The Brand New Island of Surtsey

Located about 30 kilometers off the southern coast of Iceland, lies the small island of Surtsey. It is one of the world's youngest island with an age just over fifty years.

Like all islands, Surtsey was conceived in an underwater volcanic eruption which began at a depth of 130 meters in the Norwegian Sea. Molten lava kept piling up at the bottom and a mound began to rise, until it broke the surface on 14 November 1963, and the island was officially born.

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Surtsey on November 30, 1963, 16 days after the beginning of the eruption. Photo credit: Howell Williams.

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The Forgotten Ruins of Mrauk U

Spread across the beautiful rolling hills of Rakhine in Western Burma, lies a little known archeological site—the medieval town of Mrauk U. Once the capital of the powerful Arakan empire where Portuguese, Dutch and French traders rubbed shoulders with the scholars of Bengal and Mughal princes on the run, Mrauk U is now a sleepy village where goat herders tend to their animals, farmers work their fields and women fetch water from the wells located among the hundreds of old temples and Buddhist pagodas that the Kings of Mrauk U erected during the city’s heydays.

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Photo credit: Steffen Korn/Flickr

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Underwater Mailboxes Around The World

Remember the last time you were diving underwater and suddenly remembered an important letter that you had to post that very instant? Yup, it has happened to all of us. Fortunately, these five places has us covered.

Hideaway Island, Vanuatu

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The underwater post office off the coast of Hideaway Island in the island nation of Vanuatu is one of the most famous in the world. It was established in 2003 and is located in 3 meters of water. The post office provides special waterproof postcards that tourists can drop into the submerged post box with their own hands, or ask the staff to do so.

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The Dolerite Columns of Coastal Tasmania

The coastline of the southern Tasmania, in Australia, is composed of stunning rock columns that protrude up to 300 meters from the sea level. These rocks are what geologists call dolerites, with its distinct elongated shape and hexagonal columns.

Dolerites form when molten rocks pushed up from the deep underbelly of the earth cools quickly and crystallizes to form small visible crystals in the rock. When the rate of cooling is just right, the rocks shrink in volume, causing the creation of cracks. The cracks allow the rocks in the interior to cool, resulting in more cracks. At the end, you get a large block of rock with long vertical and symmetrical cracks creating five or six sided columns. The columns can be just a few … Read the rest

Djerbahood: The Street Art Drive That Transformed A Tunisian Village

The sleepy little village of Erriadh on the island of Djerba—once known as the “island of dreams”— is not part of Tunisia’s tourist circuit. It’s primarily a pilgrimage site, being home to the largest and oldest synagogue in North Africa —El Ghriba— which is in continuous use for over 2,000 years. Other than a few thousand pilgrims, the village sees very little foreigners. There are no large businesses or hotels in Erriadh; only small houses with traditional Berber architecture featuring open courtyards and domes. But over the last few years, this has been changing. Erriadh’s primary attraction today is street art.

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The Fainting Goats of Tennessee

Unlike humans, animals rarely faint from surprise, panic attacks or any other strong emotional stress. But there is a breed of goat that appears to do so.

When startled, the so-called “fainting goat” collapses on its side. They fall over, often with legs comically raised towards the sky. After laying motionless on the ground for a few seconds, they recover and bounce back on their feet as quickly as they fell. This curious reaction to fright has made fainting goats the popular subject for many viral, and often humorous, internet videos.

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Photo credit: www.kidsdiscover.com

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Enormous Iceberg Stranded in Canadian Town

Icebergs are not a rare sight off the east coast of Canada. Indeed, there is an area stretching from the coast of Labrador to the northeast coast of the island of Newfoundland that has been nicknamed the “Iceberg Alley” for the sheer number of icebergs that floats into the vicinity during spring and early summer. But even longtime residents did a double take when an astonishingly big one ran aground near the village of Ferryland, this week.

The big chunk of ice towers 150 feet. It’s the largest Iceberg Alley has ever seen.

