April is Earth Month, and in anticipation of Earth Day (April 22nd) here is a list of 5 of the most amazing, well known natural phenomenons on this beautiful planet we inhabit. If you were looking for some more obscure natural wonders, I've got that covered too!
As you will see from this rundown, nature is an incredible thing and, despite man's best efforts to outshine and tame nature, it is still nature that rules us. Every time you see one of these incredible features you can't help but be reminded that despite us being the dominant species on this planet, nature and the Universe will always dwarf us, and will go on creating spectacular masterpieces long after all our relics have disappeared.
It was incredibly tough narrowing the list down to just five, and because there were so many lesser known places I couldn't fit on I have decided to make a bit of a series of articles, this one is focused on very well known landscapes and landmarks. This top five covers 4 continents, so you need to be well travelled to see them all! The following are in no particular order, so let's get to it!
5. Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls is the collective name for 3 large waterfalls located on the international border between Canada and the USA (specifically Ontario and New York). Combined, these 3 waterfalls span 1039 metres and produce the highest flow rate of any waterfall in the world, which is up to 168,000 cubic metres every single minute! The falls were formed during the end of the Wisconsin Ice Age, when receding glaciers caused a large build up of water (this water now forms the Great Lakes), and en route to the Atlantic Ocean the water eroded bedrock and formed Niagara Falls. These falls are nowhere near the tallest waterfalls in the world, but their width and colossal power make them one of the most impressive natural features in the world. At it's highest point, the water from Niagara Falls must drop 53 metres before reaching the bottom. To put this into perspective, the tallest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls, has a height of 979 metres. But despite this shortcoming in the height department, Niagara Falls is still the most famous waterfall on the planet and is a must have on anyone's bucket list!
4. Mount Everest
Located in the midst of the Himalayan Mountain Range, Mount Everest is the highest mountain on Earth, standing tall at 8,858 metres above sea level. Mount Everest is divided between Nepal and Tibet, with the international border between Nepal and China running directly across the summit point of Everest. The mountain is formed by plate tectonics, where the Indo-Australian plate and the Eurasian plate collided, causing the geology of the area to be crumpled and forced upwards, forming the Himalayas. This collision is ongoing, and it is thought that Everest is growing at a rate of 4 millimetres per year. Due to the mountain's prestige, it attracts all manner of experiences and capable climbers from all over the world. By the end of 2010 there had been 5,104 ascents of Mount Everest, with 219 fatalities to remind the amateur climber of the dangers that lie on the highest mountain on Earth.
3. Great Barrier Reef
3rd on our list of 5 must-see natural phenomenons is the Great Barrier Reef. Located off the coast of Queensland, Australia the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system on Earth, stretching an enormous 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) along the coastline of Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is so large, in fact, that it can be seen from space and is the biggest single structure constructed by living organisms in the world. Due to a growing concern over the well being of the coral system due to tourism, fishing, climate change and other environmental factors, it was named a World Heritage Site in 1981 and is enjoying increasing protection over the years. Unfortunately, this has not stopped the degradation sufficiently and a recent study suggested that the Great Barrier Reef has lost almost half it's coral since 1985.
2. Grand Canyon
Formed by the Colorado River in Arizona eroding bedrock over at least 17 million years, the Grand Canyon is a spectacle that anyone would love to view. Whilst it is not the deepest canyon in the world (that record belongs to Indus Gorge at 7,120 metres), just like Niagara Falls, the sheer scale of this feature in the landscape make it an awe-inspiring phenomenon to gaze upon. Although nowhere near the deepest, it is still classed as one of the largest at 277 miles long, 10 miles wide and 1,800 metres deep. The Grand Canyon is known around the world for it's overwhelming size, beautiful landscape and viewing accessibility, and this is why it makes the list of natural phenomenons you must see!
1. Aurora Borealis
At number 1 on our list of must-see natural phenomenons is my personal favourite, Aurora Borealis. More commonly referred to as The Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis is a phenomenon that occurs when charged particles caused by solar radiation enter the atmosphere and come into contact with atmospheric elements such as nitrogen and oxygen. This causes the pulsating, colourful light display in the sky that we call Aurora Borealis. The phenomenon is visible at high latitudes in the northern hemisphere, and well known viewing places are Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Alaska; but during particularly active solar flares and geomagnetic storms they have been known to be visible as far south as the United Kingdom, most recently in March 2014. Scandinavian folklore claims that the Northern Lights are visual representations of spirits passing into heaven, and the hissing sound that commonly accompanies the lights are the voices of the deceased.
So there you have it, I hope you enjoyed reading about these amazing natural features and phenomenons, I certainly enjoyed writing about them. I recommend to you all that you add some of these places to your must-see list, the feeling when gazing on such incredibly feats of nature is overwhelming, emotional and awe-inspiring. It can make you feel utterly insignificant yet complete your soul at the same time. It's a hard feeling to put into words! Look out for my upcoming features on more beautiful natural scenes.