S: The World's Strangest Phenomena by Marti Ingram
BC: Our world is full of strange, exciting, and fascinating occurances - all created by Mother Nature herself! Find out what Planet Earth has to offer in this book of the world's strangest natural phenomena.
FC: The World's Strangest Natural Phenomena | Researched by Marti Ingram
1: However clever man is or thinks he is, it takes a lot to defeat Mother Nature for sheer ingenuity. It is also very much the case that, no matter how much we learn about the world around us, she still has the power to surprise. Some of the biggest surprises can come from the smallest things. For example, some of the most remarkable organisms on the planet are often tiny insects and other microbial creatures rather than the sort of massive, more superficially sophisticated beasts which attract visitors to the zoo. On the other hand, many of the most thrilling natural phenomena are played out at the other end of the scale. An earthquake can literally change the landscape forever or an underwater volcano can give birth to new islands in the middle of nowhere. But the best surprises from Mother Nature are often the weirdest ones, the freaks of nature which scientists can probably explain quite rationally and reasonably, although most of us (one suspects) would sooner they did not bother. The truth of it is we like the magic, the mystery, and the sheer unexplained nature of Nature - and would rather be left alone to enjoy it.
2: The mysterious moving stones of the packed-mud desert of Death Valley have been a center of scientific controversy for decades. Rocks weighing up to hundreds of pounds have been known to move up to hundreds of yards at a time. Some scientists have proposed that a combination of strong winds and surface ice account for these movements. However, this theory does not explain evidence of different rocks starting side by side and moving at different rates and in disparate directions. Moreover, the physics calculations do not fully support this theory as wind speeds of hundreds of miles per hour would be needed to move some of the stones. | The Sailing Stones
3: Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful events to occur in our world, the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, has both astounded and amazed people since it was first discovered. This phenomenon occurs when the sun gives off high-energy charged particles (also called ions) that travel out into space at speeds of 300 to 1200 kilometers per second. A cloud of such particles is called a plasma. The stream of plasma coming from the sun is known as the solar wind. As the solar wind interacts with the edge of the Earth’s magnetic field, some of the particles are trapped by it and they follow the lines of magnetic force down into the ionosphere, the section of the Earth’s atmosphere that extends from about 60 to 600 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. When the particles collide with the gases in the ionosphere they start to glow, producing the spectacle that we know as the auroras. | Aurora Borealis
4: Blue holes are giant and sudden drops in underwater elevation that get their name from the dark and foreboding blue tone they exhibit when viewed from above in relationship to surrounding waters. They can be hundreds of feet deep and while divers are able to explore some of them they are largely devoid of oxygen that would support sea life due to poor water circulation (leaving the water anoxic below certain depths) - causing them eerily empty. This environment is unfavorable for most sea life, but nonetheless can support large numbers of bacteria. Some blue holes, however, contain ancient fossil remains that have been discovered, preserved in their depths. They are also called vertical caves. There are many different blue holes located around the world, from Belize and the Bahamas to the Red Sea. | Blue Holes | The deepest blue hole in the world—at 202 metres (663 ft)—is Dean's Blue Hole, located in a bay west of Clarence Town on Long Island, Bahamas. Other blue holes are about half that depth at around 100–120 metres (330–390 ft).
5: The Rain of Fish is common in Honduran Folklore. It occurs in the Departamento de Yoro, between the months of May and July. Witnesses of this phenomenon state that it begins with a dark cloud in the sky followed by lightning, thunder, strong winds and heavy rain for 2 to 3 hours. Once the rain has stopped, hundreds of living fish are found on the ground. People take the fish home to cook and eat them. Since 1998 a festival known as "Festival de la Lluvia de Peces" (Rain of Fish Festival) is celebrated every year in the city of Yoro, Departamento de Yoro, Honduras. | Honduras' Rain of Fish | There aren't any clear conclusions, but a theory that's accepted sometimes is that the strong winds and waterspouts take the fish from 200 km away. However, a significant number of scientists claim they are not sea water fish, but fresh water fish that swim from a nearby river to an underwater current, and some fish stray from the current and appear on the ground.
6: Columnar Basalt | When a thick lava flow cools, it contracts vertically but cracks perpendicular to its directional flow with remarkable geometric regularity - in most cases forming a regular grid of remarkable hexagonal extrusions that almost appear to be made by man. One of the most famous such examples is the Giants Causeway on the coast of Ireland (shown above), though the largest and most widely recognized would be Devils Tower in Wyoming. Basalt also forms different but equally fascinating ways when eruptions are exposed to air or water.
