Monday, 20 June 2016

Mesmerising Natural Wonders of the World

Our planet if full to the brim of magical things waiting to be explored. The following is a list of some enigmatic geographical wonders which are worth knowing about. Enjoy the colours and the info. 

1- Puerto Princesa, Philippines

Puerto Princesa is a city located in the midsection of western provincial Palawan Island, Philippines. It is bound to the east by the Sulu Sea and to the west by the South China Sea. With a spectacular limestone landscape and an exquisitely complex cave systems, it is considered the cleanest, greenest, and one of the most protected areas of the country.

The city contains an 8.2km-long underground river that flows directly into the crystal sea, and egg-shaped rock formations, and a 20 million-year-old Miocene Age serenia fossil in the cave, which further adds to its scientific value.
The site is actually a full mountain-to-sea” ecosystem with Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park being a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Folk etymology attributes the name Puerto Princesa to a princess-like maiden who in the early days is said to have roamed around the area on certain nights of the year. Historically, though, it was named after Princess Asunción (b. 1864) who suffered an untimely death which made the Queen change the name to Puerto de la Princesa. Eventually it was shortened to Puerto Princesa.

Today, the area is a popular tourist city with many beach resorts and seafood restaurants to offer.

2. Dallol Volcanic Field, Ethiopia

Dallol is a volcanic explosion crater (maar) at the heart of the Danakil Depression, northeast of the Erta Ale Range in Ethiopia — about 600 km north of Addis Ababa. The depression is a rift valley that parallels the Red Sea between Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Its deepest part is about 125 metres (410 feet) below sea level, which makes it one of the lowest points on Earth. 

The crater was formed by the intrusion of basaltic magma in Miocene salt deposits and subsequent hydrothermal activity. The volcano was born in 1926 as a result of some phreatic eruption.
Or in other words, according to

As the brines evaporate in the hot arid climate, extensive salt formations are formed on the floor of the craters. These are coloured white, yellow, brown, orange and green by sulfur, dissolved iron, mud and the life activity of halophile algae.

Dallol features neon glow, acidic hot springs, acid pools, mountains of sulfur, salt, iron oxide among other minerals, and small gas geysers. It also happens to hold the current record for the highest average temperature of any inhabited place on Earth, with an average daily maximum temperature of 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit). This peculiar combination makes it a heck of an odd landscape.

Interestingly, the term ‘Dallol’ was coined by the Afar people, and it means dissolution or disintegration; it describes a landscape made up of green acid ponds (pH-values less than 1), iron oxide, sulfur, and salt desert plains.

Due to its colourful nature, the geysers, and the geothermal activity, Dallol is often compared to the hot springs of Yellowstone Park.

3- Table Mountain, South Africa
Table Mountain is a flat-top mountain overlooking the South African city of Cape Town. As a part of the Table Mountain National Park, it it a favourite touristic attraction. A cableway service is available, which makes it convenient for people who want to get a view of the city without having to go there. Others just enjoy the three-hour hike to the top.

Table Mountain is 1086 metres
(3,563 ft) above sea level — about 19 metres (62 ft) higher than the cable station at the western end of the plateau. The top level plateau is edged by thrilling cliffs and it is about 3 kilometres (2 mi) from side to side.

There are various restaurants around the area, some of which are revolving, making viewing the city in a 360 degree angle even more appealing.

The Table Mountain is so significant to South Africa that it is featured in the Flag of Cape Town and other local government insignia.

4- Columnar Basalt

Columnar Basalt are rock formations resulting from the quick cooling of lava flow. When the molten lava cools, contraction forces build up and form joints or fractures in a  process is similar to cracks seen in dried mud after heavy rains. The crystallization is followed by a symmetrical cracking along precise angles of the rocks. This leads to the formation of these mystifying geometrical patterns, which often look like a part of a surreal man-made art display.

Columnar basalt are predominantly hexagonal in cross-section, though polygons with three to twelve or more sides can be observed in nature. 
Note that the size of the columns depends on the rate of cooling; rapid cooling results in small ( less than 1 cm diameter) columns, while slow cooling is more likely to produce larger columns.

The word ‘basalt’ derives from Late Latin basaltes, a misspelling of Latin basanites “very hard stone”, which was imported from Ancient Greek βασανίτης (basanites), from βάσανος (basanos, ‘touchstone’) which itself perhaps originated from Egyptian bauhun ‘slate’.

Columnar volcanic rocks exist in many places around the globe. The most notable is the Giant's Causeway on the northern coast of Ireland. The second famous is probably Devils Tower in northeastern Wyoming. 

5- The Amazon Rainforest

Of course the list of wonders wouldn't be complete without the renowned Amazon Rainforest. Also known in English as Amazonia or the Amazon Jungle, it is spread across five and a half a million square kilometres (1.4 billion acres), covering almost 40 percent of the South American continent. The Amazon is the largest Rainforest on Earth.

