TEN STRANGE PLACES YOU HAVE TO SEE
Our planet Earth has many strange and often beautiful places that retain the power to inspire and mystify. They remind us that even in this age of technical and technological marvels there are still amazing places to be discovered.
PAMUKKALE – TURKEY
The strange and weirdly beautiful, terraced pools of Pamukkale have been appreciated for over two millennia and yet still remain a little-known wonder of the world. Thousands of years ago earthquakes, which are common in Turkey, created fractures that allowed powerful hot springs to bring water rich in calcium carbonate to the surface. As the water evaporated the chalky material condensed and formed layer-upon-layer of travertine. This slowly built up the walls over time in the same way that a stalactite forms in a cave. Apparently Pamukkale means Castle of Cotton but the Greco-Romans built a town above it called Hierapolis – meaning “Holy City” or “Sacred City”. They too recognised it as a rare and important place attributing healing powers to the milky-white waters.
Pamukkale is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the pools have been closed to the tourists that once bathed in their waters to save them from further damage.
MOERAKI – NEW ZEALAND
These large, spherical, alien and strangely beautiful boulders are mainly located on Koekohe Beach, part of the Otago coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Known as “Moeraki Boulders” they were originally formed on the sea floor from sedimentary deposits that accreted around a core in the same way that a pearl will form around a particle of sand. The erosion of the cliffs often reveals these boulders from the surrounding mudstone allowing them to join those already on the beach. Some of the larger boulders weigh several tonnes and can be up to three metres wide.
Maori legend attributes their origin to the arrival of the first ancestors / giants who came in the great Araiteuru canoe which was sunk by three great waves at nearby Matakaea.
It is said by the Maoris that some of the surviving crew of the Araiteuru canoe were turned into stone and became mountains. The Moeraki boulders are said to be the pots and chattels from the canoe.
NINE HELLS OF BEPPU – JAPAN
Beppu, located on the Japanese island of Kyūshū, is the second largest producer of geothermal water in the world. Located in the same area are the “Nine Hells” or ponds that each has its own remarkable character and colour thanks to the variety of minerals in the outflows. These “Hells” are a popular tourist attraction in Japan but are little known outside of the country.
Seven of the strange geothermal springs are located in the Kannawa area and are known as: Sea or Ocean Hell (Umi Jigoku), Shaven Head Hell (Oniishibozu Jigoku), Cooking Pot Hell (Kamado Jigoku), Mountain Hell (Yama Jigoku), Devil or Monster Mountain Hell (Oniyama Jigoku,) Golden Dragon Hell (Kinryu Jigoku) and White Pond Hell (Shiraike Jigoku). Sadly, as with many incredible natural wonders, the area surrounding it has become over commercialised and “tacky”.
Further away in the Shibaseki District are Blood – Pond Hell (Chinoike Jigoku) – shown above – and Waterspout Hell (Tatsumaki Jigoku).
SALAR DE UYUNI – BOLIVIA
At 4,085 square miles in size Salar de Uyuni is the biggest “salt flat” in the world. What is even more remarkable is that it is over 3,500 metres above sea level and is the world’s most important future source of Lithium containing as much as 70% of all known reserves. It is also incredibly flat, and people have been known to experience a form of vertigo and visual disorientation when looking across this vast and desolate vista.
It covers a lake said to be up to twenty metres deep and was once part of a vast lake some 40,000 years ago before the effects of a series of Ice ages changed the topography. The Aymara, the indigenous people of the Western Andes have a legend that the Salar (Salt Flat) was created when the Giantess Tunupa and her baby were abandoned and cried so that her tears mixed with breast-milk creating the lake. As such, there is a local movement to have the area renamed Salar de Tunupa.
Salar de Uyuni is almost entirely lacking in visible wildlife – either flora or fauna. While there is an abundance of water it is undrinkable and in geological terms it is an also a desert. However, during the wet season the lake becomes home to the pink flamingo which feed on the short-lived pink algae.
GREAT BLUE HOLE OF BELIZE
Found on both land and in the ocean throughout the Bahamas and the national waters of Belize are deep circular cavities known as Blue Holes which are often the entrances to cave networks, some of them up to 14 kilometres in length. Divers have reported a vast number of aquatic creatures some of which are still new to science. In addition, they’ve recorded chambers filled with stalactites and stalagmites which only form in dry caves.