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Photo credit: Greg Lock/Reuters

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Coco de mer: The Forbidden Fruit

In the islands of Praslin and Curieuse, in the Seychelles, grows one of the most exclusive palm trees in the world. The coco de mer (Lodoicea maldivica) has tall slender trunks that rise more than 30 meters above the ground. At its crown is a mass of fronds, with leaf blades fanning out nearly five meters across. On mature individuals, the leaves are often fringed at the edges. Their withered ends hang from the palm below the vibrant, healthy green crown.

Possibly the most renowned feature of coco de mer are its enormous seeds—the largest and heaviest seeds in the plant world. But it is the shape and not the size of the seeds, that makes coco de mer famous; the seeds bear an … Read the rest

The Al-Rajajil Standing Stones

Al-Rajajil, sometimes referred to as the Standing Men, or Standing Stones, are a collection of some fifty groups of man-made stone columns near the ancient oasis town of Sakakah in Al-Jawf province in northwestern Saudi Arabia. The stones are arranged in groups of four or more, joined at the base and leaning outwards at random angles. Some of them have appears to have fallen over.

Nicknamed the Stonehenge of Saudi Arabia, the Al-Rajajil stones are believed to have been erected more than 6,000 years ago.

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Photo credit: www.skyscrapercity.com

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The Rosetta Disk: Preserving The World’s Languages

It is estimated that there are some 7,000 spoken languages in the world, of which nearly half are in danger of extinction and are likely to disappear in the next hundred years. Most of these endangered languages have less than a few thousand speakers left, and with no documentation. Nearly five hundred languages have fewer than ten speakers and are very likely to vanish very soon. Other languages are lost gradually when they are overwhelmed by a more dominant language at school, in the marketplace and on television.

The Rosetta Project is an effort to preserve all of these languages—numbering some 1,500— that have a high likelihood of extinction before this century is over. Inspired by the original Rosetta Stone, the idea of the Rosetta Project … Read the rest

The Abandoned Soviet Camp of Wünsdorf in Germany

About 25 miles south of Berlin lies the small town of Wunsdorf, home to about six thousand inhabitants. But less than thirty years ago it had a population of sixty thousand, of which fifty thousand were soldiers of the Red Army. They lived inside one of the biggest military bases in Europe and the biggest Soviet military camp outside the USSR. The former headquarters of Soviet forces in Germany was so large that it was known as “Little Moscow”, with daily trains going to the Soviet capital. Inside, there were schools, shops, hospitals and leisure facilities.

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Photo credit: Kevin Hackert/Flickr

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Equihen Plage: The Village of Inverted Boat Houses

Equihen Plage, on the coast of northern France by the English Channel, is a small seaside village with a population of about 3,000. Up until the beginning of the 20th century, Equihen Plage was a fishing village with a dry harbor—the kind where fishing boats were launched into the sea by sliding them on logs. Today, the village is famous for its many inverted boat houses—locally known as “quilles en l'air”—that serve as unique holiday accommodation for travellers.

In the old days, it wasn’t uncommon to find old boats— both upright and inverted—along the coast where they were dragged high and dry upon the shore to be used for habitation. In Charles Dickens' classic novel David Copperfield, Peggotty’s brother lived in such an old boathouse … Read the rest

The Handmade Globes of Peter Bellerby

When Peter Bellerby couldn’t find the perfect handmade globe for his father’s 80th birthday, he took matters into his own hands. He decided he would create two globes from scratch—one for his father and one for himself.

After all how difficult can it be to make a ball and put a map on it?”, he wondered.

But making a globe is extremely difficult, as Bellerby found out. Correctly applying the little strips of the map, called gores, onto the spheres itself took eighteen months to perfect. Some of the poorly constructed models Bellerby found had overlapping gores that wiped out entire countries, or had latitude lines that were drawn straight across the map with a ruler. Bellerby wasn’t prepared to settle on such poor … Read the rest