Saturday, 5 October 2013

6 Beautiful Places on Earth(That are secretly Horrifying)

6 Beautiful Places on Earth(That are secretly Horrifying)

Earth home to some incredibly beautiful landscapes; however, many of those landscapes can kill you in very slow, very excruciating ways. I guess that’s the appeal of certain places– like Mount Everest, for instance. The mountain is  littered with the mummified corpses of hundreds of people who tried, and failed, to summit the mountain. Sometimes, nature should come with a warning that says: “You can look, but don’t touch (and just to be safe, you probably shouldn’t breathe without special gear either).”

6: Jellyfish Lake

Imagine this scenario: To get away from the hustle and bustle of big cities, with their annoyingly bright lights, you and someone you care for decide to do something seemingly crazy, you want to visit an uninhabited island. Through your brief research (you really should be more thorough), you come across a small island located in Palau’s Southern Lagoon, between Koror and Peleliu. It’s called “Jelly-Fish Lake.”

Credit: Olivier Blaise

Now, the name alone should immediately indicate that SOMETHING is amiss here. But if you press on regardless, you are in for a (horrifying, but slightly awesome) treat.

Credit: Ethan Daniels / Barcroft Media
See. Told you. Horrifying, but awesome. Credit: Ethan Daniels / Barcroft Media

Jellyfish:   LOTS.  OF.  THEM.

Okay, so it’s not quite as horrifying as it looks…

As the name implies, “Jellyfish Lake” is chock full of millions of golden jellyfish, which migrate their way across the face of the lake on a daily basis. However, unlike their traditional counterparts, the jellyfish that inhabit the lake do not have stingers that are sufficiently powerful enough to cause great harm to humans. Of course, they can (and do) sting, but the sting is generally only felt in very sensitive areas). Because of this, the lake is a favorite among divers, who want the chance to swim with some of nature’s most bizarre creatures…without the killing and dying part (as a side note, please don’t poke the wildlife, you silly and environmentally irresponsible people).

5: Ijen Lake

Java Island in Indonesia is home to one of the most dense populations of people in the world, who are unfortunately exposed to a lot of harsh natural features. Among them is Ijen Lake, which belongs to the Kawah Ijen Volcano (It is a part of a grouping of straovolcanoes, making up the Ijen Volcano Complex). As you can see, the lake looks rather innocuous, right? (I mean, if you ignore all of the dead trees), If you think so, you should stop being so trusting, or relying on your instincts so much. This is one crater lake you most certainly do not want to jump into.

Credit:  Anastassia Golitsyna
Image Credit: Anastassia Golitsyna

The lake just so happens to be the site of one of the most proactive sulfur mining operations on the planet. The pure sulfur emitted from the neighboring volcano has resulted in the lake becoming so acidic, that an aluminum can can completely disintegrate in less than 20 minutes. (one excursion concluded that the PH of the water comes in at about 0.5. This is similar in strength to the acid contained within a car battery) . In order to do this, several ceramic tubes were installed that lead down to the bottom of the lake, where volcanic gasses go after they are released from the neighboring volcano. The tubes collect  the gases as they are emitted. Subsequently, the sulfur cools and liquifies before it is collected by workers.

Images From:
Images From:

Yes… people actually get in the lake to extract minerals in acidic water. (With little to no protection, I might add) The process of mining the sulfur is both tedious and quite dangerous (they literally inhale a plethora of undesirable things in doing so), but it’s a way of life for these people. (In retrospect, it makes most of our every-day complaints seem outrageous and/or overblown, right?)

4: Jacob’s Well

On the surface, Jacob’s Well looks perfectly inviting – a nice little spot to plop your feet into or a nice place to take a swim. Assuming you don’t get too comfortable, you would be right. Jacob’s well is PERFECTLY safe for those merely looking for a break from the tedious reigns of modern society, but it – like the other entries on this list – has a deep, dark secret (both literally and metaphorically, in this case).

Jacob's Well (Credit: Mark Love)
Jacob’s Well (Credit: Mark Love)

The well is actually a large perennial spring that is a part of Cypress Creek (located northwest of Wimberley, Texas, USA). The “well” is only about 12 feet (4 meters) in diameter, but despite its outward appearance , it’s actually quite deep. If you dove right in, you would be able to go about 30 feet (ten meters) beyond the surface, eventually making your way into an extensive series of underwater caves. It is here that the trip becomes one of life or death, as some 8 people have made the trip to the caves, to never see the light of day again. It is painfully easy to swim down, notice a fun little pathway, and get lost among the twisting corridors. Of course, for any unwary diver who decides to take a spur of the moment dip, their unpreparedness can lead to death. Lost in these dark halls and without oxygen, death takes only moments.