For the explorers this was proof that at one time, nearly 65,000 years ago, when the world was in the grip of the last major ice age, the sea level of the Bahamas was up to 150 metres lower than it is today. Over time the limestone of the islands was eroded by water and vast cave networks created. When sea levels rose again about 10,000 years ago some of these collapsed inwards and the Blue Holes were formed
The Great Blue Hole is located in the Light House Reef approximately halfway between Long Caye and Sandbore Caye. It is about 60 miles east from the mainland of Belize (city). In 1997 it was designated as a World Heritage site.
HELL’S DOOR – TURKMENISTAN
Located in the Kara-Kum desert of Turkmenistan is the village of Darvaza (Derweze) near to where, in 1971, a team of Soviet prospectors allegedly drilled into a large chamber filled with natural gas. The roof of the cavern collapsed leaving a crater-like sinkhole some 25 metres deep with a diameter of approximately 60 – 70 metres.
It soon became evident that natural gas was still rising into the crater from even deeper sources and the story goes that the decision was made to ignite the emissions rather than risk either a concentrated build-up of gas or local poisoning. According to various sources, it has burned continuously since then and has apparently been named “The Gate to Hell” by the local people.
It is most impressive at night and the glow from its flames can be seen miles away. The inside of the crater is black from carbon build up and the heat is so intense that it is only possible to stay near the edge for a few minutes.
SANQINGSHAN – CHINA
Sanqingshan is a relatively small National Park near the city of Shangrao in the Jiangxi province of China. What it lacks in size it makes up for in shear natural beauty. It is officially the 7th World Heritage Site designated in China and has been noted for its exceptional scenic attraction.
The key mystique of this remarkable place is the combination of extraordinary granite geology in the form of weird outcrops and pillars combined with seasonal climate variations than often cause mists, fogs and striking sunsets. Those that have visited this place describe a feeling of overwhelming peace and tranquillity. This effect is enhanced by the profusion of natural waterfalls, pools, and springs. If you allow yourself, it is truly possible to see Earth, Water, Wind and Fire joined in time.
A story that is told is that Mu-Go the “Lord of the East” wished to create a garden for the amusement of his consort “Yin” and persuaded the four elements to fuse together and create Sanqingshan as a private garden for her amusement.
EYE OF AFRICA – MAURITANIA
From space this mysterious depression in the Sahara Desert of Mauritania really does look like a human eye. The image to the left is the “pupil” but a visit to Google Earth zoomed out a little will reveal the cliffs that make up the rest of the eye.
This natural phenomenon is actually a richat structure caused by the dome shaped symmetrical uplifting of underlying geology now made visible by millennia of erosion. Please note that this explanation is not wholly accepted by the scientific community. There still remain academics that believe it is the sight of a meteor impact and yet others still that believe it resembles the formations caused by underground nuclear blasts. They also estimate that the detonation would have had to be in the gigaton range. Currently no country in the world has a weapon even close to this destructive yield.
SOCOTRA (SUQATRA) ISLAND – YEMEN
This enchanting and little-known island also known as Socotra is located off the coast of Yemen in the Middle East. Isolated from the rest of the world its plants have evolved into many bizarre shapes and forms that are unknown in other parts of the world. One of the most famous of these is the Dragon’s Blood Tree. The sap can be used to make crystals for dye or as an alleged aphrodisiac. The plant in the picture is the strange Dragon Blood tree.
The Island is slowly becoming known to the world and has great potential for eco-tourism as long as the visitors don’t do more damage than good. Other species include the Cucumber Tree, and the Socotra Fig. Socotra was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008.
The incredible biodiversity of Socotra has been compared to the Galapagos Islands and it is listed as one of the top ten most endangered island ecosystems.
RACETRACK PLAYA – USA
Located in one of the flattest places on the face of this planet are the strange and unexplained Sailing Stones of Racetrack Playa – Death Valley – California – USA. Once a year the “Playa” or flat desert pan experiences short winter rains and becomes slippery as the hexagonal desert floor turns back to mud.
During this time, the boulders and rocks move leaving clearly visible tracks behind them. Although scientists believe that high winds are responsible, some of the rocks will suddenly change directions and move at almost perfect right angles to their previous direction.
The Sailing Stones add mystique to Death Valley, but the real strangeness of this place is its desperate isolation, heat, and incredible flatness.