Thursday, 31 August 2017


There are hundreds of incredibly beautiful botanical gardens around the world that have their own unique character and vibe. They offer a taste of the natural world combined with history, culture, and beautiful architecture. The following infographic by Solar Centre presents a collection of these beautiful botanical gardens across the globe.

[Source: Solar Centre.]

Wednesday, 30 August 2017


10 Bizarre Phobias (You May Actually Already Have)
By Samuel Theodros,
Toptenz, 30 August 2017.

“Fear is the mind-killer.” In the legendary science fiction novel Dune, the adage is used to propel Paul Atreides forward to overcome his fears and become the leader that he’s destined to be. Fear stands in his way, and it also stands in the way of most individuals in their daily life. However, for some, that fear develops into a phobia.

The controlling nature that phobias have over the mind and the body can leave one incapacitated, unable to confront things or objects that are not real threats. In many ways, the phobias that individuals possess demonstrate the great power of the mind over the body, leaving individuals paralyzed in fear when interacting with things as innocuous as waffles. Many phobias appear to be random, without any underlying meaning; however, most develop as a result of some sort of known or unknown trauma. Here are 10 of the most bizarre phobias you may actually have.

10. Xanthophobia proves that a color can be menacing


Fear of a color, especially the color yellow, seems to be particularly bizarre (unless you’re Green Lantern). Red, maybe. But Yellow? The truth is that Xanthophobia has developed as a result of yellow’s attachment to some harrowing experience. For example, in China, the color yellow began to be feared because it was the color of an imperial scarf that signaled an order to commit suicide. The color then began to cause fears and insecurities in objects that had no relation to imperial orders. Similarly, many individuals develop a fear of yellow as a child after being stung by a bee.

As a result of Xanthophobia, victims will close their eyes in anxiety, or have a panic attack, when witnessing something as innocuous as a daffodil. Those who suffer from Xanthophobia describe being unable to eat cheese, lemonade, eggs, and bananas. That’s right: no lemonade on a hot summer day. And just to make things even more bizarre, sufferers even claim to close their eyes at the sight of their own urine. Imagine that.

9. Turophobia means no cheese


Now, we mentioned previously that those who fear the color yellow may end up fearing cheese. But it turns out there is another phobia built solely around the fear of the dairy product.

Meet Katie Weston. She developed a cheese phobia after an experience as a child where a cheese string caused her to throw-up in her friend’s trash bin. It’s a traumatic memory, according to Katie; one that has kept her from cheese her whole life. That hasn’t kept her friends from trying to bridge the gap. She highlights one incident where, “my friend was putting a cheese string on my face and it was making me really anxious.”

Her phobia has interfered with her work at a restaurant, where the other staff members have to handle the cheese boards. The smell alone is too much for Katie, who even washes her hands if she happens to brush a board with her fingertips. One of the biggest difficulties for Katie is the looks of disapproval from others who judge her phobia. She hopes that people will become more aware of the phobia and not judge her and others like her.

8. Hylophobia causes people to fear nature


Taken from the Greek word, Hylo, (meaning forest) and of course phobia, meaning fear, Hylophobia is probably one of the more understandable phobias on our list, with the constant depiction in movies and TV shows that the forest is a lonely, scary place. Even some of our favorite childhood books, Harry Potter, seem to add our natural aversion to the forest (thanks to the ominously named Forbidden Forest).

However, as mentioned, there is quite a difference between an aversion to being left alone in a forest and a phobia. Many who are actual sufferers of Hylophobia will become overcome with social anxiety and have an urge to flee. Not only that, but many will break out in screaming fits, the likes of which can only be seen in the worst of horror films.

7. Omphalophobia causes people to fear their own body parts


One of the most unlikely and bizarre phobias on our list is Omphalophobia, or fear of the belly button. The phobia does not simply pertain to fear of other’s navels, but fear of their own as well. Sufferers are unlikely to touch their belly button and sometimes the sight of it can cause them discomfort and anxiety.

One of the more famous victims was singer Jenny Frost, who warned people against touching her navel area. Another celebrity who is a noted Omphalophobic is Khloe Kardashian, who reports feeling “disgusted just touching her belly because of the presence of belly button.” Like all phobias on our list, the origin of Omphalophobia stems from a negative experience or event that has become associated with the body part.

