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Yellowstone's, and indeed the world's, most famous geyser is so named because of the remarkable consistency of its eruptions of scalding hot water. Every hour, give or take a few minutes, up to 8,400 gallons of boiling hot water shoot more than 100 feet into the air before draining into the Firehole River.
Discovered in 1870, more than 30,000 of these eruptions have since been minutely recorded. Visitors have occasionally attempted to do their laundry on site too, linen and cotton fabrics being efficiently cleansed by the action of the hot water although wool garments have often been damaged beyond repair.
The chief attraction of Kelimutu in Indonesia depends on three extraordinary crater lakes of wildly varying colours. Located at the summit of a 1,639 metre high volcano on the island of Flores, the three lakes change colour frequently depending on the time of year and their changing mineral content.
Typically Tiwu Ata Polo, the Lake of the Bewitched People, and Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai, the Lake of Young Men and Maidens, are deep reddish-brown or green. Lying to the west of these Tiwu Ata Mbupu, the Lake of Old People, is more usually blue.
At 10am one August morning in 1883 the Javanese island of Krakatoa vanished forever in a single, violent explosion. Exactly 80 years later, following a scarcely less ferocious series of volcanic eruptions beneath the sea south of Iceland, the island of Surtsey appeared as if from nowhere.
Within two days sufficient lava and scoria had been thrown to the surface for the new island to measure a third of a mile from end to end. Now a unique Unesco World Heritage Site, its fragile new ecology is effectively off-limits to visitors except authorised scientific researchers.
The pictures always show tourists lying in the water reading a broadsheet newspaper, and the trick is gratifyingly simple to repeat should you wish to try it for yourself. Typically 25% salt - normal seawater is just 4-6 - no fish can live in it, whilst the increased density makes it child's play to float.
Evaporation keeps the salinity high, the Dead Sea being not only the lowest place on the planet but one of the hottest. Technnically it forms part of the Great Rift Valley, although whilst this is around 70 million years old the Dead Sea is a youngster at just 12,000 give or take a century.
From the Greek petro meaning stone, the most celebrated example lies just off Arizona's I-40 highway, deep in the desert badlands between Holbrook and Navajo. The spectacle comprises one of the world's largest collections of fossilised trees, mostly Araucarioxylon arizonicum, an ancient species of conifer, which have been mineralised into chalcedony and quartz.
The process of transformation begins when the dead trees become permeated by the mineral content of the sediments in which they are lying. Molecule by molecule wood is replaced by stone, mostly silica but with trace elements such as iron and sulphur providing the characteristic irridescence and colour.
Ireland's only World Heritage Site is a gigantic basalt groyne heading out into the sea, its nearly 38,000 stone columns created by the rapid cooling of lava from a volcanic eruption some 60 million years ago. Needless to say, that's not what the locals tell you. They prefer a tale of fairy folk.
In this case it's the famous Fionn MacCumhaill (Finn McCool to you). He is said to have created it by throwing down great chunks of cliff to make stepping stones to reach his lover on the Hebridean island of Staffa, or to walk to Scotland to fight the Scottish colossus, Benandonner.
One of Trinidad's biggest attractions is also probably its ugliest, a gloomy, sinister lake filled not with fresh water but instead a mixture of bitumen, clay and saltwater. Covering more than 100 acres, it's been mined for asphalt since Sir Walter Rayleigh first took some to caulk his ship's timbers.
Like that of a real lake the surface ripples, but no animal life exists down in the ooze except the sort of bizarre microbial organisms or extremophiles which specialise in surviving in the kind of geochemically stressful conditions that are detrimental to the majority of species.
Barring spreading fungi and colony-forming organisms such as coral reefs, California's famous Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum or Wellingtonia) is the largest living thing on the planet. Estimated to be between 23 and 27 centuries old, its trunk alone is thought to comprise nearly 52,000 cubic feet of wood.
Nearly 275 feet tall, it is more than 36 feet in diameter at its base and has a crown that spreads more than 106 feet from edge to edge. In 2006 it lost a branch and when this crashed to the ground it was found to be more than six feet in diameter and 100 feet from end to end.
Part of a network of more than 150 miles of tunnels and caverns, Austria's famous ice caves are located in the hiking country around Lake Hallstatt. Deep underground, glittering ice columns combine to form a giant ice cathedral, its hollows and arches formed by swirling air melting sections of the ice.