8: One of the rarest cloud formations is a roll cloud, which is a low-lying tube-shaped cloud that appears to roll through the sky like a baker’s rolling pin. It’s so rare that most people will never see a roll cloud in their life. But there’s one spot on earth where roll clouds appear often. Sometimes there’s just one, sometimes there’s up to eight in a row, and they can stretch up to 1,000 kilometers in length. | A complicated set of circumstances that are not entirely understood by scientists make the southern part of Northern Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria the only place on earth where a roll cloud can be predicted and observed on a regular basis. The best place to see them is in Burketown in September through November when every morning there’s a 40% chance the Morning Glory cloud will make an appearance. | Morning Glory Cloud
9: Sinkholes | Sinkholes are one of the worlds scariest natural phenomena. Over time, water erodes the soil under the planets surface until in some cases, quite suddenly, the land above gives way and collapses into the earth. Many sinkholes occur naturally while others are the result of human intervention. Displacing groundwater can open cavities while broken pipes can erode otherwise stable subterranean sediments. Urban sinkholes, up to hundreds of feet deep have formed and consumed parts of city blocks, sidewalks and even entire buildings.
10: Snow usually takes on this nice, soft, delicate shape as it blankets mountains and trees. But there’s a place where snow takes on the more ominous appearance of a knife. They’re called penitentes and they’re tall, thin blades of snow that point toward the sky. This natural phenomenon is the result of strong winds that compact the snow into blocks, where the sun then melts them into the shape of blades. Penitentes are named after the spiked hats of monks called nazarenos, which is a better sounding name than “dunce cap snow.” The largest penitentes — the ones that stand 6 feet tall — only appear in the Dry Andes at altitudes above 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) when the mountains are covered in snow. | Penitentes
11: Supercells are rotating updrafts within severe thunderstorms; they’re big, and bloody scary. Supercell is the name given to a continuously rotating updraft deep within a severe thunderstorm (a mesocyclone) and looks downright scary. They are usually isolated storms, which can last for hours, and sometimes can split in two, with one storm going to the left of the wind and one to the right. They can spout huge amounts of hail, rain and wind and are often responsible for tornados, though they can also occur without tornados. Supercells are often carriers of giant hailstones and although they can occur anywhere in the world they’re most frequent in the Great Plains of the US. | Supercells
12: Bioluminescence doesn’t just occur in the water. During the late summer months, a faint and eerie glow can also be seen from forests around the world, where bioluminescent mushrooms grow on moist, rotting bark. Foxfire has been witnessed worldwide, but the greatest diversity occurs in the tropics, where moist forests encourage fungi growth. The newest varieties of glow-in-the-dark mushrooms were introduced to the world just last year, after being collected from Ribeira Valley Tourist State Park near Sao Paulo, Brazil. To up your chances of seeing this one, hunt in the forest during its wettest season and move as far as possible away from any light sources that may outshine the faint glow. | Foxfire
13: Pitch Lake is one of Trinidad’s biggest tourist attractions, seeing over 20,000 visitors per year. Unlike any other lake in the world this one is filled with a gloopy, thick mixture of bitumen, clay and saltwater. It covers more than 100 acres and has been used for asphalt, ever since Sir Walter Rayleigh first took some to caulk his ship’s timbers back in 1595. Today, refineries line the edge of the lake. Asphalt from Pitch Lake has been imported and used to pave roads as far as New York City Unsurprisingly there is no life living in this ooze. | Pitch Lake
14: Goats on trees are found mostly only in Morocco. The goats climb them because they like to eat the fruit of the argan tree, which is similar to an olive. Farmers actually follow the herds of goats as they move from tree to tree. Not because it is so strange to see goats in trees and the farmers like to point and stare, but because the fruit of the tree has a nut inside, which the goats can't digest, so they spit it up or excrete it which the farmers collect. The nut contains 1-3 kernels, which can be ground to make argan oil used in cooking and cosmetics. This oil has been collected by the people of the region for hundreds of years, but like many wild and useful things these days, the argan tree is slowly disappearing due to over-harvesting for the tree's wood and overgrazing by goats. | Morocco`s Climbing Goats | As a result a group of people and organizations have banded together to try to save the tree. To do so one of the primary locations where the trees grow has been declared a biosphere preserve. It was also decided that by making the world aware of the oil, it's great taste and supposed anti-aging properties, would create a demand for it. However, the people who planned to market the oil could not envision people wanting to put an oil on their food or their face that was collected from goat excrement. As a result, a campaign is being led to ban grazing on the trees by goats during certain parts of the year to allow the fruit to ripen and fall off on its own. The fruit is then collected and turned into oil by oil cooperatives. So far, this arrangement seems to be working.