6. Nomophobia is a product of technological advances


If there’s any phobia that’s a product of the 21st century, it’s Nomophobia, or the fear of being out of cellular contact. As young adults continue to be more and more reliant on their phones, it’s not surprising that an anxiety has developed at the thought of losing the ability to use their devices. A study commissioned by research organization YouGov has found that more than half of British mobile phone users become anxious when they “lose their mobile phone, run out of battery or credit, or have no network coverage.” In addition, the study has found that are men are more susceptible, with 58 percent of men and 47 percent of women suffering from Nomophobia. Additionally, 9 percent feel stressed when their mobile phones are off.

Americans were just as likely to fall victim to Nomophobia. Statistics show that 65 percent of Americans sleep with or next to their cell phones while 34 percent admitted to even answering their cell phone during intimate moments with their significant other.

Additionally, one in five people would rather go without shoes for a week than without their cell phone. A decision that millions of people in the third world don’t even have the opportunity to make.

5. Ombrophobia may have its origins in hardships of our ancestors


From love scenes, to dramatic action sequences, rain rarely is portrayed as harmful or negative…but don’t tell that to Ombrophobes. Even the slightest drizzle can cause sufferers to have panic attacks or visions of being swept away in a flood of rain. Some theories hold that Ombrophobia is the result of the genetic composition of the person, rooted in our ancestral fear of landslides and heavy rains that had and continue to threaten cities and people, like we’re currently seeing with Hurricane Harvey and its catastrophic impact on Houston this week.

As a result, a self-defense mechanism develops centered around rain that causes sufferers to maintain a “seemingly” rational fear of rain. However, many believe that the cause of the phobia is similar to others in that a painful experience came to be associated with rain. Like they probably actually paid for a ticket to see Hard Rain in the theater, or something.

4. Papaphobia may be a result of controversy surrounding Catholic Church


There are many theories that try to explain one of our most bizarre phobias: fear of the Pope. One holds that, as a result of the growing scandals surrounding the Catholic Church people have grown fearful of the highest authority within the Church, the Pope himself. The media portrayals of the molestation and the repeated connection to “His Holiness” may have resulted in the phobia of the Pope himself.

Another theory argues that suffers just have a fear of sacred things and the Pope is the manifestation of those irrational anxieties. Some of the symptoms of those with Papaphobia is a feeling of extreme anxiety or dread, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and heart palpitations at the prospect of witnessing the Pope.

3. Uranophobia is fear of the celestial city


If you thought fear of the Pope was bizarre, those who suffer from Uranophobia will leave you tongue-tied. Victims of Uranophobia have an irrational fear of heaven, demonstrating nausea, lightheadedness, and intense terror at the thought of the celestial city.

It can be surmised that the enormity of heaven and all it entails (meeting one’s creator, being surrounded by one’s loved ones, and the angels) might become an overwhelming concept. Some might even deduce that the tension of entering a city of righteousness might make a sufferer of this phobia terrified that they could be deemed unworthy of residence, and therefore developing or exacerbating the phobia.

2. Trypophobia may have scientific explanation


One of the most hotly debated phobias on our list is Trypophobia. Many psychiatrists deem that the victim’s symptoms are not worthy of the status of a phobia. However, other psychiatrists hold that the feelings of anxiety and uncomfortableness when viewing patterns or shapes resembling small holes warrants it being considered a legitimate phobia. Some psychologists have argued that the aversion to the patterns of small holes comes from a fear rooted in our ancestors, who had to worry about things like bee hives, poisonous flowers, and venomous creatures, all of which share a similar circular pattern.

Researchers have found that thousands of people claim to be suffering from Trypophobia and describe feelings of stomach pain and skin irritation, to go along with symptoms related to panic attacks. Even everyday objects such as waffles can cause an adverse reaction, with many reporting the images of sinkholes brings particular discomfort to sufferers. With most phobias developing as a result of a traumatic experience involving said phenomena, what makes Trypophobia so bizarre is the unlikeliness that holes could be linked to a traumatic experience.

Some psychologists have suggested that it’s more of a discomfort and an uneasiness than a phobia. Professors at the University of Essex proposed that the avoidance of such images and patterns was a result of them requiring excessive oxygenation. According to their research, Trypophobic images may require more oxygenation and therefore are inherently uncomfortable to look at. So, maybe we’ve found a rational response to an irrational fear.

