We’re not just talking about some jaw-dropping scenery or a rare flock of tropical birds here. These are the weird and wonderful naturally occurring phenomena to which pictures don’t really do justice. If you’re off on a world adventure and looking for something unique to write home about, check out any of these incredible sights that you won’t soon forget.
1. Canada’s Farting Lakes
No, we’re not kidding. In parts northern Canada and Alaska, many lakes release bubbles of methane gas that are created when organic matter (mostly dead trees) fall into the water, decompose, and are eaten by bacteria. When the lakes begin to freeze, the bubbles are trapped below the ice and create surreal white circles and blobs that make the whole surface of the lake look like an abstract painting. If you punch a hole in the ice and light a match, you can release a column of flame. Unfortunately, there’s a more serious side to this naturally occurring phenomenon. Methane is twenty-five times more toxic than carbon dioxide, and climate change is releasing increasing amounts of this gas into the atmosphere as the northern permafrost begins to thaw.
2. Death Valley’s Sailing Stones
Conspiracy theorists and the people who worry about the zombie apocalypse had a field day with this one before a NASA scientist finally figured out what was going on. Huge stones and boulders seemed to magically move across the dried lake bed of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley, leaving behind deep trails in the sand and mud. Nobody ever saw the rocks moving, but this strange occurrence seemed to happen every year and left scientists scratching their heads. In fact, the rocks simply became encased in ice during the winter months and the wind would send them sailing across the lake bottom, carving the distinctive trails in their wake. When the ice melted, it left the rocks high and dry, looking like they’d been moved by aliens. You can see this naturally occurring phenomenon in several parts of the Nevada desert.
3. Neon Waters
There are several bodies of water in the world that are literally glowing, but it’s not from a nuclear fall-out or any man-made pollutants. That’s just the way they are. Kawha ljen Lake in Indonesia is a stunning electric blue. It sits atop a volcano whose sulphuric gases are responsible for the incredible color. Lake Hillier in Australia is bright pink and looks like a big wad of gum when seen from the air. Nobody’s too sure where it gets its shocking hue, but it could be from a high concentration of pink brine prawn or simply the result of a large bloom of red-colored microorganism that live in its waters. Then there’s the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. It’s one of the most colorful bodies of water in the world, a veritable liquid rainbow caused by different pigments in the resident bacteria.
4. The Giant’s Causeway
If you’re going to Northern Ireland, be sure to take a stroll along the Giant’s causeway in County Antrim. The area is covered with about 40,000 basalt columns, stuck together like puzzle pieces and left behind by an ancient volcanic eruption. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. The other explanation for these otherworldly columns is that they were created by legendary hero Finn McCool in his attempt to save Ireland from a Scottish giant.
5. Christmas Island Crabs
About 50 million little red crabs live on Christmas Island, an Australian territory in the Indian Ocean. Their great migration begins with the rainy season that runs from October to December each year, when they move from the forest to the coast to mate and lay their eggs. When the fun part is over, the males trek all the way home again and the females stay to lay about 100,000 eggs each before heading back inland. Exposure to seawater hatches the eggs and the larvae are washed out to sea. About a month later, the babies come back to the shore and will begin their own migration cycle in about five years. Park rangers build an intricate series of fences, bridges and underpasses to help the crabs cross the roads and make it safely to their breeding ground and home again.
The world is full of natural wonders and there’s no time like the present to get out there and discover your own favorite natural phenomenon, wherever your journey may lead.