15: Over thousands of years spring water rich in calcium oxide has run down the mountainside and been baked by the Turkish sunshine in an area around Pamukkale, Turkey. The resulting deposits have formed into strange pools in a real-world Star Wars landscape. You can take in this bizarre natural phenomenon and enjoy a relaxing dip in one of the world's most beautiful 'hot tubs'. | Pamukkale, Turkey
16: While many see these apparently perfect ice circles as worthy of conspiracy theorizing, scientists generally accept that they are formed by eddies in the water that spin a sizable piece of ice in a circular motion. As a result of this rotation, other pieces of ice and flotsam wear relatively evenly at the edges of the ice until it slowly forms into an essentially ideal circle. Ice circles have been seen with diameters of over 500 feet and can also at times be found in clusters and groups of different sizes. | Ice circles are very rare, appearing only in slow moving waters from cold climates such as Northern Europe or America, but some have also been spotted in Britain, including a huge one bigger than 3 meters. There are two types of ice circles. No rain and temperatures below 0 Celsius for several days near a slow river bend. Thus, the water creates a force that is called ‘rotational shear’ and breaks a chunk of ice, twisting it around and grinding it to the surrounding ice, turning it into a perfect circle. | Ice Circles
17: The second type is perhaps even more spectacular. Also called ice pans, these formations are basically surface slabs of ice that form in the middle of the river, and not on its side. They’re explained by sudden shifts of temperature. | As the water cools off, it gives away heat that creates frazil ice (randomly oriented ice needles loose in the water). These ice particles can of course form an ice pan, and if the lake has enough frazil ice and the current is slow enough, the ice pan can reach the sizes that baffle people and even become a hanging dam.
18: It looks like a microscopic image of crystals – until you see the tiny little man standing amongst them. Mexico’s Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) located at the mining sites in Chihuahua, Mexico, is home to some of the world’s largest known natural crystals, measuring as much as 36 feet long. Geologist Juan Manuel García-Ruiz said the crystals have thrived for millenia in the very unusual environment of the cave, where the temperature stays around 136 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. | Cave of Crystals, Mexico
19: For those of you a bit farther away from the equator, there’s still plenty to see in the sky. Nacreous clouds (also called mother-of-pearl clouds) are extremely rare, but unmistakable in the dark hours before dawn or after sunset. Because of their extremely high altitudes, they reflect sunlight from below the horizon, shining it brightly down onto viewers below, in stark comparison to the regular ol’ dark clouds in the troposphere. The lower stratosphere, where nacreous clouds live, is so dry that it often prevents cloud formation, but the extreme cold of polar winters make this beautiful phenomenon possible. Captured best during winter at high latitudes, nacreous clouds have been spotted in Iceland, Alaska, Northern Canada, and very rarely, farther south in England. | Nacreous Clouds
20: Driving across the world’s largest salt flats – Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia – can feel as if you’re about to disappear into nothingness. The way the sunlight reflects off the vast expanse of salt makes the sky seem to blend into the landscape. Alien-like piles of salt piled into cone shapes by workers, waiting to be collected and processed, enhance the feeling that you’re in a very unique place. Salar de Uyuni contains about 10 billion tons of salt, with only about 25,000 tons extracted every year. The world’s largest salt flats, they extend for four thousand miles and are a wonder to behold. | Bolivian Salt Flats
22: The term ‘fire rainbow’ is really misleading; the correct term is circumhorizon arc. It’s basically an ice halo formed by ice crystals located very high, in the cirrus clouds. This huge flamboyant lovely display of colors is really not as rare as you might think, and how often it appears depends mostly on location, and especially latitude. For example, in the US it can be seen several times a summer in each year in the same place, but in Central or Northern Europe it’s very rare. | Fire Rainbows | Of course, this rainbow is not formed the way ‘classic’ rainbows are formed. Light passes through the hexagonal ice crystals via a vertical side and leaves through the nearest horizontal bottom face. If there alignment is just right, it makes the whole cloud shine rainbow-colored.