1. Triskaidekaphobia has become a part of American culture


The most well-known phobia on our list has grown to such heights that some offices avoid having a 13th floor. The irrational fear of the number 13 is pervasive in American society (Friday the 13th, and so forth). There are many theories for the origin of the fear of 13, with one being biblical in nature. Starting in the late 19th century, some believe that fear of 13 propagated from religious circles because Judas, the traitor, was the 13th to join Jesus at the Last Supper.

Another theory comes from the age of Hammurabi where in the Babylonian code the 13th law is omitted. More attention, however, has been placed on a series of unfortunate events that have involved number 13. One of the most notable events was the oxygen tank explosion that almost doomed the launch of Apollo 13; however, the crew did manage to return safely 6 days later.

[Related: Top 10 Bizarre Food-Related Phobias People Actually Suffer From]

Top image credit: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay.

[Source: Toptenz. Top image added and related link added.]


January 2005. Asia struggles to clear up after the 2004 Tsunami and comes to terms with the appalling destruction that claimed the lives of over 250,000 men, women and children. Tragically this was not a one-off event. This catastrophe has happened before and will certainly happen again. 122 years ago another natural disaster struck in the same geologically active region of Indonesia. This disaster was not caused by an undersea earthquake, of the kind that created the December 2004 tsunami, but by the volcano Krakatoa. This documentary by Aerospace Engineering is the story of that eruption, but it is also an account of the first tentative steps toward understanding the terrible power of Earth's natural forces.

Top image screen captured from the video.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017


Our current agricultural system is incredibly productive, but it also has serious downsides: wasted food, poor working conditions, polluted ecosystems, mistreated animals, and significant emissions of greenhouse gasses. But advances in technology is now allowing us to reimagine a whole new, next generation food system, as highlighted by this infographic by Futurism.

Top image (bottom): Vertical farms. Credit: Cjacobs627/Wikimedia Commons.

[Post Source: Futurism.]

Monday, 28 August 2017


10 Most Bizarre Planets You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
By Cameron Glenn,
Listverse, 28 August 2017.

Every day, NASA scans the galaxy in search of new planets, stars, and systems dispersed throughout the cosmos. We have sent many probes into space, from Voyager 1 to Juno, all with the task of first exploring our solar system and later investigating beyond it.

The Kepler spacecraft has discovered the most exoplanets, which are planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. As you’ll notice, many planets are named Kepler because of this.

Although we find tons of new exoplanets every year, many are just cold lumps of rock orbiting distant, unknown stars. Occasionally, however, a planet is found that is bizarre enough to make even the most seasoned astrophysicist gape in awe. We’ve rounded up 10 of them for you.

10. OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb: The Iceball Planet

Photo credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb is an icy exoplanet that can be found a whopping 13,000 light-years from our solar system. Its temperatures range from -220 degrees Celsius (-364 °F) to -186 degrees Celsius (-302 °F), which is why it’s sometimes called the “iceball planet.”

A light-year is a measure of relative distance, somewhere that’s one year away if you’re traveling at the speed of light. That speed is equal to almost 300,000 kilometers per second (186,000 mps) or over 1 billion kilometers per hour (670 million mph). So you have to travel a long way at high speed to see this huge ball of ice.

So far, the fastest speed we’ve ever reached in space occurred with New Horizons, a space probe launched in 2006 to conduct a flyby study of Pluto, its moons, and the Kuiper Belt. New Horizons sped along at over 58,000 kilometers per hour (36,000 mph), a far cry from the speed of light. So you can see that we don’t have the technology yet to visit our nearest neighboring system only a few light-years away.

That’s why we use long-range technology to discover distant exoplanets as well as to determine their mass and the makeup of their atmospheres. OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb was found using microlensing, a process used to discover planets when they pass in front of their stars and we see the stars dim briefly.

All the ice on OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb is thought to be freshwater. Although this is good, it’s unlikely that we will be able to use this water in the foreseeable future. It would take 13,000 years to get to this exoplanet traveling at the speed of light. Perhaps an advanced alien race uses this faraway planet as a source of freshwater.