The rain makes a gigantic basin in the form of the Amazon River which goes through nine nations: Brazil (the majority of the forest), Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana.

The Amazon Rainforest houses a staggering 10% of the world’s known species, as well as 20% of the world’s bird species. It is also home to around two and a half million different insect species and over 40000 plant species. One can only wonder how hard and long it took to document such rich biodiversity so we can have these numbers today.

Another main feature of the The Rainforest is that it produces 20 percent of the world's oxygen. Because it recycles carbon dioxide into oxygen i
t has thus dubbed the “Lungs of our Planet”. 

The Amazon once covered 14 percent of our planet's land surface, but now it's merely 5 to 6 percent. It is estimated that if the wood consumption will keep going at the same pace, the remaining lands could last less than another 40 years. Fortunately, over this last decade deforestation rates have been reducing while areas of conserved land have been increasing.

As usual, the etymology and origin of the name holds some interesting info.

‘amazon’ initially means a member of a legendary race of female warriors, believed by the ancient Greeks to exist in Scythia — near the Black Sea in modern Russia or elsewhere on the edge of the known world; a tall and strong or athletic woman.

The word originates from late Middle English: via Latin from Greek Amazōn, explained by the Greeks as ‘without a breast’ (as if from a- ‘without’ + mazos ‘breast’), referring to the fable that the Amazons cut off the right breast so as not to interfere with the use of a bow, but probably a popular etymology of an unknown foreign word.

’s an absorbing Nat Geo - BBC Wild Amazon documentary about our Lungs... minus the Breast”.

6- Florida Red Tides

The red colour of Florida tides are produced when harmful marine algae (Karenia brevis), a plant-like organism, accumulate in the water column. A certain species of algae, named phytoplankton, contain photosynthetic pigments, which vary in colour from green to brown to red. So when the algae are present in high concentrations the water appears to be reddish. And the term “Florida Red Tide is a descriptive name for such increase in density and concentrations.

That said, the change in sea colour to the reddish brown hue we get to see is due to the tens of millions of organism cells in the phytoplankton contained in each litre of seawater. 

Red Tides often produce toxic chemicals which affect both marine organisms and humans. The Florida Tides in particular produce lethal brevetoxins that attacks the central nervous system of fish and other vertebrates.

  7- Ha Long Ba, Northeast Vietnam

Ha Long Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and popular travel destination in the Gulf of Tonkin within Quảng Ninh Province, northeast of Vietnam. The bay is 1,553 km2 (622 mi²) in size and it features about 1900 limestone islands and islets of different shapes and sizes, creating a picturesque seascape of pillars. Because of their abrupt nature, most of the islands are uninhabited and unaffected by human presence. The main biological interest is directed towards the Gulf of Tonkin.

Another distinctive feature of Ha Long Bay is the abundance of lakes within the larger limestone islands.

The name Hạ Long is derived from the Sino-Vietnamese, meaning Descending Dragon”. This mythical nomenclature can be traced back to a local legend about the time when Vietnam was still developing into a country and needed to fight against invaders, so a family of dragons were sent by the gods as protectors. 

8- Jeju, Korea

Also known as Jejudo, Jeju is the largest island off the coast of the Korean Peninsula, and the main island of Jeju Province. It's an oval-shaped volcanic area with a surface of 1,900 sq km. 

Hallasan, the tallest mountain in South Korea, forms the bulk of the island. It is a dormant shield volcano the biggest type volcanoes on Earth — and it rises 1,950 metres above sea level. The area around the mountain is a designated national park, the Hallasan National Park, another
UNESCO World Heritage. The park is located in the center of Jeju Island and the mountain peak is visible from almost everywhere on Jeju. 

Mount Hallasan is actually worshiped by some Koreans as they believe that gods and spirits live there.  

The island contains the natural World Heritage Site Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes and is considered one of our world's natural wonders.

9- Iguazú Falls

Also known as Iguazu Falls, Iguazú Falls, Iguassu Falls, or Iguaçu Falls, Iguazú Falls is the Spanish name for the enormous waterfalls of the Iguazu River located on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná.

The falls consist of 275
individual drops which all originate from the Iguazu River — forming the most spectacular waterfalls scenery in the world. 

Iguazu Falls stretch in width for 2.7 kilometres (1.7 miles), while their height varies between 60 metres (200 feet) and 82 metres (269 feet). This makes the them taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide.

The naming of the falls originates from the Tupi or Guarani language, and it means “big water”.

Today, the Iguazu Falls are owned by the two UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Iguazú National Park in Argentina and the Iguaçu National Park in Brazil.

10- Komodo National Park, Indonesia

stablished in 1980, Komodo National Park is located within the Lesser Sunda Islands in Indonesia. The park includes three larger islands: Komodo, Padar and Rinca, as well another 26 smaller ones.

