Category Archives: Places

Amazing Bridges

1. Banpo Bridge (South Korea): The Fountain Bridge

On September 9, 2008, the Banpo Bridge in Seoul (South Korea) got a major facelift: a 10,000-nozzle fountain that runs all the way on both sides. Immediately after being installed, the bridge turned into a major tourist attraction, as the bridge pumps out 190 tons of water per minute using the water from the river below.

2. Millau Viaduct (France): World’s Tallest Vehicular Bridge

2,460 m long, 32 m wide & 343 m high

Towering 1,125-ft above the Tarn Valley in southern France, driving along the Millau Viaduct is said to feel like flying. This Foster + Partners marvel is slightly taller than the Eiffel Tower, took three years to build and opened to the public in 2004. While it may provide picturesque views of the valley below, once the mist descends it is not a route for the faint hearted! The Millau Viaduct has a total length of 8,071-ft with the longest single span at 1,122-ft and a maximum clearance below of 886-ft; in short the bridge is massively impressive both on paper and in real life. The deck is lofted on 7 pylons and weighs 36,000 tonnes. A series of 7 masts, each 292-ft tall and weighing 700 tonnes, are attached to the corresponding pylons.

3. Henderson Waves (Singapore): Most Beautiful Pedestrian Bridge

  At a height of 36 metres or 12 storeys from the road, it is the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. The 300-metre bridge links up the parks at Mount Faber and Telok Blangah Hill.

4. Hangzhou Bay Bridge (China): World’s Longest Trans-Oceanic Bridge

Across the Hangzhou Bay extends the longest trans-oceanic bridge in the world, with 35,673 kilometres (22 mi) long with six expressway lanes in two directions. The bridge was built to address traffic congestion in the booming region, cutting the driving time between Shanghai and Ningbo from four to two-and-a-half hours.

The bridge underwent various feasibility studies for a decade before it was approved in 2003, and finally opened to the public on May 1, 2008. Total investment on the bridge was RMB 11.8 billion (around US$ 1.4 billion).

5. Rolling Bridge (UK): The Bridge that Curls Up on Itself

   Designed by Heatherwick Studio, the award-winning Rolling Bridge is located Paddington Basin, London. Rather than a conventional opening bridge mechanism, consisting of a single rigid element that lifts to let boats pass, the Rolling Bridge gets out of the way by curling up until its two ends touch. While in its horizontal position, the bridge is a normal, inconspicuous steel and timber footbridge; fully open, it forms a circle on one bank of the water that bears little resemblance to its former self.

Twelve metres long, the bridge is made in eight steel and timber sections, and is made to curl by hydraulic rams set into the handrail between each section.

6. Oliveira Bridge (Brazil): World’s First X-shaped Cable Stayed Bridge with two crossed lanes

   The Octavio Frias de Oliveira Bridge over the Pinheiros River in São Paulo, Brazil was opened in May 2008. It is 138 metres (450-ft) tall, and connects Marginal Pinheiros to Jornalista Roberto Marinho Avenue. Its design is unique in that the 2 curved decks of the bridge cross each other through its X-shaped supporting tower.

7. Wind and Rain Bridge (China): Dong people’s bridge

   The Wind and Rain Bridge is the symbolized architecture of the Dong minority people. The wind and rain bridge in Diping is the largest of its kind in Guizhou Province, where China’s biggest Dong community lives. The bridge is over 50 meters long and it was first built in 1894 during the Qing Dynasty over 100 years ago. However, the original structure was destroyed in a big fire in 1959 and the one visitors see today was a recreation finished in 1964.

It is a pure wooden architecture made up of pillars, purlins and balusters of different sizes and shapes. The body of the bridge is divided to three tiers, the largest one in the middle take the shape of a traditional Chinese drum tower. The pilasters and eaves of the bridge are engraved with flowers and patterns and are quite magnificent.