9. KELT-9b: The Hot One


KELT-9b is the hottest exoplanet ever found, and it’s disappearing! At 650 light-years away from us, KELT-9b is tidally locked with its star, meaning that one side is constantly facing the star and one side is not.

The gas giant is approximately three times the size of our Jupiter and burns at a temperature of 4,315 degrees Celsius (7,800 °F). This is hotter than most stars and almost as hot as the surface of our Sun, which burns at 5,505 degrees Celsius (9,941 °F).

A few million years from now, KELT-9b will have burned off all its gases and will disappear, leaving nothing but its lonely star.

8. GJ 1214b: The Steamy Waterworld

Photo credit:

GJ 1214b is a huge “waterworld” three times the size of Earth that can be found 42 light-years away from our solar system. Earth’s water is equal to 0.05 percent of its mass, while GJ 1214b’s water contributes 10 percent of its mass!

GJ 1214b is thought to have oceans that may reach depths of as much as 1,600 kilometers (1,000 mi). In contrast, the deepest part of our own oceans is the Mariana Trench, 11 kilometers (7 mi) deep.

We’ve only explored about 5 percent of our oceans, and we’ve found countless astounding creatures that we never expected to exist. Imagine what horrors lie within the deep waters of GJ 1214b!

7. PSR J1719-1438 b: The Diamond Planet

Photo credit:

PSR J1719-1438 b is a planet made of pure diamond!

A large, carbon-based planet with a diameter roughly five times that of Earth, PSR J1719-1438 b can be found about 4,000 light-years away from our solar system. Due to immense pressure caused by the planet’s gravitational pull, the carbon has been condensed, forming a gigantic diamond.

This exoplanet orbits a millisecond pulsar named PSR J1719-1438. Astronomers believe that the pulsar was once a massive star that became a stellar corpse in a supernova. These rare millisecond pulsars are supposedly formed by eating the material from a companion star.

In this case, the companion star was probably a white dwarf, which is what our Sun will become when it dies. A white dwarf is a remnant that has no more nuclear fuel.

Here, the millisecond pulsar probably ate the material from its companion white dwarf. With only 0.1 percent of its mass left, the white dwarf then formed an exotic crystalline companion to the pulsar - the diamond planet.

6. Kepler-16b: The Real-Life Tatooine


Kepler-16b is essentially the real-life equivalent of the Star Wars planet Tatooine. This is because Kepler-16b is one of the only exoplanets ever found that orbits a binary star system.

Kepler-16b has the mass of about 105 Earths and is 8.5 times the radius of our world. This exoplanet has an atmosphere comprised of hydrogen, methane, and small amounts of helium. Approximately 200 light-years away from our solar system, Kepler-16b completes an orbit around its two stars in 627 of our Earth years.

Although it may look like Tatooine, Kepler-16b cannot support life. So don’t expect to find any droids there!

5. Kepler-10b: The Scorched World


Kepler-10b is the smallest exoplanet discovered to date, and we believe that the surface is covered by oceans of lava. About 560 light-years away from Earth, Kepler-10b was the first rocky planet found outside our solar system, marking mankind’s first step toward a future of space exploration.

The surface reaches temperatures as high as 1,400 degrees Celsius (2,500 °F). As a result, rocks on the surface melt, pooling in large areas and causing huge lava oceans scattered across the exoplanet’s small surface. Due to its high density, it’s believed that Kepler-10b contains a high amount of iron, which would cause the lava to appear a brighter shade of red.

4. TrES-2b: The Dark Planet


TrES-2b is the darkest exoplanet ever found, reflecting less than 1 percent of the sunlight that hits it. This makes it darker than coal or black acrylic paint. It’s actually a miracle that we found the planet because the light was so scarce.

This raises an important question: How many exoplanets have we missed due to the lack of light?

TrES-2b is about 750 light-years away from our solar system. Its atmosphere contains vaporized sodium, potassium, and titanium oxide - all of which absorb light. However, it is still a mystery as to why the planet is so dark, a mystery that may never be solved.

Perhaps an alien race inhabits this strange planet and we just don’t know about it.

3. HD 189733b: The Planet That Rains Glass

Photo credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Perhaps one of the most interesting exoplanets on this list, HD 189733b, which is 63 light-years away, rains glass. Sideways. Yes, you heard that right. This hellish planet’s winds can reach speeds of up to 8,700 kilometers per hour (5,400 mph), causing any strange precipitation to fall sideways.