23: Red tides are also known as algal blooms - sudden influxes of massive amounts of colored single-cell algae that can convert entire areas of an ocean or beach into a blood red color. While some of these can be relatively harmless, others can be harbingers of deadly toxins that cause the deaths of fish, birds and marine mammals. | In some cases, even humans have been harmed by red tides though no human exposure are known to have been fatal. While they can be fatal, the constituent phytoplankton in ride tides are not harmful in small numbers | Red Tides
24: Ball lightning is a proposed atmospheric electrical phenomenon of which little is known. The term refers to reports of luminous, usually spherical objects which vary from pea-sized to several meters in diameter. It is usually associated with thunderstorms, but lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a lightning bolt. Many of the early reports say that the ball eventually explodes, sometimes with fatal consequences, leaving behind the odor of sulfur. There are records of free-floating glowing balls that occur in total absence of thunderclouds, mainly in the valley of Hessdalen, Norway. One recent theory suggests that these light balls (Hessdalen Lights) are produced by the ionization of air and dust by alpha particles during radon decay in the dusty atmosphere. | Ball Lightning
25: The entrance to the Eisriesenwelt ice caves in Werfen, Austria, doesn’t look like much – just a hole in the mountainside. But step inside, and it’s as if you’ve fallen into another world. The caverns located near the entrance are lined with ice that gets up to 65 feet thick and are covered in stalactites, stalagmites, domes, frozen waterfalls and other ice formations. An impressive 150 miles of icy tunnels and spooky caverns make up the Dachstein Caves, Austria’s famous ice caves which are located near Lake Hallstatt. The magnificent ice columns, arches and spikes were formed by swirling air that melted parts of the ice. Deeper underground is a giant glacier but some of the most amazing sights can be seen on the travel down, where some parts of the ice have formed what looks like a huge ice cathedral. | Austria's Ice Caves
26: True to their ominous appearance, mammatus clouds are often harbingers of a coming storm or other extreme weather system. Typically composed primarily of ice, they can extend for hundreds of miles in each direction and individual formations can remain visibly static for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. | While they may appear foreboding they are merely the messengers - appearing around, before or even after severe weather. | Mammatus Clouds
27: Kelimutu in Indonesia attracts visitors because of its three magnificent crater lakes, all of varying colours. It is located in the summit of a 1,639 metre high volcano on the island of Flores and the three lakes change their colours frequently. It all depends on the time of the year and their changing mineral content. Although they are prone to regular changes the main colour of Tiwu Ata Polo (the Lake of the Bewitched People) and Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (the Lake of Young Men and Maidens) are deep reddish-brown or green. Lying to the west of these is Tiwu Ata Mbupu (the Lake of Old People), which is more of a blue colour. | Kelimutu, Indonesia
28: Light pillars appear as eerily upright luminous columns in the sky, beacons cast into the air above without an apparent source. These are visible when light reflects just right off of ice crystals from either the sun (as in the two top images above) or from artificial ground sources such as street or park lights. Despite their appearance as near-solid columns of light, the effect is entirely created by our own relative viewpoint. | Light Pillars
29: Ever wonder the truth about UFOs? Avoided by traditional pilots but loved by sailplane aviators, lenticular clouds are masses of cloud with strong internal uplift that can drive a motorless flyer to high elevations. Their shape is quite often mistaken for a mysterious flying object or the artificial cover for one. | Generally, lenticular clouds are formed as wind speeds up while moving around a large land object such as a mountain. | Lenticular Clouds
30: It’s not hard to feel as if you’ve left the planet Earth when visiting Vale de Lua, Brazil. This ‘valley of the moon’ is the most-visited area of Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, located on the Chapada dos Veadeiros, an ancient plateau thought to be about 1.8 billion years old. Its rock formations, eroded by the waters of the San Miguel river, are among the oldest in the world. | Vale de Lua, Brazil
31: When you hear a name like maelstrom, you just know it’s about something wicked. Introduced in English by Edgar Allan Poe from the Nordic languages, it literally means crushing current, which is quite a very good description. A maelstom is basically a very big and powerful whirlpool, a free vortex; a free vortex with quite a downdraft. The original maelstrom was Moskstraumen, which is caused by a very powerful tidal current. Both Poe and Jules Verne depict it as a giant vortex that leads to the bottom of the ocean where it is in fact a crossroad of underwater currents. Well.. they were a bit off, but still, it’s quite a view to catch. | Maelstrom
