Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Ten of the most mindblowing places on the earth

Ten of the most mindblowing places on the earth


Earth is a spectacularly beautiful, diverse place: filled to the brim with millions of species of plants and animals, mindblowing features that seem to defy the laws of nature and a numerous number of unique locations. Unfortunately, only a small number of individuals have the means and opportunity to visit all of these places. For the rest of you, we here at FQTQ have devised a list of ten of our favorite natural features. Make sure to add a few of your own in the comments.

Here we go…

10. Trolltunga, Norway

Click to see a larger image (Credit: Jayp70)

Any of you who were born sometime in the late 80′s or early 90′s (and likely most other readers, regardless of when they were born) should recognize this feature. Any guesses?

If you said “The Lion King,” you are right. This looks like Pride Rock, doesn’t it?

This surface feature is formally known as Trolltunga (or ‘Troll’s Tongue’ in Norwegian), which is a part of the mountain Skjeggedal in Odda, Norway. Assuming one has the brazen balls of steel (and an empty gut) required to walk straight out to the edge of the rock, you would be able to overlook the entire valley, as Trolltunga lies some 1,200 meters above sea level. You would also get a spectacular view of the crystal clear waters of lake Ringedalsvatnet.

9. The Pingualuit Crater

Approximately 1.4 million years ago, a meteorite crashed into the surface of Earth, leaving behind a huge crater that has a diameter of 2.14 miles (3.44 km). Pingualuit crater, as it is now called, is located in the Ungava Peninsula of Quebec, Canada. The crater (and the surrounding area) has been formally classified as thePingualuit National Park.

Click to see a larger image (Credit: Kangiqsujuaq Adventures)

Not much is known about the meteorite that struck Earth all those years ago, but it is now thought that the meteorite responsible for the crater had an impact of the force of approximately 8,400 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs. Despite the destruction that once faced the region, the crater now rises approximately 520 feet (160 meters) above the surrounding tundra, and it holds some of the purest water that can be found anywhere in North America. With a salinity level that is less than 3 ppm, it is significantly purer than the water found in the great lakes, which has a ppm level of 5 HUNDRED. It is because of its cleanliness (and the clarity of the lake, which has a depth of about 890 feet [270 m]) that the local Inuit community of Kangiqsujuaq often referred to it as the “Crystal Eye of Nunavik.”

While the Pingualuit crater lake is definitely a lovely sight to behold, there are still several more than can be found throughout the planet that rival its beauty.

8. Mossbrae Falls, CA

Located in the Shasta Cascade area of Dunsmuir, California, Mossbrae Falls is without a doubt, one of the most scenic waterfalls located in the Western portion of the United States.

Click  here to see a larger image. (Credit: Jared Ropelato)
The falls themselves are about 50 feet (or 15 meters) in height and approximately 150 feet (or 46 meters wide). They are fed by springs that contribute to the effect of water cascading down the canyon walls, which are covered in flora, before the water pools back into the Sacramento River.

7. The Sossusvlei Sand Dunes

This feature looks like it belongs on the Red Planet instead of our humble abode, but indeed, this image is of a spectacular area in Namibia.


Located deep within the southern portion of the Namib Desert, the sand dunes of Sossusvlei are among the highest dunes on the planet. Of these, the largest of the bunch is affectionately called “Big Daddy.” It rises approximately 380 meters (or about a quarter of a mile) from its base. Sossusvlei itself is a very remote salt and clay pan (or the remnant of an endorheic lake), which is about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south-southwest of the capital of Namibia, Windhoek.

Image Source

Most interestingly, the winds in Sossusvlei are constantly changing the dunes, causing them to shift into different shapes. When viewing it in person, the contrast between the red sand and the blue sky make the dunes one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Namibia. Who wouldn’t want to see mother nature’s most fabulous sand castle? Count me in!

6. The Skaftafell Iceland Caves

Located in the frozen lagoon of Svínafellsjökull glacier in Iceland, this cave is a temporary structure that appears for sporadic bits of time at the edges of frozen glaciers. The lack of air inside the cave absorbs almost all optical light, making the blue ice fraction of the caves stick out.

Click to see a larger image (Source)

Glacier caves are almost always formed as a result of water flowing through the glaciers via cracks and crevasses formed over a span of time, generally through erosion or melting. Within these frozen ice glaciers, geothermal heat from volcanic vents lying on the ocean floor or hot-springs located beneath the thick ice, the caves can become unstable. Some can last indefinitely into the future, while others only last for a short period of time.

5. The Himalayan Mountains

The Himalayan Mountain range, which covers an area exceeding 1,550 miles (2500 kl) in Nepal (with portions also existing in China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bhutan), is home to some of the largest, tallest and most dangerous mountains on Earth. The tallest (and most famous) of which, is Mount Everest (followed by K2), which towers more than 29,028 feet (8,848 m) above sea-level.

Click to see a larger image (Source)

Because of its immense height, near the summit of Everest (starting at about 26,000 ft [8,000 meters] above sea level — generally known as the “death zone”), there is only a small fraction of oxygen available to mountaineers that is generally available to the rest of Earth, making the trip up very strenuous (and close to impossible) without supplemental oxygen. (It’s also quite cold at that altitude, with unpredictable weather patters) That has not stopped thousands of adventurous souls from attempting to summit the highest mountain on planet though, to see where Earth ends and the heavens begin.