A silica-concentrated atmosphere causes the planet’s clouds to rain molten glass, which hardens as it falls. HD 189733b’s wind pushes the glass at such speeds that the shards fly through the air horizontally, slicing up everything in their path. Imagine getting stuck in that storm!

2. 55 Cancri e: The Planet With Weird Water


55 Cancri e is tidally locked with its sun and has water on its surface that is both a liquid and a gas. This exoplanet orbits 25 times closer to its star than Mercury does to our Sun and completes its orbit in only 18 hours. That’s extremely fast.

Since 55 Cancri e is tidally locked with its star, one side constantly faces the sun and the other does not. As a result, the water facing the star is in a supercritical state, causing it to be both a liquid and a gas at the same time.

55 Cancri e has mass of around 7.8 times that of Earth, and it is roughly twice our planet’s size.

1. CoRoT-7b: The Planet That Snows Rocks

Photo credit: ESO/L. Calcada

CoRoT-7b is a bizarre exoplanet because it snows rocks!

Like many other exoplanets, it is tidally locked with its star. The side facing the sun reaches temperatures as high as 2,200 degrees Celsius (4,000 °F), while the other side drops to as low as -210 degrees Celsius (-350 °F).

Lava on the star side is heated so much that it evaporates much like water does on our planet. This creates large stone clouds that later condense on the relatively cooler side of the planet, where it rains large rocks. If we could survive the extreme temperatures of this planet, it would be a sight to see.

On the hotter side, it rains magma. On the colder side, the magma hardens before hitting the ground (much like snow does on Earth). This creates rock snow that would kill you if you happened to be in its presence.

Top image: Artist’s impression of CoRoT-7b. Credit: Video screengrab ESO/L. Calçada.

[Source: Listverse. Edited. Top image added.]

Sunday, 27 August 2017


9 Remote Islands You Probably Didn’t Know Existed
By Stephanie Vermillion,
Mental Floss, 24 August 2017.

Whether it’s because of Instagram’s alluring travel shots or the increasing accessibility of flights, today’s travelers are jet-setting across the globe at record-breaking rates. Previously isolated destinations like Iceland and Antarctica are now welcoming an almost unmanageable amount of tourists.

But fear not, aspiring explorers: Remote, nearly untouched destinations do still exist. With significant prep, planning, and funds, you can try to visit these nine remote, under-the-radar islands.

1. Niue

Image credit: Msdstefan/Wikimedia Commons

Niue isn’t just a remote island - it’s one of the smallest countries on Earth. Located about 1500 miles northeast of New Zealand, between Fiji and the Cook Islands in the South Pacific Ocean, Niue is a tropical paradise with top-notch natural adventures including limestone caving, swimming alongside wild spinner dolphins, and exploring one of the world’s largest raised coral reefs. The island is a self-governing nation in free association with New Zealand, and saw its first inhabitants more than 1000 years ago. Niue is more accessible than most remote islands: Air New Zealand offers weekly flights to Niue’s Hanan International Airport.

2. Bouvet Island

Image credit: François Guerraz/Wikimedia Commons

The uninhabited, volcanic Bouvet Island is located 1600 miles southwest of Cape Town, South Africa - and almost any other inhabited land mass - making it one of Earth’s most remote islands. Discovered by French naval officer Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier in 1739, the island was claimed by the UK in 1825, and then claimed by its current occupant, Norway, in 1928. Today, the island, which was the setting of 2004 film Alien vs. Predator, is considered a nature reserve; its residents include fur seals and penguins. Bouvet Island is accessible by select cruise ships, but according to Polar Cruises, landing at Bouvet Island is so unpredictable they allocate two days (days 13 and 14 of the typical itinerary) to actually make it.

3. Tristan Da Cunha

Image credit: Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons

Another remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean, Tristan da Cunha is a hop, skip, and a one-week, 1750-mile boat ride from South Africa. The island is a dependency of the British overseas territory Saint Helena, and was discovered in 1506 by a Portuguese sailor, Tristão da Cunha, but the waters were so rough he couldn’t even land his ship. With a population of 275 residents (and a ban on new residents), Tristan da Cunha is the world’s most remote inhabited island. Residents are primarily Christian and farming is the main source of income. Getting to Tristan da Cunha is anything but easy; travel is done entirely by ship or expedition cruise.