8. Tower Bridge (UK): Most Famous and Beautiful Victorian Bridge

Completed in 1894 and designed by Horace Jones and Wolfe Barry, Tower Bridge (so named after the two, striking, 141-ft high towers and the Tower of London close to it) is one of the most famous landmarks in London and one of the most beautiful in the world. The 800-ft long bridge has a 28-ft clearance when closed but raises in the centre to a maximum clearance of 140-ft that allows ships to pass down the Thames. Back in the days when goods were moved by sea instead of air the bridge was raised around 50 times daily. Tower Bridge took 432 workers 8 years to build. During that time they sank 70,000 tonnes of concrete into 2 huge piers, lowered 2 counterbalanced bascules into place each weighing 1,000 tonnes and then clad the whole bridge in Portland stone and Cornish granite to disguise the 11,000 tonnes of steel beneath.

9. Magdeburg Water Bridge (Germany): Europe’s Largest Water Bridge

918 m long, 34 m wide & 4.25 m deep

At first glance, the Water Bridge in Magdeburg, Germany, seems nothing special; just another canal bridge. But look again and it’s a water bridge across water, forming a water intersection that is the biggest water crossing in Europe!

The world’s largest water bridge, with a span of 106 m between its pillars, opened in October 2003, on the back of five years of construction, 24,000 tons of steel, and 68,000 m³ of reinforced concrete. Regaining the construction cost of €500 million probably won’t take long as the bridge shortens travel times for ships considerably and eases traffic on other routes.

Before the opening of the water bridge, ships moving between the Midland Canal and the Elbe-Havel Canal had to make a 12-km detour through the Rothensee lock, along the River Elbe and back up Niegripp lock. Now the bridge connects Hannover and Berlin directly and also Berlin’s inland harbour network with the ports along the Rhine.

A double lock was constructed to descend to the Elbe-Havel Canal and a single Rothensee lock was constructed at the other end of the water bridge to descend to the Elbe and the Magdeburg harbour, making it independent of water levels and therefore navigable even for large ships.

10. Ponte Vecchio (Italy): Oldest and Most Famous of its kind

   The Ponte Vecchio in Florence is one of the most famous tourist spots in Italy, and is thought to be the oldest wholly-stone built, segmental arch bridge in Europe, although there are many partial segments which date further back. It was originally built of wood until destroyed by floods in 1333, and twelve years later it was rebuilt using stone. Famous for its lining of shops, the bridge has housed everybody from Medieval merchants and butchers to souvenir stalls and art dealers.

11. Oresundbridge (Sweden/Denmark)

16 km

The Oresundbridge stretches from Denmark to Sweden, with the Danish islands Saltholm on the left and Peberholm on the right; on the horizon is Malmö.

The Oresundbridge (official name: Øresundsförbindelsen) connecting Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmö in Sweden leaves one puzzled, as suddenly a 4-line highway and a 2-track railway seem to disappear into the sea. Is it a bridge? Is it a tunnel? It’s both, making it, what, maybe a brunnel or a tridge? In any case, it’s definitely the longest combined road-and-rail bridge in Europe.

   Here’s another stunning view of the Oresundbridge that makes it look like a ski ramp.

Plans for a bridge at this location had been in the works for the last hundred years but it was finally opened in July 2000, bringing Swedes and Danes closer together and increasing tourism. The bridge is 8 km long, plus there’s 4 km of tunnel and another 4 km of the man-made island Peberholm; altogether a stunning, 16-km-drive.

12. Erasmus Bridge, Rotterdam

808 m

The Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam is 808 m long, cost €75 million to construct and was opened in September 1996.

The Erasmus Bridge in Rotterdam does not need to hide behind the Oresundbridge as it can boast a record of its own: its southern part is the largest and heaviest bascule bridge in Western Europe and has the largest panel of its type in the world, allowing tall ships to pass. The bridge is nicknamed “The Swan” because of its 139 m high asymmetrical pylon that overlooks the city like the graceful neck of a swan.