One of the tunnels (Credit: Dan Misiaszek)
One of the tunnels (Credit: Dan Misiaszek)

3. Lake Abraham

Located in the Canadian portion of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta Canada (near Elliot Peak and Mount Michener), Abraham Lake almost looks too beautiful to not be the result of photoshop, or perhaps a fictional place in a dream. But indeed, it is real. And it’s proof that Canada is home to some of the most beautiful locations on the planet. Interestingly, Abraham Lake, which covers a surface area of approximately 20.7 square miles — is NOT naturally occurring. Instead, it was originally built in 1972 with the construction of a nearby damn– partially explaining its pristine, if not its misleadingly serene, condition.

Image Credit: Darwin Wiggett
Image Credit: Darwin Wiggett

The hallmark of Alberta (and similarly, with Lake Baikal) is the bubbles pictured across the frozen lake. Those bubbles are actually made up of trapped methane – created through decomposition of organic matter (like plants, leaves, and certain types of animals) – lurking beneath the ice. After this organic matter works its way into the lake, it sinks to the bottom. Here, the bacterium take over, breaking the matter down, and producing methane as a byproduct.

You may recognize methane as one of those pesky greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming (in fact, methane is far more potent than carbon dioxide. Over the course of 100 years, methane has 20 times more effect on global warming than the same amount of carbon dioxide). As you can imagine, this is kind of problematic. As the temperatures continue to increase, the frozen layer of permafrost currently trapping the methane will begin to melt, ultimately unleashing even more methane to help heighten the temperature. Climate scientists postulate that methane lakes, like this one, will contribute ten times more methane to the atmosphere than the current amount contained there.

2: Lake Nyos

Earth is home to some incredibly beautiful crater lakes, many originating during a period in time before humans roamed the Earth. That, paired with their cosmic significance, makes crater lakes extremely interesting from a geological perspective. Lake Nyos is no exception to this rule. It’s a crater lake located 196 miles (315 kilometers) of Yaoundé, in Africa. Unlike many of its kind, not only is Nyos located close to an inactive volcano, but the lake in question does not RISK harming humans, animals, or the environment. But that is only because it has already has killed humans and animals (and lots of them, for that matter).

Image Credit: Jack Lockwood
Image Credit: Jack Lockwood

You see, Lake Nyos is among a small handful of what we call “exploding lakes.” Said lakes are typically fed  by carbon dioxide (generally through pockets of magma located 50 miles beneath the surface of a lake), which turns the water somewhat acidic chemically. On August 21, 1986, something terrible happened. All of a sudden, farmers living in a neighboring village heard loud rumbling, before a frothy substance was seen “erupting” from the lake. Farmers that left their homes to investigate the noise soon discovered a huge, white cloud was encircling the lake. Not long after, as the cloud grew to engulf the region (it grew to become some 328 feet [100 meters] tall), the indigenous villages lost consciousness, before many of them died. The lake transformed from something seen in a nature magazine, to something straight out of a Friday the 13th movie (or Jaws).

Image Credit: Thierry Orban/Corbis Sygma
How the lake looked after the explosion. (Image Credit: Thierry Orban/Corbis Sygma)

Scientists investigating the event soon learned that the carbon dioxide had complied to dangerous levels in the lake. Instead of releasing into the atmosphere naturally through the intermixing of the water, it reached 100% saturation and “blew,” resulting in the loss of 1,700 human lives, on top of more than 3,500 livestock. Scientists have now put in place a system to prevent this type of explosion from occurring again, but when it comes down to it, we are rarely triumphant when it comes to battling mother nature.

1. Lake Natron

Lastly, we come to the most peculiar entry on this list, called Lake Natron (I, for one, suggest that we change the name to Stone Lake. It’s certainly more fitting of the name than Stone Lake in Wisconsin). Superficially, this lake does not appear as if it belongs on Earth. Rather, it looks like an environment that’s better suited for some place like Mars or Venus, rather than Earth.

Image Credit: Rift Valley Photographic Lodge
Image Credit: Rift Valley Photographic Lodge

But its unique, somewhat colorful, look is very, very deceptive. You see, this lake harbors a horrifying secret… any poor creature that wanders into it, but has not adapted to withstand the environment, will almost certainly die. They will become a calcified statue of their former self – left on display for all to see. You see, this Tanzania lake is one of the most caustic bodies of water on Earth (able to burn or corrode organic tissue by chemical action), making the area inhospitable for all but a small handful of species that have evolved to withstand the volatile conditions near the lake.

Credit: Nick Brandt
Credit: Nick Brandt

Said conditions see the temperatures exceed more than 140 °F (60 °C). If that’s not bad enough, the lake is home to high levels of salt and sodium carbonate: one of the key components in the elaborate rituals ancient Egyptians used to mummify the dead (the saltine levels hang around a pH of 9 to 10.5, which is just the right level to essentially ensure natural preservation following death)

That, and the salt also provides plenty of fuel to microorganisms that *DO* find the environment conducive for habitation (Flamingos are also indigenous to the region). As the microorganisms feed and multiply, they cause the water to take on deep red hues, with bits of bright orange in the places that are shallow. (This phenomenon is also responsible for the pinkish/red “cracks” in the shoreline.) Overall, a perfect embodiment of the topic at hand. Frightfully beautiful (literally). Hope you enjoyed!


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