32: From 25 July to 23 September 2001, red rain sporadically fell on the southern Indian state of Kerala. Heavy downpours occurred in which the rain was coloured red, staining clothes with an appearance similar to that of blood. Yellow, green, and black rain was also reported. | It was initially suspected that the rains were coloured by fallout from a hypothetical meteor burst, but a study commissioned by the Government of India found that the rains had been coloured by airborne spores from a locally prolific terrestrial alga. | Kerala's Red Rain
33: The Taos Hum is a low-frequency humming noise that occurs frequently in Taos, New Mexico. Similar hums like the Taos Hum have been reported all over the world and have been attributed to sounds caused by machines or other industrial-related things. | The thing that makes the Taos Hum so special that it deserves a spot on this list is that no one has ever found the source of the hum, and what’s even more interesting is that the sound is often intensified and much louder in buildings but is only heard by around 2 percent of the population. | The Taos Hum
34: Twice a year, between the months of February and March, the Atlantic Ocean waters roll up the Amazon river, in Brazil, generating the longest wave on the Earth. The phenomenon, known as the Pororoca, is caused by the tides of the Atlantic Ocean which meet the mouth of the river. A wave moving up a narrow river, thereby increasing its height and strength, is called a tidal bore. This tidal bore generates waves up to 12 feet high which can last for over half an hour. | The Pororoca
35: The name "Pororoca" comes from the indigenous Tupi language, where it translates into "great destructive noise". The wave can be heard about 30 minutes before its arrival, and it's so powerful that it can destroy anything, including trees, local houses and all kind of animals. The wave has become popular with surfers. Since 1999, an annual championship has been held in So Domingos do Capim. However, surfing the Pororoca is especially dangerous, as the water contains a significant amount of debris from the margins of the river (often entire trees). The record for surfing the longest distance on the Pororoca was set by Picuruta Salazar, a Brazilian surfer who, in 2003, managed to ride the wave for 37 minutes and travel 12.5 kilometers. A surfer's dream: riding an almost never-ending wave.
36: Like light pillars, sundogs are the product of light passing through crystals. The particular shape and orientation of the crystals can have a drastic visual impact for the viewer, producing a longer tail and changing the range of colors one sees. The relative height of the sun in the sky shifts the distance the sundogs appear to be on either side of the sun. Varying climactic conditions on other planets in our solar system produce halos with up to four sundogs from those planets perspectives. Sundogs have been speculated about and discussed since ancient times and written records describing the various attributes of our sun date back the Egyptians and Greeks. | Sundogs
37: Fire whirls (also known as fire devils or tornadoes) appear in or around raging fires when the right combination of climactic conditions is present. Fire whirls can be spawned by other natural events such as earthquakes and thunderstorms, and can be incredibly dangerous, in some cases spinning well out of the zone of a fire itself to cause devastation and death in a radius not even reached by heat or flame. Fire whirls have been known to be as high as 30 to 200 feet tall, up to 10 feet wide, have wind speeds of over 100 miles per hour, and to last for 20 or more minutes. | Fire Whirls
38: Exploding Lakes | On August 15, 1984, at around 11:30 p.m., villagers in the village of Njindom, Cameroon heard a loud explosion coming from Lake Monoun. Early the next morning, people in a van driving past the lake discovered the body of a motorcyclist. The air smelled like battery fluid. One of the van's occupants collapsed. The others ran for their lives toward Njindom. By 10:30 a.m. authorities had found 37 bodies along a 200 meter stretch of road by the lake. Blood was oozing from the noses and mouths; the bodies were rigid; first-degree chemical burns were present. Also, animals and plants along the shore had been killed. On August 17, the lake turned reddish brown, indicating that it had been stirred up somehow. | Although Lake Monoun is in a volcanic crater, chemical analysis of the water found little of the sulphur and halogens normally associated with volcanic action. However, the analysis did find a tremendously high level of bicarbonate ions, which form from the dissociation of carbon dioxide. One theory is that an earthquake disturbed the carbonate-rich deep water of the lake, which as it rose to the surface and lower pressures, released huge volumes of carbon dioxide -- something like opening a soda bottle. The resulting wave of water and cloud of gas caused the deaths and devastation. If there had been some nitric acid in the cloud, the burns could be accounted for. | There are other lakes around the world known to ‘explode’ from time to time. Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, ‘explodes’ at irregular intervals, changing color, killing fish, and releasing gases. There is also the sudden whitening of the Dead Sea.