4. Bear Island

Image credit: Gary Bembridge/Wikimedia Commons

Part of Norway's Svalbard archipelago, Bear Island (Bjørnøya) is a 110-square-mile nature reserve located halfway between Norway and Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard group. Bear Island’s terrain is rough and rugged, with near-vertical cliffs, sea caves, strong winds, and few protected bays for docking boats. While the island has no human residents, it’s home to an enormous variety of seabird colonies. Polar bears visit on rare occasion. Similar to most uninhabited islands, getting to Bear Island is tough - but these three brothers show it can be done. They hitched a ride with a cargo ship and spent two months surfing the isolated, icy waters.

5. North Sentinel Island

Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory

On North Sentinel Island, 750 miles from Myanmar in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, you can’t snap selfies or binge-watch Game of Thrones. The Sentinelese tribe, considered one of the world's last uncontacted peoples, have remained cut off from the rest of the world for 60,000 years. That means no Internet, no HBO, and, as a handful of unfortunate travelers have discovered, no outside visitors. Dubbed “the hardest place to visit on Earth,” the Sentinelese greet visitors to the island with spears and arrows. Researchers observing by helicopter are shot at with arrows and stones.

For that reason, little is known about the Sentinelese tribe. Here’s what we do know: They typically eat coconuts, fish, turtles, and small birds; they survived the 2004 tsunami, and the entire population could be wiped out by disease if they come in contact with outsiders (which has become an issue over the past 10 years). Can you visit North Sentinel Island? Out of respect for the tribe and for your own life, the answer is probably no.

6. Ittoqqortoomiit, Greenland

Image credit: Hannes Grobe/Wikimedia Commons

While not technically an island, Ittoqqortoormiit - one of the most remote parts of the already remote island of Greenland - is covered by ice and snow for nine months of the year. In size, Ittoqqortoormiit is approximately as large as Great Britain, but in population? Just 450 souls. The town is filled with colorful wooden houses and offers plenty of Arctic scenery. In summer, icebergs float down nearby Scoresby Sund, the longest fjord on earth. Ittoqqortoormiit is accessible by cruise ships or by air, with two weekly flights from Iceland and West Greenland.

7. Hans Island

Image credit: Toubletap/Wikimedia Commons

Though it has no natural resources - really, it's just a barren slab of rock - Canada and Denmark are constantly “battling” to claim this half-square-mile territory, which is located between Ellesmere Island and northern Greenland. The island is named for Hans Hendrik, a Greenlandic hunter and explorer who joined several 19th-century British and American expeditions to the far north. Fortunately, the current battle for control of Hans Island requires no ammo, weapons, or injuries. In perhaps the friendliest fight ever, the Canadian and Danish militaries regularly wage a “whiskey war” - leaving a bottle of Danish snaps or Canadian whiskey and their country’s flag atop Hans Island for the other country’s military to find. Can you visit Hans Island? Perhaps, but given its size and lack of amenities, there are few (if any) actual tours out there.

8. Socotra Island

Image credit: blackseav/Wikimedia Commons

Described as “the most alien place on earth,” Socotra Island has 800 rare species of flora and fauna, including several that are up to 20 million years old. One-third of Socotra’s species are found only on the island, making it the Indian Ocean’s answer to the Galapagos. The 80-mile-long island is part of Yemen, and despite its listing as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, it still remains off most travelers’ radar. It’s home to 50,000 residents who reside in the archipelago’s main cities like Hadibu and Qalansiyah. Most visitors arrive to Socotra via Yemenia Airway and Felix Airways; a stopover in Yemen (about 240 miles away) is required. Travelers can also arrive by sea, but because the island receives two annual monsoons and suffers from offshore piracy, air travel is the way to go.

9. Longyearbyen, Svalbard

Image credit: Mateusz War/Wikimedia Commons

The world’s northernmost town with a significant population, Longyearbyen is located on the Arctic island of Spitsbergen in Svalbard. Longyearbyen’s winters get pretty frigid - 12° F is the usual high - and all houses are built on stilts to avoid sinking and sliding when the island's top layer of permafrost melts in summer. In terms of tourism, Svalbard offers impeccable opportunities to view the aurora borealis, not to mention one-of-a-kind views of the native reindeer, polar bears, walruses, foxes, seabirds, and whales. The island has a few relatively inexpensive accommodations, and direct flights are available from Oslo and Tromsø, Norway.

