Lake Hillier sits like a giant punch-bowl at the edge of Middle Island in Western Australia’s Recherche Archipelago, surrounded by a thick forest of paperbark and eucalyptus trees. A slender strip of shore separates Lake Hillier from the predictably blue Southern Ocean, highlighting the lake’s otherworldly appearance.
Theories differ on the origins of the lake’s bubblegum hue. Some believe it comes from a dye produced by two microorganisms called Halobacteria and Dunaliella salina, while others suspect the red halophilic bacteria that thrive in the lake’s salt deposits. In any case, the lake’s color isn’t a trick of the light — it’s pink no matter the angle you view it from!
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_hillier
The smallest of Yellowstone’s geyser basins, Midway Geyser Basin (also dubbed “Hell’s Half Acre”) actually contains two of the park’s largest hydrothermal features: Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser, which dumps 4,000 gallons of water a minute into neighboring Firehole River. The spring’s psychedelic coloration comes from pigmented bacteria in the surrounding microbial mats. The amount of color in the mats depends on the water temperature and the ratio of chlorophyll (green pigment) to carotenoids (yellow to red pigment).
In the summer, the mats burn orange and red, while winter turns them a dark green. The spring’s lurid blue “eye” remains sterile because of its extremely high heat.
Blood Falls’ grisly appearance comes from its iron-laden waters, which rust when they come in contact with the air, reddening the briny outflow as it trickles down Taylor Glacier onto ice-covered West Lake Bonney.
What makes Blood Falls truly bizarre though, are the roughly 17 microbial species trapped beneath Taylor Glacier, sans light or nutrients and with almost zero oxygen. Geomicrobiologist Jill Mikucki, now at Dartmouth College, has posited that the microbes rely on a metabolic process never before observed in nature: using sulfate as a catalyst to “breathe” with ferric iron and draw energy from nearby trace organic matter.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_falls
Spewing scalding water in all directions, the aptly named Fly Geyser sits about 16 kilometers from the site of Burning Man, the annual counterculture art festival in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. This geological curiosity was formed accidentally in 1916, when ranch owners drilled a well in the area. They hit water – it’s just too bad that it measured a piping 93 degrees Celsius! The drilling crew plugged the well, but the geothermal water seeped through, leaving behind calcium carbonate deposits that continue to accumulate, forming a 3.6 meter high bulbous mound resembling a scoop of rainbow sherbet.
In 1964, a crew drilled a second hole near the first, and once again found hot water, which this time erupted from multiple spots. The tie-dye stains dripping down Fly Geyer’s surface are actually thermophilic algae, which thrive in hot, moist environments.
Fly Geyser is unfortunately off-limits to the public, but at least there’s nothing stopping us from marveling at photos of it this unusual natural wonder.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fly_Geyser
Years of erosion by vegetation and expanding ice carved Zhangjiajie National Park’s narrow, terraced sandstone pillars, some of which climb over 200 meters! The park’s steep cliffs and plunging gullies also make the perfect home for more than 100 vertebrate species, including scaly anteaters, giant salamanders, and sprightly rhesus monkeys.
Meanwhile, the damp subtropical climate nourishes diverse, sometimes unusual, flora, like dove trees for instance.
Known as “living fossils,” these white-flowered trees are actually survivors of the fourth glacial period 2.5 million years ago.
Zhangjiajie National Park—China’s first national park—is one of many within the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area in Hunan Province, named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992.
Northern Ireland’s only UNESCO World Heritage Site consists of some 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns, which jut from the North Channel along the edge of the Antrim Plateau.
Legend has it that the Irish giant Finn McCool built the causeway across the channel so that he could meet his foe, the Scottish giant Benandonner, who had challenged him to a fight.
According to geological studies, the Giant’s Causeway first formed as a lava plateau when molten rock erupted through fissures in the earth. During a period of intense volcanic activity about 50 to 60 million years ago, differences in the lava cooling rate caused the columns to form, while further weathering created circular formations nicknamed “giant’s eyes.”
Despite modern science’s explanation, visitors still delight in the local lore. If you look closely, you can make out traces of Finn McCool in the causeway’s rock structures such as the Giant’s Boot, the Wishing Chair, and the Organ.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant%27s_causeway
Named after the Hawaiian word for “spewing,” the mythical home of the volcanic goddess Pele rises 4,190 feet from the southeastern part of the Big Island.
One of the world’s most active and perilous volcanoes, Kilauea has been erupting for more than three decades, fitfully coughing basaltic lava into the Pacific Ocean below. You can easily spot the billowing plumes of scorching gas in the daytime. But if you can, visit after sunset, when the lava flows glow more visibly, creating a beautifully infernal light show.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilauea_Volcano
These Chocolate Hills won’t satisfy your sweet tooth, although they might whet your curiosity. Measuring up to 400 feet tall, the hills are made of limestone containing marine fossils dating back millions of years. The verdant grass that usually covers the hills turns a milky brown come dry season, giving the more than 1,200 mounds their famously delectable appearance.
The hills’ origins remain a mystery, but legend says that a giant wept them as he grieved the death of his human beloved. Unfortunately, limestone quarrying has leveled some of the hills, a problem the Philippine government began addressing in 2006 by restricting mining activities in the area.
Today, the confectionary landscape remains a popular tourist attraction and awaits approval as a UNESCO World Heritage Monument.
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate_Hills