The Mossy Lava Fields of Iceland

Moss is a common plant in Iceland. It grows abundantly in the mountainous region and is a special characteristic of Iceland’s lava fields. One of the most spectacular moss blanket is located on the southern coast of Iceland, over the Eldraun Lava Field.

The Eldraun Lava Field was created in one of the most devastating eruptions in recorded history. Over a course of eight months, between 1783 and 1784, the Laki fissure and the adjoining Grímsvötn volcano poured out an estimated 14 cubic kilometers of basalt lava and clouds of poisonous gases that contaminated the soil, killing half of Iceland's cattle and horses, and more than three-quarter of sheep. That year, nothing grew on the fields and no more fish could be found in the sea. … Read the rest

The Tumuli Lava Blisters

In the relatively flat Harman Valley, located between Wallacedale and Byaduk, south of Mount Napier in Victoria, Australia, are peculiar rocky mounds, like blisters on land. Some of them are up to 10 meters high and 20 meters in diameter. These mounds are known as tumulus or lava blisters.

Tumulus are formed in slow-moving lava fields. When lava flows, the surface often cools to form a thin crust, but underneath the lava is still viscous and molten. If the advancing lava underneath becomes restricted it may push up on the hardened crust, causing soft spots in the crust to rise up like a bubble. Generally, these structures grade into elongate forms called pressure ridges, but occasionally, they creates smaller, steep-sided domes called a tumuli. Usually, the … Read the rest

The Devil’s Corkscrews

In the mid-1800s, ranchers across Sioux County, in the US state of Nebraska, began unearthing strange, spiral structures of hardened rock-like material sticking vertically out of the ground. The spirals were as thick as an arm and some of them were taller than a man. Not knowing what they were, the ranchers began calling them “devil’s corkscrew.”

The puzzling structures first came to the notice of the scientific community through geologists Dr. E. H. Barbour in 1891, when he was asked to investigate a nine-foot long specimen that a local rancher had discovered on his property along the Niobrara River. Barbour found that the spirals were actually sand-filled tubes with the outer walls made of some white fibrous material. Barbour knew they were fossils but of … Read the rest

Iligan, The City of Majestic Waterfalls

The city of Iligan, in the Northern Mindanao region of Philippines, is one of the country’s major city and the industrial center of the south. It has many heavy industries producing steel, tinplate, and cement. It also produces hydroelectric power for the entire Mindanao region. It’s surprising hence, that an industrial city such as Iligan should be known for its natural beauty.

The city is situated by the Bohol Sea which curves into the northern coast of Mindanao Island forming a small bay called the Iligan Bay. The bay lies to the west. To the east of the city lies flat cultivated coastal land which gives way to steep volcanic hills and mountains. These mountains are home to numerous cold springs and waterfalls. Officially, there are … Read the rest

The Witness Trees of The American Civil War

Across the United States there are hundreds and thousands of trees that have stood around for many centuries and bore witness to the history in that area. Some of these trees were present during key events in American history like the Civil War battles. Historians call these trees “witness trees”. They were present when soldiers marched on to the battlefields and they stood silently as the soldiers fell. Many Civil War witness trees took bullets along with thousands of men. Many of them still hide bullets within their trunks.

In the early 1930s, the United States War Department thought some of these “witness trees” were important enough to mark and sometimes, protect. Small brass tags were placed in some of the trees, and lightening rods were … Read the rest

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

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.

fainting-goat-3

Photo credit: www.kidsdiscover.com

Read more »

Read the rest

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.

iceberg-alley-7

Photo credit: Greg Lock/Reuters

Read more »

Read the rest

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

These Massive Tunnels Were Dug By Giant Sloths

Across northern South America, there are hundreds of colossal tunnels large enough for humans to walk through, but they weren’t dug by men. Nor they were formed by any known geological process. But their creators have left evidence all around the walls and ceilings—giant claw marks.

Geologists call these tunnels “paleoburrow,” and they are believed to have been dug by an extinct species of giant ground sloth.

paleoburrow1

A large paleoburrow in Brazil. Photo credit: Heinrich Frank

Read more »

Read the rest

Lahaina Noon: When Shadows Disappear

Notice anything odd about this picture? The sun is out as you can tell by the shadows under the cars and on the walls. But why aren’t the yellow poles casting any shadows?

lahaina-noon-1

It appears as if someone cut out the poles from another picture and pasted it here. That, or it’s a screenshot from a badly rendered videogame where the developer forgot to turn on the shadows. But I can assure you it’s a real picture, and it was taken in Hawaii.

The reason why there are no shadows is because the sun is directly overhead. The Hawaiians call this phenomenon the Lahaina Noon.

Read more »

Read the rest

Venta Rapid: Europe’s Widest Waterfalls

At just 2 meters tall, the Venta Rapid, or Ventas Rumba in Latvian, is one of the smallest waterfalls in the world. But its low height is compensated by its impressive width. At its widest, which happens during spring floods, Ventas Rumba is up to 270 meters wide making it the widest waterfall in Europe. Even during summer, when there is less water, the falls are about 250 meters wide.

The Venta Rapid flows over a layer of Devonian dolostone. Below it is a more fragile dolostone that has been slowly eroding away undercutting the harder layer on top creating overhangs, which fall down from time to time. As a result, the waterfall is slowly receding and as the stream in the central part is more … Read the rest

The Fluorescent Rocks of Sterling Hill Mining Museum

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum in New Jersey, United States, is known for its variety of immersive and educational exhibits, but is best known for its massive collection of fluorescent minerals.

The fluorescent exhibits are displayed along the walls of the so-called Rainbow tunnel that was excavated in 1990. The walls of the tunnel are lined with rare minerals that glow bright green and red under ultraviolet light.

The museum was originally an old zinc mine, and one of the oldest in the country, having opened in 1739. When the mine closed in 1986, it was purchased by Richard and Robert Hauck and opened as a museum in 1990.

sterling-hill-mining-museum-1

Photo credit: noaamichael/instagram

Read more »

Read the rest