Top image: Socotra Island. Credit: blackseav/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Mental Floss. Edited. Top image and some links added.]

Saturday, 26 August 2017


10 Strangest Beaches In The World
By Ben Gazur,
Listverse, 26 August 2017.

Everyone loves a trip to the beach. The warmth of the Sun on your skin, the fresh air blowing off the sea, the soft sand between your toes, the glowing waves, the chunks of ice, and the hot springs are what make a holiday special.

You probably weren’t expecting to read some of the items in that last sentence, but not all beaches are the same. Some have very unique qualities. Here are ten of the most unusual beaches on Earth to plan your next holiday around.

10. Hidden Beach

Algar de Benagil in Portugal is one of the highlights of the Algarve coast. Someone walking by on the cliffs above might notice the hiss and rush of waves but not know where the sound is coming from. Getting closer, they will see a fence which surrounds a gaping hole. Only if they peer down into the hole will they see the hidden beach beneath.

Algar de Benagil is a natural grotto worn into the rock of the cliffs by the action of the tides. In the arched space left behind, a beach has formed. The hole in the roof of the cave acts as an oculus which lets daylight in to the secluded, sandy beach. Since the only access to the grotto is from the sea, you’ll have to brave the waves to enter between the rocks which guard the entrance if you want to visit.

9. Black Sand And Chunks Of Ice

Iceland is a volcanic island in the North Atlantic. Because it is made of volcanic rock, it has many beaches which reflect the color of the rock they are worn from. Black sand can be found in many places. Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is different; here, the black sands are dotted with chunks of diamond-clear glacial ice.

Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon is attached to the sea by Iceland’s shortest river, a mere 1,500 meters (4,900 ft) long. The beach may look ancient and otherworldly, but it only formed in the mid-1930s as the glacier Breioamerkurjokull retreated. It is from the glacier that the brilliant lumps of ice on the beach come. The lagoon is still growing, and growing faster each year, as the glacier melts. The black sand of the beach is what remains of the volcanic rocks, pulverized under the immense weight of the glacier.

8. Hot Water Beach

Why do you take a bucket and spade to the beach? Most people would say to build sandcastles. In one area of New Zealand, you might get a very different answer. On the Coromandel Peninsula, people will say that they need them to dig their own hot water spa.

Hot Water Beach has one of the most literal geographic names in the world. When the tide goes out, water can be seen bubbling up from the sand. This water is hot. An underground river is warmed by geothermal heat that comes close to the surface here.

As soon as the tide is out, visitors flock to the sand, some with spades which can be rented from a local cafe, and begin digging pools. The cold seawater retreats, and the pools fill with the hot water that gives the beach its name. Here, beachgoers can wallow in the natural spas. Then the tide comes in and washes all the pools away, leaving the beach flat for the next batch of visitors with their spades.

7. Bioluminescent Beaches

Bioluminescent beaches can crop up almost anywhere. Some plankton and algae can glow with their own light - called bioluminescence. Because it takes energy for them to glow, they only produce light in certain conditions. When these conditions are met, they can light up an entire beach.

Some beaches have fairly regular bioluminescence at predictable times if you want to see this natural wonder. By day, the depressingly named Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico looks a slightly sludgy brown. At night, swimmers and kayakers can see dinoflagellates scintillating with blue light, their motion provoking the organisms to light up. In the Maldives during the autumn months, when the Moon is low, minuscule crustaceans produce a blue glow to help attract mates. Because they are larger than most algae and plankton, they sprinkle the sands with tiny dots of light.

Some algae and plankton produce their light when put under pressure. Walking on a beach covered in them can leave a trail of glowing footprints behind.

6. An Inland Beach

The very least you can say about most beaches is that they are beside the sea. Gulpiyuri beach in Spain bucks that trend by being inland. It’s only 100 meters (330 ft) from the sea, but it’s still cut off from it by high rocks and cliffs. Yet as the tide comes in on the sea beyond, the sand of this hidden beach is covered by water, too. How can such a tiny body of water be tidal?