13. Jadukata Bridge, India

The Jadukata Bridge, the longest span cantilever bridge in India with a central span of 140 m, stretches so naturally from one shore to the other that it seems to grow out of the rich vegetation itself.

Leaving Europe to move further east, we come to the Indian Jadukata Bridge in Ranikor in the West Khasi Hills District of Meghalaya, 130 km from its capital, Shillong. This bridge over the Jadukata river is close to the Indo-Bangladesh border and therefore a vital link on an important road in this border state. Even cost wise, compared to the other bridges featured here, it is a lightweight at €1.5 million.

14. Sutong Bridge, China

The Sutong Bridge in China is a cable-stayed bridge with the world’s longest main span (1,088 m); its overall length is 8,206 m and the two bridge towers are the world’s second tallest at 306 m.

Moving further east, here’s the Sutong Bridge that spans the Yangtze River and connects Sutong (Suzhou) and Nantong in China. It shortens the commute from Shanghai to Nantong, making ferry service superfluous and heightening Nantong’s importance as part of the Yangtze River Delta economic zone. The opening of the bridge in May 2008 has brought foreign investments to the city and spurned the development of poorer northern Jiangsu regions. No wonder, with a status project that cost €1.3 billion.

15. Akashi Bridge, Japan

The Akashi Bridge in Japan is the world’s longest suspension bridge with a total length of 3,911 m and contains a 6-lane highway.

Moving yet further east, we reach the Akashi Bridge (also Akashi-Kaikyo or Pearl Bridge) in Kobe, Japan. With a centre span of 1,991 m, it is the world’s longest suspension bridge and links Kobe with the mainland of Honshu. Since the bridge’s opening in 1998, crossing the Akashi Strait has become much safer as the bridge has been built to withstand strong winds, sea currents and earthquakes. Before then, passengers used to rely on ferries that were prone to accidents due to severe storms in the region.

16. Sundial Bridge, Redding, California

The Sundial Bridge in Redding, California is a pedestrian bridge, 213 m long and 7 m wide; it is stretched precisely from south to north, making the bridge a functioning sundial.

Last but not least, moving yet further east around the globe, we reach a humble walking bridge in Redding, California. The stylish Sundial Bridge across the Sacramento River is a glass-bottom bridge that connects a network of walking and biking trails. The requirement before planning the bridge was that it could not cast too much shadow over the river as Turtle Bay happens to be one of the best salmon spawning places in California. Therefore, the design is light and airy. Opened in July 2004, the bridge’s construction cost €17.4 million.

17. Langkawi Sky-Bridge, Malaysia

2,000 feet above sea level; 410 feet long; curved; less than six feet wide.
One of the world’s highest single-support bridges

Where: The top of the 500-million-year-old Mount Mat Cincang, Langkawi, Malaysia.

Awe Factors: This curved half-moon-shaped pedestrian bridge, set among the clouds, grants nonacrophobic adventurers 360 degree views of the Langkawi islands and the Andaman Sea. Built for tourists and opened in 2005, the bridge is accessed by a 15-minute ride in an electronic cable car, which leaves from the Oriental Village mall complex.

18. Leonardo’s Bridge, Akershus, Norway

   A scaled-down version of the design da Vinci had proposed, Sand’s bridge is 360 feet long and 19 feet above the ground. (The original was intended to be much bigger: 1,080 feet long and 120 feet above sea level.)

Designed by Leonardo da Vinci in 1502 and constructed by Vebjørn Sand in 2001

Where: This pedestrian and bike arch bridge is in Akershus, Norway, but da Vinci had planned for the bridge (to be named the Golden Horn Bridge) to span the waterway dividing western Constantinople for Sultan Bajazet II.

