Natural Wonders of the World
Planet Earth has been here since forever and humans have explored pretty much every square inch of the land areas. It is probably safe to say that we have seen all that the world could show, accepted everything the world will give, and taken anything the world provided. Some people have seen natural wonders of the world; even for those who have not, at least they’ve seen pictures or footages documenting the beauties. Everybody knows the “7 Natural Wonders of the World” but there are certainly more than just seven places or phenomenon worth mentioning. Here is the list of the established seven, added with three more.
More familiarly known as the northern and southern lights (borealis and australis), these shimmering sheets of lights never cease to mesmerize the lucky witnessing eyes all over the world. Of course, the night skies are always sprinkled with billions of blinking stars and occasional beams from comets or meteors, but the auroras are almost at divine level of beauty.
Aurora occurs due to the interaction between particles in solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field. It starts humbly as a faint glow on the horizon yet it gradually develops into drapery-like light shows like nothing else. If you think New Year’s Eve fireworks in London are good, the aurora is million times better. While both the northern and southern auroras are wonderful in their own rights, only the former is considered a natural wonder.
2. Grand Canyon
A Spanish explorer named Garcia Lopez de Cardenas was to first to see the Grand Canyon. He was in a journey to seek the city of gold (present-day Arizona) when he saw the gaping rocky hole as far as his eyes could gaze. In 1869, an American explorer called Major John Wesley Powell spent three hot long summer months travelling down the length of the canyon, and the area has been explored and wandered ever since. In 1919, the federal government established the Grand Canyon National Park.
Colorado River and many of its tributaries have been flowing through the billion-year-old rock formation. They etch their way through the rocks, leaving broad stripes and revealing records of the canyon’s geologic history. For geologist, the walls of Grand Canyon are like notebooks which tell them everything they need to know about the canyon’s age, formation, major, and minor events. Although the canyon is simply known as “Grand”, everybody now knows that it is actually an understatement.
3. Great Barrier Reef
Captain James Cook was the one who mapped and claimed most of the Pacific Ocean for the British Empire. Unfortunately for him, the Great Barrier Reef was invisible from the surface that had to find the reef in the hardest way possible: by running aground on it.
Great Barrier Reef is on the list “7 Natural Wonders of the World” for wonderful reasons as well. It is the world’s longest spanning natural beauty at more than 1,200 miles. It stretches along the northeast coast of Australia and made up of the skeletons of marine polyps. Generation of coral polyps that lived and died underwater eventually created a reef which now also allows diverse organisms to thrive. Current generations of polyps along with numerous species of exotic marine organisms find home in the reef.
4. Harbor of Rio de Janeiro
When you hear the term harbor, the first thing that comes to your mind is a port followed by the idea that it must be a man-made object. That is not the case with the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro. While the infrastructures are indeed engineered by humans, the area itself was created by one of the greatest forces of nature: erosion.
It is surrounded by beautiful mountains including the well-known Sugarloaf Mountain (1,296 feet), Corcovado Peak (2,310 feet), and the hills of Tijuca (2,310 feet). Right in front of the harbor, there are numerous islands to amplify its beauty. In case you don’t remember, the peak of Corcovado is the place where Christ the Redeemer has been standing for more than 85 years now.
5. Mount Everest
When India (then a separate continent) collided and became one with Asia, Himalayas were born. Among the many mountainous formations, one of them stands out from the crowd quite literally: Everest. It is the tallest mountain on Earth standing at more than 29,000 feet. Many people have made successful climbs to the top, and more died trying. Everest is a wonder not only because of the height, but also its mystery and divinity.
It has always been mountaineers dream to reach the top of Everest. This is the utmost destination after spending years of practicing and overcoming challenges in many other mountains all around the globe. Everest is also the ultimate test of endurance, experience, and most important of them all, the willingness to survive. Because when you are standing on the top of Everest, you are standing at the top of the world.
6. Parícutin volcano
It does not matter how you put it, an eruption is one of nature’s most devastating forces. Imagine the picture of hot ashes and rocks filling up the sky followed by the flow of hot melting volcanic materials, and then you get the idea of how enormous the power is. It is a demonstration of brute life-threatening force by the nature. An active volcano is a serious concern, but you may get a different perspective if you know how it forms, why it explodes, and what happens to it afterward; this is why Paricutin Volcano is a natural wonder of the world.
Paricutin presented the first full documentation of the life cycle of a volcano for modern science. During its relatively short 9 years of development since the day it was formed to the eruption until the drop of its last speck of dirt, scientists made all the necessary documentations and compiled the data including sketches and photographs. Paricutin has helped scientists to understand volcanic activity even better than ever, and now it sits quietly as remembrance that sometimes it takes enormous explosions for humans to learn something.
7. Victoria Falls
Although Victoria Falls is neither the widest nor the tallest in the world, it still is the largest based on the area covered. The combined width of more than 5,600 feet and height of 354 feet makes it the largest sheet of water in one place. To put it to perspective Victoria Falls is about twice the width of Horseshoe Falls and twice the height Niagara Falls. The indigenous Tonga name is Mosi-oa-Tunya, which translates to The Smoke that Thunders. There have been development of modern amenities and facilities around the area such as bridges, hotels, and trails, but the raw power of the water makes even modern technologies into shame.
8. Table Mountain
At 600 million years old, the Table Mountain remains pristine and iconic landmark of Cape Town. One thing that makes the mountain unique is its flat top plateau that stretches to about 2 miles wide. Every edge of the plateau comes to an end only by steep cliffs all around the top. Part of the Table Mountain national Park, it is one of the major attractions; you cannot really say that you have visited Cape Town until you stand on the top of the mountain.
The plateau is flanked by Lion’s Head to the west and Devil’s Peak to the east. It does not matter where your exact position is at the top, you can count on unbelievable sight of Cape Town. One of the best things is that you can reach the mountain either by cable way or travelling through the harder hiking path.
9. Ngorongoro Crater
Seen from above, Ngorongoro Crater is like a piece of haven created by the nature for wildlife. It would bring out all the superlatives you can spell: mesmerizing, bewildering, breathtaking, astonishing, and so on. When you finally come down and experience the feeling of just being in it, you run out of more superlatives to say. Some of the highest concentrations of lions and other predators in Africa find home in the crater; they live with large herbivores such as buffalos and hippopotamus too. Ngorongoro Crater is a UNESCO World Heritage Site inhabited by more than 25,000 large animals including but not limited to blue wildebeest, Grant’s zebra, common eland, Grant’s gazelles, and Thomson’s gazelles. Although the entire area looks like an enclosure, many animals actually migrate from and to the areas during different seasons. Buffalos and elands come during the rains, while wildebeest and zebras do the opposite.
With all the wildlife diversity (both flora and fauna), human’s existence in Galapagos seem to be nothing but an annoyance. In ideal world where destructions of natural habitats do not exist, people have no business in Galapagos. That being said, Galapagos has had its share of bad times due to human interventions by introducing foreign species and general over exploitation of natural resources. On the other hand, people have the power to protect the island and prevent further destructions.
Many animals and plants in Galapagos are not found anywhere else on Earth. Galapagos Islands are basically isolated group of land areas in the Pacific Ocean, and therefore many species are endemic. You don’t have to be a researcher or scientist to love and appreciate the biological diversity or just be mesmerized with the beauty of the islands. This is another kind of safari you will not get from any other country or national park.
Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but people have to agree that natural wonders of the world are not the things to be argued about. There can be different opinions in determining which one is best indeed, merely because each of the aforementioned places has distinguishable characteristics, delivers unique sense of beauty, and entices the mind into distinct temptations.