Image Credit: Anton Jonkovoy
It is particularly beautiful at night, given the lack of light pollution. Image Credit: Anton Jonkovoy

Everest itself is littered with **hundreds of bodies of hikers that were not able to withstand the extreme conditions experienced on top of the mountain. Many of the bodies still lie where they died, as retrieving a body in the so-called “death zone” is still incredibly dangerous and modern helicopters can not safely operate such a high altitude. As such, many bodies will remain there for the foreseeable future, serving as land markers, helping to guide hikers to the summit of the mountain.

*Images contained within this article may be sensitive to some readers. Viewer discretion is advised.

4. Lake Retba

Click to see a larger image (Source)
No. Your eyes are not deceiving you, nor is this image photoshopped. This is Senegal’s Lake Retba, which is located in the Cape Very Peninsula that lies northeast of Senegal’s capital, Dakar. The lake is known for its high concentrations of salt-loving green micro-algae, which is called Dunaliella Salina. During the dry summer months, which is when the color is most poignant, the saline levels in the water tend to become so high, the water turns into a strawberry pinkish color, or sometimes, the color of crimson red.

How the lake looks in the later months
How the lake looks in the later months

Judging from the look of it, one would think diving in the water would be a death sentence, but it isn’t. Not only is the water safe to swim in but it’s also safe to consume. The same can not be said for certain other organisms. The high level of saline in the water would be detrimental to many creatures that normally live in lakes and rivers, but the micro-algae is able to create large amounts of Beta-Carotene, which is the most abundant isomer of carotene that can be converted into vitamin A by the body. This helps the Dunaliella Salina protect itself from the intense light reflecting from the salt in the lake and is also responsible for giving the algae this dark pink hue.

Specifically, they produce a red pigment that absorbs and uses the energy from the sun to create more energy, which in turn, causes the color of the lake to become pink.

Click to see a larger image (Source)
Before you take a dive into this lake, which looks like a strawberry milkshake, you may want to slather up on butter. The salt collectors that ravage the shore to collect the salt to sell, typically coat their skin with large concentrations of Shea butter to protect themselves from exposure to the intense salt levels in the lake.

3. Dallol Volcano

One doesn’t have to leave Earth’s atmosphere to see scenery that almost looks alien in origin. This is one natural formation that DEFINITELY qualifies as freaky.

Click to see a larger image (Source)
Located in the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia, the Dallol ‘volcano’ is a volcanic explosion crater that was formed by intrusions of basaltic magma in Miocene salt deposits after hydrothermal activity. A phreatic eruption took place in this location back in 1926, which created the volcano and many other eruption craters that are filled with salt flats nearby.

Although Dallol is generally called a volcano, it isn’t really one. It’s actually a subaerial volcano vent, which extends about 45 m (150 ft) below sea level.

Click to see a larger image (Credit: rdalaudiere)
Also located in the area are several hot springs, which discharge brine and acidic liquid. Some of them turn into temporary geysers, which forms cones of salt. These cones of salt come in various colors including pink, red, yellow, green, gray and black. Here, one can experience the highest average temperatures on Earth. It’s so hot, the temperature can reach about 40°C during the daytime IN THE SHADE. That is.. assuming you could find any shade in the nearby area!

Click to see a larger image (Source)

2. Lake Baikal

Click to see a larger image (Source)
Located in Siberia, Lake Baikal is one of the Earth’s oldest and deepest lakes, with an average depth of 2,442 ft (744.4 meters). Not only is the area breathtakingly beautiful and the water very clear (you can see over 130 feet beneath the frozen layer of ice), but it’s also home to over 20% of Earth’s supply of freshwater. If you were to “pull the plug” on the water in the lake, it would take all of the water in the Great Lakes to fill Lake Baikal back up again!

As I mentioned before, this is one of the oldest lakes on the planet with an estimated age of 25 MILLION years, which was during the Mesozoic era. UNESCO declared the area a world heritage site in 1996 since it is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals. Over 2/3rds of which, can not be found anywhere else on the planet, including the world’s largest flatworms, which can come close to being 16 inches long once they have fully matured

Click to see a larger image (Source)
Don’t go packing your bags to make a trip there just yet though. During the summer, the temperature can get reach up to 14 °C (57 °F), but the temperatures in the area can get down below −19 °C (−2 °F) in the winter. If you’re still up for it though, the lake is only frozen completely over for five months out of each year, but when it is at its lowest temperature, the ice that covers the lake is so thick, the Trans-Siberian Railway briefly ran across it in the past.

1. The Glow-worm Caves of New Zealand

Click to see a larger image (Source)
Last (but certainly not least), we come to one of the most beautiful and unique places on the entire planet of Earth.  Located within the world renowned Waitomo caves of New Zealand, hundreds of thousands of glow worms light up the dark, producing an eery kingdom comprised of bio-luminescent larvae (commonly known as Arachnocampa luminosa). These tiny creatures, which are equivalent in size to an average mosquito, are indigenous (and exclusive) to New Zealand, making the caves a popular tourist destination.


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