Awe Factors: The bridge is considered by da Vinci scholars to be the first civil engineering project in history based on a da Vinci design, but if it weren’t for Norwegian artist Vebjørn Sand’s keen eye, the small drawing in the corner of one of da Vinci’s notebooks might have remained just an idea. Instead, Sand proposed to the Norwegian Public Roads Administration that it help “reimagine” this mathematically and structurally gorgeous design. Today, the smaller-scale timber structure (da Vinci had wanted stone) near Oslo is, Sand hopes, the first of many Leonardo bridges around the world. Already the artist has created two versions of the design, crafted out of ice—one in Antarctica and the other at the United Nations in Manhattan. Sand and his team are working on creating similar bridges in Odessa, Texas; Karuizawa, Japan; and Istanbul, Turkey, where it was originally intended to be built.

19. The Bosphorus Bridge, Turkey

4,954 feet long; 210 feet above sea level.

A suspension bridge linking two continents

Where: Istanbul, Turkey, spanning the Bosphorus Strait.

Awe Factors: Completed in 1973, this suspension bridge, the only bridge in the world linking two continents (Europe and Asia), has been in the works since 490 B.C., when the bridge was made of a fleet of boats. Talks of a suspension bridge began in 1900, and again in 1931 by Nuri Demirag, the architect who manufactured the first plane in Turkey; it was finally commissioned in 1967 and completed six years later. A tennis match played on the bridge in May 2005 between Venus Williams and Turkish grand slammer Ïpek Senoglu was the first-ever competition to take place between two continents.

20. Gateshead Millennium Bridge, England

413 feet wide; 164 tall when open.

The world’s first bridge to use a tilting mechanism to open, forming a gateway for ships to pass

Where: On the South Bank of England’s River Tyne, between Gateshead and Newcastle.

Awe Factors: Powered by eight electric motors with more horsepower than a Lamborghini Diablo, this curved pedestrian and bike bridge turns on pivots and rises 164 feet above the water when ships need to pass. It’s become such a sensation, though, that the bridge—whose motion is likened to the opening and closing of a gigantic eye—puts on a show at least once a day at noon. Completed in 2001 after a design contest was held to add to the impressive lineup of artistic arches on the Tyne, the finalized bridge was carried down the river by one of the largest floating cranes (a 10,560-ton barge taller than the Big Ben) in Europe. The bridge has its own litter clean-up system: each time the bridge opens, garbage rolls into special traps, so that the garbage does not fall into the river.

21. Royal Gorge Bridge, Colorado

1,053 feet over the gorge; 1,260 feet long.

The world’s highest suspension bridge

Where: Royal Gorge, Colorado, over the Arkansas River.

Awe Factors: Built in 1929 in six months by mainly inexperienced men, this bridge was an impressive feat of construction for its time. Wires were connected at the bottom of the gorge and pulled up the granite canyon despite gusty winds. In 1982, the bridge underwent a refurbishment, and wind cables were added. If looking straight down 1,000 feet isn’t scary enough, “the bridge rolls like waves,” said Peggy Gair, public relations manager for the Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. “It bends and sways a little—and it should. The flexibility is its strength.”

22. Ponte dei Sospiri (the Bridge of Sighs) – Venice

Built in the early 1600s in the Baroque style, the bridge connects the Doge’s Palace to what was once a prison.

The most dramatic bridge in the world

Where: Rio di Palazzo, Venice, steps from Piazza San Marco.

Awe Factors: According to legend, those who crossed this 17th-century white limestone bridge had a dramatic passage because they would cross it only once. Built between a prison and the room of the inquisitors inside the Doge’s Palace, the bridge’s stone-barred windows were said to provide the last view the criminals would ever see. But in reality, the prison was for petty criminals and no executions awaited them. The name “Bridge of Sighs” came from a Lord Byron poem. Today, the bridge is the setting for another legend inspired by the poet: if a couple kisses underneath the bridge at sunset, they will be granted eternal love.

