular cavity known as a Blue Hole. Also throughout the Bahamas, the Blue Hole is often the entrance to cave networks, some of them up to 14 kilometres in length. Divers have reported a vast number of aquatic creatures, some of which are still new to science. In addition, they’ve recorded chambers filled with stalactites and stalagmites which only form in dry caves, which may be proof that nearly 65,000 years ago, when the world was in the grip of the last major ice age, the sea level was lower than it is today, and vast cave networks were created. When sea levels rose again about 10,000 years ago some of these collapsed inwards and the Blue Holes were formed.
6. Hell’s Door, Turkmenistan: Located in the Kara-Kum desert of Turkmenistan, it is a result of a Soviet drilling for natural gas in 1971. The roof of the cavern collapsed leaving a crater-like sinkhole some 25 metres deep with a diameter of approximately 60 – 70 metres. It soon became evident that natural gas was still rising into the crater from even deeper sources and the story goes that the decision was made to ignite the emissions rather than risk either a concentrated build-up of gas or local poisoning. According to various sources it has burned continuously since then and has apparently been named “The Gate to Hell” by the local people.
7. Sanqingsha, China: A small National Park near the city of Shangrao in the Jiangxi province of China has a combination of extraordinary granite geology in the form of weird outcrops and pillars combined with seasonal climate variations than often cause mists, fogs and striking sunsets. This effect is enhanced by the profusion of natural waterfalls, pools and springs.
8. Eye of Africa, Mauritania: From space this mysterious depression in the Sahara Desert of Mauritania really does look like a human eye. The image to the left is the “pupil” but a visit to Google Earth zoomed out a little will reveal the cliffs that make up the rest of the eye. This natural phenomenon is actually a richat structure caused by the dome shaped symmetrical uplifting of underlying geology now made visible by millennia of erosion. Some academics believe it is the sight of a meteor impact.
9. Suqatra Island, Yemen: Located off the coast of Yemen in the Middle East, isolated from the rest of the world its plants have evolved into many bizarre shapes and forms that are unknown in other parts of the world. One of the most famous of these is the Dragon’s Blood Tree the sap of which is used to make crystals that can be used as a dye or as an alleged aphrodisiac.
10. Racetrack Playa, California, USA: Called the ‘Sailing Stones,’ once a year the “Playa” or flat desert area experiences short winter rains and becomes slippery as the hexagonal desert floor turns back to mud. During this time the boulders and rocks move leaving clearly visible tracks behind them. Although scientists believe that high winds are responsible, some of the rocks will suddenly change directions and move at almost perfect right angles to their previous direction.