39: Images of The Wave, a sandstone rock formation in Arizona, often inspire cries of “Photoshopped!” when they appear online, because they look so incredibly unreal. Strange undulating forms seem to have been carved into the landscape, creating what looks like a natural skate park of sorts. Approximately 190 million years old, The Wave is made of Jurassic-age Navajo Sandstone that calcified into rock from sand dunes in vertical and horizontal layers. | The Wave, Arizona
40: Snow rollers are formed when a thick layer of snow falls on top of a layer of ice. If the temperature and wind speed are right, chunks of snow can break loose and start rolling. As they’re blown along the ground like wintry tumbleweeds, they pick up additional snow along the way. | Snow Rollers
41: The inner layers are often weaker and less compact, allowing them to be blown easily away by the wind, leaving a large, naturally formed snow donut. Because of the precise temperature and wind speeds required to create this effect, snow rollers are a rare sight, but have made headlines with their appearances in parts of North American and the UK. | The spherical snow rings known as snow donuts, or snow rollers, only happen when conditions are perfect. The temperature must be around freezing, the snow easily packable and there must be strong winds. A bit of a hill always helps too.
42: If you were venturing alone through this vast desert landscape, you might think you’d gone crazy if you began hearing sounds like organs and bells, cannon fire and thunder? In fact, noises like these can actually arise from ordinary sand dunes. Singing sand dunes have been described in the myths of desert cultures for thousands of years. Their booming or harmonic noises have been recorded by scientists in such places as China, Saudi Arabia, Nevada, and California. While this phenomenon is not yet completely understood, there are a few things scientists are pretty sure about. Singing or thundering noises are produced by moving sand, generated as the sand grains rub against each other. If you’ve ever walked on a beach and noticed that the sand seemed to squeak underfoot, then you’ve heard a miniature version of this same phenomenon. In the desert, singing sand is caused by a certain type of avalanche, in which a flat area of sand near the top of a dune shears away, then slides down the face of the dune more or less intact, kind of like a plate sliding off an uneven table. At the interface between the moving bulk of sand and the rest of the dune there’s likely to be a lot of activity. Individual sand grains jump back and forth between the two masses of sand, creating a noisy vibration. The size and consistency of the grains, and how smooth or rough they are, all help determine the type of sound a sand dune will make, or whether it will sing at all. | Singing Sands
43: As the guy in the picture demonstrates it is perfectly easy to float on the Dead Sea and read a newspaper. The reason for this is that it is 25% salt (normal sea water is around 4-6). Obviously no marine life can live in the Dead Sea either and with the increased density of the water floating is the natural occurrence. | The Dead Sea, interestingly, is not only the lowest place on the planet but it is also the hottest, besides the inside of a volcano of course! Besides the buoyancy of the water to attract tourists, the Dead Sea is also famous for its purported healing properties. Many spas line the edge of the Dead Sea, and people from around the world purchase beauty products and mud masks from its sediments. | The Dead Sea
44: About a mile north of the border between Washington State and British Columbia, Canada, you’ll find what’s sure to be the weirdest body of water you’ve ever seen. The Spotted Lake – known as Klikuk in the indigenous language – divides itself into a strange patchwork of white, green and yellow pools in the summertime. The ‘walkways’ in between the pools are actually made up of salts, titanium, calcium, sulphates and other minerals. | Spotted Lake, B.C.