23. Khaju Bridge, Iran

344 feet long; 45 feet wide; 23 arches.
One of the world’s great “multifunctional” bridges

Where: Isfahan, Iran, on the Zayandeh River.

Awe Factors: Besides its stunning stone foundation, brightly colored tile work on its exterior, and original 17th-century paintings on its interior, this bridge is noteworthy because it serves three functions—as a passageway, a weir, and a recreation place. The bilevel structure, originally built as a dam in 1650, houses a covered indoor area upstairs where people gather to drink tea and socialize in the cool shade. And the echoing acoustics inside make it a popular spot for local singers and folk musicians, who gather there to perform on Friday nights.

24. Alamillo Bridge, Spain

820 feet long; 465 feet high.

One of the most elegant bridges in the world

Where: Seville, Spain, crossing the Guadalquivir River.

Awe Factors: Built in 1992 by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and said to resemble a harp, the bridge is the first design of its kind: its central mast leans at a 58 degree angle, making it appear as if it’s balancing. Calatrava is fast becoming one of the major innovators in bridge design (other works include the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Tenerife Opera House), renowned for his elegant, clean style and skeletal, almost “unfinished” designs.

25. Helix Bridge, Singapore – An architectural marvel


Linking Marina Bay to Marina Centre, the Helix Bridge, is set to become Singapore’s next landmark. Located beside the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, alongside the vehicular Bayfront Bridge, it was officially opened on 24 April 2010 and is the world’s first curved bridge.

This 280-metre pedestrian linkway – the longest in Singapore – features a world’s first ‘double-helix’ structure, designed by an international design consortium, comprising of Australian architects Cox Group and engineers Arup, together with Singapore-based Architects 61. Inspired by the yin and yang concept in Asian culture, the architecturally unique bridge is said to bring wealth, happiness and prosperity to Marina Bay.

The Helix Bridge is an engineering feat assembled with great precision. Its curved design is created by two opposing spiral steel members, held together by a series of connecting struts, symbolising “life and continuity”, “renewal”, “everlasting abundance” and “growth”,  and resembles the structure of DNA.

One of the connecting bridges will link the three waterfront gardens at Marina South, Marina East and Marina Centre, to form a continuous public waterfront loop, while also linking the Double Helix Bridge to the Marina Bay Sands, the Singapore Flyer and Gardens by the Bay.

You can catch a panoramic view of the Singapore skyline and watch events taking place at the Bay from one of its five viewing platforms sited at strategic locations. Fritted-glass and steel glass canopies providing shade and seats are also available at resting points. View paintings and drawings by youths along this crossing, or enhance your bridge crossing experience at night with lights that illuminate the steel structure to create different moods. For a memorable experience, be sure to visit this engineering marvel situated in the heart of the city.


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Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Places


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Strange Beautiful Places

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 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.

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 and thus slowly built up the walls over time in the same way that a stalactite forms in a cave.  Apparently Pammakale means Castle of Cotton but the Greco-Romans built a town above it called Heirapolis – meaning “Holy City” or “Sacred City”. They too recognised it as a rare and important place attributing healing powers to the milky-white waters.


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.

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.


Further away in the Shibaseki District are Blood – Pond Hell (Chinoike Jigoku) – shown above – and Waterspout Hell (Tatsumaki Jigoku). 

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”.


Las Cañadas caldera,  Mount Teide – Not dead just sleeping! The UN Committee for Disaster Mitigation has listed Teide for close observation due to its history of powerful eruptions and its location near several large towns.

At the summit of Mount Teide, one of the largest Island volcanoes in the World is the Las Cañadas caldera. The crater, which is an enourmous sixteen kilometres across, is a picture of what Hell might look like if it cooled a little.  Sheer walls that formed when the caldera first collapsed encircle this dry and alien place.  And, with an arrogance than can only be accepted as typical, humanity has built roads and observatories across this no mans land that is little more than a plug over a sleeping yet still active and very large volcano. When we visited it some years ago we were standing in the viewing gallery when the ground beneath our feet trembled and several windows suddenly cracked.  The sleeping giant was grumbling in its sleep.  The land mass created by the volcano is Tenerife in the Canary Islands.