Further inside the complex there is also a vast underground glacier. Otherwise many of the most decorative features are similar in form to conventional limestone stalagmites and stalactites, albeit noticeably less durable especially when visitor numbers cause the ambient temperature to rise.
Seen most commonly in extreme latitudes, and only occasionally as close to the equator as Florida, the Northern and Southern Lights are among the most beautiful and mysterious of celestial phenomena. Rarely satisfactorily caught on camera, the experience of seeing them for yourself is one to really treasure.
Aurorae are the result of the emissions of photons in the Earth's upper atmosphere, these being excited by the collision of solar wind particles moving along the Earth's magnetic field. Oxygen emissions typically produce green or red flares, whilst those of nitrogen appear blue or red.
Life (cf. biota) is a characteristic that distinguishes objects that have signaling and self-sustaining processes (biology) from those that do not, either because such functions have ceased (death), or else because they lack such functions and are classified as inanimate. In biology, the science of living organisms, life is the condition which distinguishes active organisms from inorganic matter. Living organisms undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce and, through natural selection, adapt to their environment in successive generations. More complex living organisms can communicate through various means. A diverse array of living organisms (life forms) can be found in the biosphere on Earth, and the properties common to these organisms—plants, animals, fungi, protists, archaea, and bacteria—are a carbon- and water-based cellular form with complex organization and heritable genetic information.
Between 1900 and 1904, the Waimangu Geyser (waimangu is MÄori for “black water”) near Rotorua, New Zealand would consistently erupt to heights of at least 150 meters, and sometimes reached the incredible height of 460 meters (1,500 feet)! It only existed for a relatively short period of time, but managed to attract a good number of tourists.
The geyser's life was brief and spectacular. Eruptions of muddy water and large rocks to heights of 150 metres were common, and there were occasional super-eruptions to the remarkable height of 460 metres. In comparison, the tallest currently-active geyser in the world (Steamboat geyser, in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming) erupts to maximum heights of 100 metres. The top of Aucklandâ€™s Sky Tower is about 330 metres above street level.
Not surprisingly, a tourist industry sprang up around Waimangu geyser. Accommodation for tourists, overlooking the geyser basin, was built in the summer of 1902â€“3. Throughout 1903, the geyser increased in activity, and increasing numbers of visitors flocked to see the spectacle. However, a tragic event occurred that year: four tourists ventured closer to get a better view, but were swept away and killed by a sudden eruption. The geyser began to wane in 1904, and by November of that year activity stopped as suddenly and inexplicably as it had started.
Source. For those who want to know more.
Shortly after midnight on the morning of 10 June 1886, a series of more than 30 increasingly strong earthquakes were felt in the Rotorua area and an unusual sheet lightning display was observed from the direction of Tarawera. At around 2:00 am a larger earthquake was felt and followed by the sound of an explosion. By 2:30 am Mount Tarawera's three peaks had erupted, blasting three distinct columns of smoke and ash thousands of metres into the sky. At around 3.30 am, the largest phase of the eruption commenced; vents at Rotomahana obliterated the Pink and White Terraces and produced a pyroclastic surge that destroyed several villages within a 6 kilometre radius.
The eruption was heard clearly as far away as Blenheim and the effects of the ash in the air were observed as far south as Christchurch, over 800 km south. In Auckland the sound of the eruption and the flashing sky was thought by some to be an attack by Russian warships.
The end result of the eruption was that the topography of this area was completely changed.
This area was world-famous for the Pink and White Terraces which were considered the eighth wonder of the world. Situated at the base of Mt. Tarawera people came from far and wide to view them. Over thousands of years the spray from a geyser had formed the terraces by leaving a silica coating over the surrounding area. It created a fan like staircase in beautiful shades of pink and white which covered about seven and a half acres, (3 hectares). The White Terraces, or Te Tarata, were a series of curved silica basins filled with turquoise blue water. The lowest basin was 800 feet long and the white terraces stood 100 feet high. The Pink Terraces rose more steeply, rather like a giant staircase, were as smooth as enamel and pink like coral. These were known by the Maori as Otukapuarangi, or 'Cloud in the Heavens'.
Tourists would bathe in the warm waters of both terraces with the White Terraces offering a greater variety of temperatures while the Pink Terraces contained water that was softer and silkier.