Initially, its main purpose was to conserve the world's largest lizard, the unique Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) and its habitat.
Later it was dedicated to protecting other species, including marine species.

In 1991, the park was declared a World Heritage Site and a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, both indications of the Park’s biological significance.
In fact, Komodo islands is a part of the Coral Triangle, which contains one of the richest marine biodiversity on Planet Earth. A reason why scuba diving and ecotourism are quite popular in the area.

11- The Ordinskaya Cave, Russia

The Ordinskaya Cave, or Orda Cave, is a gypsum crystal cave in Russia found underneath the western Ural Mountains. The mouth is near the shore of the Kungur River just outside Orda, Perm Krai. 

The cave system stretches over 5.1 kilometres (3.2 mi) with around 4.8 kilometres (3.0 mi) over the overall length being under water, reaching depths of 43 metres. This makes it the world's largest gypsum crystal cave and one of its most extended underwater caves.

The mineral-rich area surrounding the cave filters the water and makes it crystal-clear. This allows explorers and divers have a spectacular visibility of over 50 yards (46 m), which is ideal for expeditions and underwater photography.

The cave’s monumental white gypsum walls hide entrances to many narrow passages still waiting to be fully explored and charted. Diving the Ordinskaya is a extraordinary underwater experience combined with a unique scenery on the surface. This is a place where vast white landscape spans the horizon, making it look like it's frozen beyond time and space.

Just like most other wonders, there is a local myth here as well; and it's the "Lady of the Orda Cave" who supposedly lives in there.

12- The “Door to Hell”, Turkmenistan

The “Door to Hell”, also known as the Gate to Hell, the Crater of Fire, Darvaza Crater, is located on top of the natural gas field in Derweze, Turkmenistan.

The area was first thought to be a substantial oil field site. But when Soviet geologists began drilling in 1971 and found gas instead, the ground collapsed into an underground cavern. They then set it on fire to prevent the spread of methane gas, thinking that it may take weeks to be fully extinguished. The fire, however, has been burning continuously ever since. There have been many failed attempts to put it out, though it seems like there is nothing to be done.

Wicked huh. Perhaps we shouldn't screw with Mother Nature.

The massive “Door” has a diameter of 69 metres (226 ft), depth of 30 metres (98 ft), and a total area of 5,350 m2, which is the size of an American football field. In recent years, this hellish crater has become quite a popular hotspot for tourists. The surrounding area is also popular for wild desert camping.

13- Cerrado Protected Areas, Brazil

Another wonder from South America is the the site of the Cerrado Protected Areas located in the Brazilian central plateau in the State of Goias. It includes the Chapada dos Veadeiros and Emas National Parks, and it is the vastest, oldest, and most diverse savanna ecoregion in the world. Today, however, less than 10 percent remains in a natural state.

Having an area of 600 km spread across the center of the South American continent has permitted the survival of rare species during periods of past climatic change. The Cerrado Protected Areas has a high faunal diversity with more than 70 species of mammals, 307 of birds, 53 of amphibians and reptiles, and 49 of fish; many of which are still unidentified. Several species are threatened, others  are near extinction.

The site also houses over 50 to 60 percent of all Cerrado plants and almost 70 to 80 percent of its vertebrate species, as well as many rare small animals that are only found there. It includes between 350 and 400 species of vascular plants per hectare, including many endemic plants.

Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park is one of the few large parts which remained relatively intact Cerrado. It includes six main vegetation types: Campo Cerrado (open-wooded or tree savanna), Campo Sujo (shrubby savanna), Cerradão (dense wooded savanna / sclerophyllous forest), Campo Limpo forest (open grassland), Gallery Forest, and Semideciduous Forest.
Portuguese word cerrado ‎means shut, from cerrarto shut.

14- Zhangye Danxia Landform, China

Last but not least, this unique geological phenomenon is known as Danxia landform. The gorgeous psychedelic colours are the result of an accumulation of red-coloured sandstone and conglomerates of largely Cretaceous age over millions of years. The rocks are smooth, sharp and several hundred meters high. The phenomena can be observed in several places throughout China. The one in the featured photo is located in Zhangye, Province of Gansu.  

The Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, also known as Zhangye Danxia (Landform) Geopark, is surrounding the area and it covers 510 square kilometres (200 sq mi). Formerly a provincial park, it became a national geopark in November 2011. Walkways have been established to accommodate visitors keen to admire the surrealistic scenery.

Geologists state the same tectonic plates that formed the Himalayas created the layer cake effect and centuries of water erosion completed the design.
It is estimated that the mountain range contains over 24 million year's worth of minerals, giving us what appears to be a work of art made by coloured sand.  

We do live in a beautiful world. It just that not everyone appreciates it equally. 

*Originally published in July 2012
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  1. Beauty of nature always attract towards itself and as a nature explore i would love to explore this wonder of the world my wish is to make my self able to visit these wonders