The Great Blue Hole is located in the Light House Reef aproximately 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.

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


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.

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.  However, another source that spoke with the guides from the region claims that it is a wholly natural phenomenon.


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.

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 tranquility.  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.


Currently scientists believe that they know what caused this formation. Hey! It’s a Richat structure … whatever that really means. A more Bizarre theory is that it is the impact site of an ancient but very powerful bomb.

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. By the way, we 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.


The incredible bio diversity of Suqatra has been compared to the Galapagos Islands and it is listed as one of the top ten most endangered island ecosystems.

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 of which is used to make crystals that can be used as a dye or as an alleged aphrodisiac. The plant depicted on the right is the strange Desert Rose (Adenium obesium) but sometimes more popularly called the Elephants Leg 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 Socotran Fig. Suqatra was listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008.


The Sailing Stones add mystique to Death Valley but the real strangeness of this place is its desperate isolation, heat and incredible flatness.

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. All the evidence suggests that this is not a hoax although it is also said that the movement of these rocks has never been captured on film or video. In this technological age we wonder why long-term time lapse photography hasn’t been used?


The tessellated pavement of Eaglehawk Neck in Tasmania. Strangely … created by nature and not by man. The dogs of the infamous “Dog-line” were described as the most ugly and evil-tempered found anywhere in the world.
Those Images is accredited to: Stephan Roletto, Matthew Stewart and  David Windeyer

Located near the southern end of Tasmania, Eaglehawk Neck is a thin stretch of land which links two Islands and is remarkable for two reasons.  It is the World’s finest (surface-level) example of a Tessellated Pavement and is also credited as the place where the notorious “Dog Line” was first invented.  The indented slab formation is a geological feature caused by the erosion of fractures in the rock. The same area was also once a crossing place for escaped criminals that had been deported from Britain to Tasmania.  To stop escaped convicts crossing this 200 metre wide strip of land the local military commander deployed nine ferocious dogs – each chained so that that they could nearly reach each other but couldn’t actually fight.  Convicts that tried to cross the neck would find himself within range of two of these half-starved monsters. Only three people ever made it past the dogs.


The Polar Lights of Bear Lake.This is a real picture taken near Eielson Air Force Base. Another Finnish belief from ancient times was that the lights were caused by the “Fire Fox” or “Revontulet” sweeping its tail through the snow. Accredited to Mr. Airman Joshua Strang of the USAF

You will find Bear Lake in the borough of Fairbanks North Star in the American state of Alaska.  While the Lake itself is beautiful it is also the place from where a person can often see the incredible celestial display known as the Northern Lights or the Aurora Borealis. Literally translated the name means – Dawn Winds.

This phenomenon has been recorded for thousands of years (Pliny).  Legend is that the lights were caused by Aurora – the Roman Goddess of the Dawn – who flew across the night sky to foretell the rising of the Sun.  Many legends refer to the dance of the lights and Vikings are said to have believed that they were Valkyrie taking the souls of dead warriors to Valhalla.  Scientists believe that they are really caused by solar winds as they collide with the magnet field that encompasses the Earth.


Champagne Pool in the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal reserve located near to Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand. This remarkable image is accredited to Christian Mehlführer of Vienna – Austria.

Part of the Wai-O-Tapu geothermal complex located near Rotorua on the North Island of New Zealand, Champagne Pool is one of the most striking natural wonders.  The brilliant orange ledge is actually formed from arsenic deposits and the gasses that rise and sparkle like champagne are carbon dioxide released from the water vents.  Translated from the Maori language, Wai-O-Tapu means “Sacred or Colourful Waters”.  The entire region of Rotorua is intensely active and Champagne Pool is just one of the hundreds of strange geological features that have been formed by the action of water, steam and subterranean volcanic energy. Translated, Rotorua means The Second Great Lake of Kahumatamomoe who was the uncle of the Maori lord Inhenga who discovered the lands.


