As you look out at the mountains which are part of the Danxia Landform, it might take a while to sink in that what you’re looking at is actually real! Resembling an artist’s masterpiece on a canvas, these mountains are made up of several colourful layers of sandstone and minerals that have been pressed together over 24 million years! These magnificent, multi-coloured mountains, hills, cliffs and valleys dotting the horizon, are truly a jaw-dropping sight.
Door to Hell
If you want to experience how it feels standing at the gateway to hell, the desert of North Turkmenistan is where you need to head. Literally nicknamed as the “door to hell”, the Darvaza crater is a vast, gaping, fiery pit that has been burning since over 40 years. The crater is said to have been set alight by a Soviet expedition exploring for gas. A huge burning hole in the middle of a barren desert is indeed a rather surreal and bizarre sight to come across!
Deep inside the dark depths of the ocean, expect to see nature’s very own light show, called bioluminescence. Bioluminescence is essentially a light emitted by a bioluminescent organism, caused due to chemical reactions inside the organism. A glowing firefly is one of the most common examples of bioluminescence that most of us might have encountered. Similarly, in the ocean, there are numerous organisms ranging from bacteria to sharks, which are bioluminescent and cause the ocean and waves to glow at times, in a stunning electric-blue hue.
Frozen methane bubbles
Hundreds of thousands of bubbles trapped under a frozen lake might be extraordinarily beautiful to look at, however, these aren’t just regular air bubbles, these are deadly, highly-flammable methane bubbles trapped just inches under the lake’s frozen surface! These lethal bubbles are formed when plants on the lake bed release methane gas, which freezes by the time it reaches the surface. The most stunning views of this phenomenon can be seen over Lake Abraham in Alberta, Canada.
Great Blue Hole, Belize
Yet another startling miracle of nature, the Great Blue Hole is a mammoth circular sinkhole located off the coast of Belize, and is a part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Believe it or not, this is the only Blue Hole that can be seen from space with the naked eye! Over 400 ft. deep, the Blue Hole was once believed to be a cave and over the years, as the water levels rose, the roof of the cave collapsed and formed the circular hole as we see it today. With its thriving, exotic marine life, the Blue Hole is also considered to be one of the best destinations in the world for snorkelling and diving.
If you’re taking a stroll along the countryside in the dead of winter, and come across a field full of blooming white flowers, you might want to look again! No, these aren’t your garden-variety white-roses or azaleas, but are actually ice formations! Referred to as “frost flowers”, these are a natural, unusual winter or autumn phenomena in which water oozes out from the stem of a plant and freezes into thin layers of ice. These layers of ice curl into a petal-like formation, thereby resembling a flower. Bizarre, but absolutely real!
Caused as result of the quick cooling of thick basalt lava, Columnar Basalt, which also referred to as a columnar joint, is a rock formation that tend to form hexagonal cracks. The lava immediately starts cooling from the top and bottom, siding towards the centre, where the heat is most intense. This cooling of lava results in the creation of fractures or joints in a hexagonal shape, giving these structures a peculiar man-made look! Though these structures exist world-wide, perhaps the most exceptional samples can be found at the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland and Devil’s Postpile, California. Believe it or not, they’ve discovered several columnar joints on Mars too!
Resembling a tornado, a waterspout is a violently twirling column of air and water mist that occurs over a body of water. Usually formed from a cumulus or cumulonimbus cloud, the spout descends from the cloud and reaches the water surface, and ultimately decays. Waterspouts are usually weak as compared to land tornadoes and are mostly formed in the tropical and subtropical areas. No matter how weak waterspouts are, or how fun they sound, don’t try to investigate one! Visiting a waterpark would be a better bet. Florida Keys, Great Lakes (Michigan), and the waters surrounding the Aegean Sea, Baltic Sea and Southeast Asia are a few waterspout hotspots across the globe.
Not to be mistaken for a new dog breed, sun dogs are essentially a rare yet stunning atmospheric phenomenon where one can see a pair of surreal bright spots on either side of the sun, that occur with a luminous ring called 22’ halo. These massive halos occur when the light interacts with ice crystals present in the atmosphere, resulting in two subtle spots of light to the left and right of the sun at an approximate deviation of 22’. Sundogs can be seen anywhere in the world, and are most visible when the sun is close to the horizon.
Though they are called “fire rainbows”, these natural atmospheric phenomena have nothing to do with fire or rainbows. Technically, these are actually known as circumhorizontal arcs, and are formed by hexagonal, plate-shaped ice crystals present in high-level cirrus clouds. These phenomena are called “fire rainbows” due their multi-coloured appearance in the shape of flames. Compared to Europe, circumhorizontal arcs are relatively common in the United States.
If you think you’ve seen a huge spaceship landing, chances are that you saw a supercell! A supercell is a type of thunderstorm which characterises a deep rotating updraft, and is sometimes referred to as a rotating thunderstorm. Though these storms are the most fascinating to watch, they are the most dangerous, and are responsible for the most destructive tornadoes known to mankind. Though supercell can occur anywhere in the world, they are most common in the Great Plains of the United States and the plains of Uruguay, Argentina and southern Brazil.
Found at high altitudes, Penitentes are spectacular snow formations consisting of tall, thin blades of ice that can grow up to a height of several metres! Generally growing towards the direction of the sun, Penitentes usually grow in clusters, and are most common in the Dry Andes, in the regions between Argentina and Chile.
A volcanic eruption and a raging thunderstorm – when these two forces of nature collide, the result is a volcanic lightening. According to studies, electrical charges are generated when ice particles, rock fragments and ash from a volcanic plume collide and create static charges. Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull Volcano, Alaska’s Mount Redoubt, and Chile’s Chaiten Volcano are a few instances where this jaw-dropping phenomenon has been reported.
If you think you’ve just sighted a UFO, it was probably a lenticular cloud you were looking at! Indeed, offering an explanation for numerous UFO sightings worldwide, a lenticular cloud is a huge saucer-shaped cloud that forms at high altitudes, normally perpendicularly aligned to the wind direction. USA is a hotspot for these clouds, with sightings in numerous states like California, Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, and Washington. Japan and Iceland are two other favourites.
No other natural phenomena has fascinated mankind more than the magnificent Aurora Borealis, also famously known as the Northern Lights. A true miracle of nature, these lights cause the entire sky to light up in myriad colours and hues. These lights are caused when the gaseous particles from Earth’s atmosphere collide with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Canada, Alaska, Iceland, Greenland, Norway and Finland are the major hotspots for viewing the Northern Lights.