45: The blood red Rio Tinto, a river originating in the Sierra Morena mountains of Andalusia, Spain, gets its unusual hue from its high iron content. A site along the river has been mined for copper, silver, gold and other metals for over 5,000 years. However strangely beautiful it may be, this river is actually an environmental disaster due to heavy metal contamination and mine leaks. Though it’s been on hiatus for 10 years, a recent increase in copper prices has prompted plans to reopen it in early 2010. | Rio Tinto
46: Waterspouts seem to be taken out of the Captain Planet series. You know, earth, wind, fire, all that? Well, here it’s all about wind and water actually, because a waterspout is in fact a really intense columnar vortex that takes place over a mass of water and links it to a cumuliform cloud. Most of the time, they are weaker than land tornadoes, but some are extremely big and bring the water upward with immense speed and power. | They can actually be tornadic or non-tornadic. The non-tornadic ones are way more common and less dangerous with winds being slower than 70 mph (30 m/s). Tornadic waterspouts are similar at their core to a tornado, but they add huge masses of water to the show, making it a scenery hard to forget. The even rarer ‘cousin’ of the waterspout is the snowspout (or icespout). They are basically a very rare form of waterspouts that form at the base of a snow squall. There have only been six (!) pictures taken of such an event, so there’s not really much evidence for them. | Waterspouts
48: This last phenomena is something most people have seen before - beautiful orange moon hanging low in the sky. But what causes this phenomena - and, for that matter, does the moon have a color at all? When the moon appears lower on the horizon, rays of light bouncing off it have to pass through a great deal more of our atmosphere which slowly strips away everything but yellows, oranges and reds. Looking at the colors in combination with the craters one can start to trace the history of impacts and consequent material movements across the face of our mysterious moon. | Orange Moon
49: Located in Nevada, the Black Rock Desert is a 400 square mile, thoroughly flat, prehistoric lake bed, completely devoid of any vegetation or animal habitat. Its name comes from a large, prominent dark rock formation located at the north end of the desert. During the summer, the lake bed is primarily a hardpan alkaline playa. During the winter, it becomes a temporary lake which flattens the surface sediment and erases all footprints. This unique geological feature is the reason Burning Man is held in the Black Rock Desert, in Black Rock City. | Black Rock Desert
50: For hundreds of years, villagers in Thailand have believed that a serpent in the Mekong River spits out tens of thousands of egg-sized glowing red orbs to pay homage to Buddha at the end of the Buddhist Lent. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why this strange phenomenon happens at the same time every year, and some people say it’s a long-running hoax, but every year people from all over the world gather to watch the Naga fireballs shoot out of the Mekong river and rise hundreds of feet into the sky before disappearing. A favorite of conspiracy theorists and alien enthusiasts, the Naga Fireballs traditionally appear at the Mekong River in Thailand and Laos, usually during the Buddhist Lent in late October or thereabout, as well as May and other times of the year. The small fireballs mysteriously launch over 100 feet in the air, though the source is currently unknown. Debate continues over whether a surreptitious human ruse is actually at play, or if one of numerous theories of natural mechanisms, such as methane escaping from the river bottom, are correct. The Naga fireballs (which the locals call bung fai paya nak) routinely appear around the night of Wan Awk Pansa in October on the Mekong River in Thailand and Laos. | Naga Fireballs
51: It may be hard to believe that the extremely straight, geometric rectangles that form at Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula of Tasmania aren’t man-made. But, this ‘tessellated pavement’ is a natural phenomenon – a rare erosional feature formed when sedimentary rock fractured through stress on the Earth’s crust. As the rock dries out at low tide, salt crystals form on the surface, wearing it away and leaving just the joints behind. | Tessellated Pavement, Mauritania
52: Sprites are large scale high-energy electrical discharges that occur above thunderstorm clouds. They are caused by the discharges of positive lightning between a thunderstorm and the ground and give rise to a large variety of bright and unusual visual shapes. Sprites have been reported since 1886 but only last for a few milliseconds and are very rare, so there are few photographs and videos of them. Appearing as cone bursts, glows or bright discharges, blue jets and red sprites occur only in the upper atmosphere, and are therefore very faint and often not visible to the naked eye. | Red Sprites and Blue Jets
53: These natural phenomena have a lifespan of only a few hundred milliseconds at most so capturing them on camera is very difficult. However, the Danish National Space Centre have placed cameras on mountain tops to study how elves and sprites are created, how often they occur and what it means for the environment. | Red Sprites are found above large thunderstorms and are often associated with larger cloud-to-ground lightning flashed. They are at their most luminous high in the atmosphere and last only a few thousandths of a second. | Blue jets are discharged around thunderstorms and extend for many miles up into the atmosphere. It’s thought they provide a mechanism for energy transfer between thunderclouds and the lower ionosphere.