From the ground the Badlands Guardian appears unremarkable and is merely a collection of small grass covered ridges and valleys but from the air its uncanny resemblance to a either a Native American Medicine Man or an Egyptian Pharaoh has caused much speculation and debate with each theory wilder than the one before. The discovery is credited to Lynn Hickox of Saskatchewan Province.

This is yet another strange geological feature discovered by users of Google Earth.  Often described as a Native American wearing a traditional headdress it has caused controversy since its discovery due to what appears to be an audio plug in its ear. Located near the town of Medicine Hat and the village of Walsh in Southern Alberta, Canada it is known as the Badlands Guardian.  Although the formation is approximately 70 million years old the earphone is a new addition and is reputed to be either a natural gas or oil well.  The actual location was visited in 2006 by TV News Watch Reporter Dale Hunter who interviewed local residents who, up until that time were unaware of its existence.   It’s probably just a strange geological feature caused by erosion but who knows for sure. A competition was held to name the face and Cypress County Council selected “Badlands Guardian”.


The Mushroom Rock of the Egyptian White Desert is considered to be one of the finest examples low-level wind erosion in the world. Still, many irresponsible tourists light fires against these ancient rocks causing them to fracture and at certain times of the year after key religious festivals the area is littered with refuse.  This wonderful image is accredited to Hathor 13 of Wiki Commons.

At one time in pre-history this part of the Sahara Desert was deep underwater and deposits of chalk built up over the millennia.  Today, this region near the oasis of Farafra, is above sea level and the wind has eroded the ancient lime and chalk deposits to create a bizarre and beautiful landscape in a truly White Desert. (Sahara el Beyda)  The actual region is 45 kilometers north of Farafra and has become a popular tourist destination that is also close to the Black Desert and the Crystal Mountain.  After years of petitioning by leading figures in the world of conservation and archaeology it has now been identified as a protected natural reserve but it appears that this has barely limited the ecological damage that careless tourists are causing to the area. Like so many natural wonders that exist for us to see it may be that all our children will have is the digital images our cameras take today.


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.
This wonderful images is accredited to: Jo Van Herck, Szymon Kochanski and Jessie Reeder)

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.


Brad Lewis’s spectacular pictures of volcanoes on Hawaii.

Located in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the Pu’u ‘O’o geo-magmatic vent.  At the time of writing (2009) the Pu’u ‘O’o eruption has been taking place sporadically for over a quarter of a century.  During this time it has produced more than 3 cubic kilometers of lava that have re-buried 117 square kilometers of the islands surface.  Some of the lava flows from this vent have managed to travel 12 kilometres before plunging into the sea.

Even as we write this article (16 December 2009) we’ve just discovered that Kilauea is erupting again and the plume is visible from space and completely obscures the Pu’u ‘O’o crater.  This is one of Hawaii’s most energetic volcanoes and has provided scientist with some of the most important insights into the relatively new science of volcanology.


The Big Hole of Kimberley – South Africa. The enormous labour involved and the, often forgotten, loss of life makes this more than equal to the human effort put into the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza which is estimated to weigh only 6 million tons. This image is accredited to Irene (2005) Wiki Commons.

Created by 19th century diamond miners, it is still widely believed to be the biggest hand-excavated hole in the world as it also once had a hill above it.  The first diamonds were discovered in 1871 on the De Beers farm near the town that is today called Kimberley.  Within months thousands of prospectors had arrived to unearth the gems.  Over the next 43 years more than 50,000 people would discover nearly 3,000 kilograms of diamonds.  In total, it is estimated that using nothing more than picks, shovels and miners buckets they displaced more than 22 million tons of earth and rock. At its deepest point it was nearly a quarter of a kilometer in below ground level. After mining became too dangerous and unproductive in 1914 the Big Hole was partially filled in with rock from other excavations and water has since accumulated to a depth of 40 metres.