The solution is a series of caves and channels that have formed in the rocks that connect Gulpiyuri to the sea beyond. The tiny beach was formed in the last Ice Age, and its name means “Circle of Water.” Gulpiyuri is sometimes called the world’s smallest beach, which may well be true. It is certainly surprising to find a beach in the middle of green field. At high tide, it is just about possible to swim at Gulpiyuri, but if you want to enjoy the sand, you should go at low tide and just wade in the knee-high sea.

5. The Disappearing Sea

When the tide goes out, beaches become great places to walk, run, or play sports on the sand. It’s still nice to hear the sea nearby, though, to remind you where you are. In Chandipur in India, twice a day with the low tide, the sea entirely disappears.

Due to the unusually flat seabed which comes up to the shore, the low tide makes the sea recede by up to 5 kilometers (3.1 mi). The huge expanse of sand is used by locals and tourists for walks, bike rides, and even car journeys all the way out to the now-distant ocean. The exposed seabed is also rich in red crabs and other sea creatures, which twice a day find themselves gawped at by humans as they are cut off from the sea by kilometers of sand. The sight of the disappearing ocean is being used to attract tourists to the area. Just be sure you know the tide times, or you might find yourself suddenly 5 kilometers out at sea.

4. Shell Beach

Searching out seashells on the beach can be a good way to get children to pass the time. On Shell Beach in Australia, however, you should probably set them to the task of finding something other than seashells. A 70-kilometer (43 mi) stretch of the coast is covered in a layer of cockle shells up to 10 meters (33 ft) deep.

Trillions of cockle shells have built up in the area over the ages. The tide will eventually break them down into fine, sandy particles, but for the moment, the shells remain intact. In the past, locals mined the shells to turn them into building materials, though the beach is now a World Heritage Site and used for tourism as opposed to construction. The area also has hypersaline water. The extra salt makes it easy for visitors to float.

3. Glass Beach

Usually the last thing you want to see on a beach is broken glass. Some places, however, owe their uniqueness to the thoughtlessness of humans. Fort Bragg, California, has a beach covered in sparkling pebbles of sea-polished glass. For decades, the local communities dumped their unwanted goods, even cars, beside the sea. While organic things decayed, and metal either rusted or was taken away, broken glass built up and was tumbled by the waves into smooth lumps. The beach now is protected by law, and the iconic glass cannot be removed by visitors.

Other places around the world also have high concentrations of sea glass thanks to dumping by people. Ussuri Bay in Siberia is home to glassmaking factories which dumped their mistakes into the sea. Now, the beach is a colorful mix of stones and sea glass.

2. Parrotfish Poop

What could be more romantic than walking hand-in-hand with your loved one over a gleaming, white, sandy beach? Maybe you lie in the sand and let it run through your fingers and muse on where so much beauty came from. Few people would imagine that all the dazzling sand around them is the product of fish poop.

Parrotfish live in reefs and feed by gnawing on the coral. The fish are after the algae that live on the reef and cannot digest the calcium carbonate their hard beaks break off to get at them. Teeth in the fishes’ throats crush the tough calcium carbonate, and when it passes out of the digestive tract, it is fine like sand. A single parrotfish can produce up to 360 kilograms (800 lb) of sand each year. Multiply that by thousands of fish and thousands of years, and you get those highly sought-after white beaches.

1. Dragon Egg Beach

New Zealand’s amazing natural landscape has made it a favorite location for filming fantasy movies, as it has sights found nowhere else on Earth. Dragon Egg Beach may sound like something out of Game of Thrones, but it is a real place and a popular tourist destination.

There is a stretch of Koekohe Beach that is dotted with large, spherical boulders. These Moeraki boulders formed 60 million years ago from concretions of mud, clay, and calcite. The boulders formed underground and thus were not smoothed by the motion of the waves. They have only recently been washed out of the cliffs above, from which they roll down to the beach. The boulders are full of erratic cracks, which, once exposed, can break open to give the boulders the look of hatching eggs.

Local Maori legend has the boulders being formed when they first sailed to their new home. One of their canoes was wrecked, and as it sank, baskets and gourds were thrown overboard. The hull of the canoe became the reef that surrounds the beach, while the jettisoned goods became the Moeraki boulders.

Top image: Benagil Cave, Algarve, Portugal. Credit: Bruno Carlos/Wikimedia Commons.

[Source: Listverse.]