Uluru / Ayers Rock – Australia. Many of the Anangu legends feature snakes and reptiles and one in particular refers to the “Sleepy Lizard Women” that distracted even the spirits and sound remarkably like the sirens of western folklore.  This image is accredited to Bo-Deh (2005) Wiki Commons.

Located in the Northern Territory of Australia, Uluru is a massive outcrop of eroded red sandstone (inselberg) that towers above the surrounding region.  The name derives from the local Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara peoples, the Anangu, and is a sacred place for both groups.  There are many myths and legends surrounding the origin and purpose of the formation. One source claims that it is the physical embodiment of the Turtle Spirit.  It is reputed to be very bad luck to take away any stone or part of Uluru. There are apparently many reported cases of people who have gone to great lengths to return items that they once took.  Geologically Uluru is many millions of years old and has numerous caves and small fountains.  It is estimated that the area has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years and examples of ancient rock paintings can still be seen in some of the caves.


Lake Nyos – otherwise known as “The Lake that Killed.” The outgassing of carbon dioxide was so large that it lowered the level of the lake by over a metre and turned the water to the colour of blood. 1,700 people died within two hours. This image is accredited to the USGS – United States Geological Survey.

The real name of this place is Lake Nyos but the locals now call it “Killer Lake” or “The Lake that Killed” – a well deserved name.  Located in a crater on the flanks of an inactive volcano the extremely deep waters lie above a pool of magma that slowly leaks carbon dioxide. It’s part of the Oku volcanic configuration and is located in the north-west region of Cameroon. In 1986 a vast bubble of carbon dioxide mixed with sulfur and hydrogen spewed to the surface.  In total, 1.6 million tonnes of this lethal gas spread over a huge area – reaching 23 kilometers away from the source. Hugging the ground this deadly and near undetectable concoction swept over villages and small towns.  Approximately 1,700 people and 3,500 farm animals were killed within two hours.  Survivors experienced long-term side effects including lesions, soft-tissue burns and respiratory illnesses.

21. The blood red Rio Tinto

(images via: Wikimedia Commons)

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.

22. The Black Rock Desert – Nevada

(images via: Wikimedia Commons)

The Black Rock Desert of Nevada is a rather mystical place, with its brilliantly colored geysers, dry rock bed and dramatic mountains. So, it’s not too surprising that this place was chosen as the setting for Burning Man, an annual festival known for its emphasis on disengaging from reality.

23. Kliluk, the Spotted Lake – Canada

(images via: Wikimedia Commons)

Legends of “Kliluk, the Spotted Lake” are woven into the Native Indian heritage of the Okanagan Valley.  The Indians soaked away aches and ailments in the healing mud and waters.  One story cites a truce in a battle to allow both warring tribes to tend to their wounded in the Spotted Lake, “Kliluk”. It is simply amazing and beautiful.

Spotted Lake is visible from the road, 8.8 kms (5.5 miles) west of Osoyoos on Hwy. 3 ….a rare and unique natural phenomenon covering 15.2 hectares (38 acres). It contains one of the worlds highest concentrations of minerals: magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts), calcium and sodium sulphates, plus eight other minerals and traces of four more, including silver and titanium.

The therapeutic value of Spotted Lake has always proved interesting, however other uses were found for the minerals.  During WWI, Chinese labourers were employed skimming the salts from the surface of the lake.  The product was then shipped to Eastern American munitions factories.

Yield is said to have reached a ton per day. In the hot sun of summer, the water of Spotted Lake evaporates and crystallizes the minerals, forming many white-rimmed circles: shallow pools that reflect the mineral content of the water in shades of blues and greens.

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Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Places


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