The Salt Lake Tuz Golu, Turkey

Lake Tuz, or Tuz Golu in Turkish, is a saline lake located in a huge area in the arid central plateau of Turkey, about 105 km northeast of Konya. It is the second largest lake in Turkey. The lake is fed by two major streams, groundwater, and surface water, but has no outlet, because of which it has high saline content. For most of the year, the lake is very shallow, barely a meter deep, especially during the dry summer months when the water evaporates in huge quantities leaving a tick crust of salt on the surface up to 30 centimeters thick. This salt is harvested, refined and sold all over Turkey. In fact, the 63% of the salt consumed in Turkey comes from Lake Tuz.

Like most saline lakes, Lake Tuz is a breeding ground of halophiles such as the microalgae Dunaliella salina, that in right conditions of high salinity and light intensity, turns red due to the production of protective carotenoids in the cells. These pigment color the lake blood red. The lake also attracts large colonies of birds such as greater flamingo, greater white-fronted goose and lesser kestrel.


The 3 Billion Years Old Klerksdorp Spheres of Ottosdal

In the small town of Ottosdal, in central North West Province of South Africa, miners working in pyrophyllite mines have been digging up mysterious metal spheres known as Klerksdorp Spheres. These dark reddish brown, somewhat flattened spheres range in size from less than a centimeter to ten centimeters across, and some of them have three parallel grooves running around the equator. The most striking examples have the uncanny appearance of being something manufactured. But here is the kicker — these metallic objects have been dated to 3 billion years old, a time when the Earth was too young to host intelligent life capable of creating these spheres. No wonder, these objects have attracted attention and speculation from not only the scientific community but various fringe groups including creationists and advocates of "ancient astronauts theory”.

Klerksdorp Spheres are often classified as “Out-of-Place Artifacts”, a term coined by an American naturalist and cryptozoologist to indicate objects of historical, archaeological, or paleontological interest found in a very unusual or seemingly impossible context that could challenge conventional historical chronology by being "too advanced" for the level of civilization that existed at the time. These objects claim to provide evidences that suggest presence of intelligent beings well before humans were supposed to exist. Klerksdorp Spheres, however, aren’t out-of-place. Neither they are mysterious.

These spheres are actually concretion formed by the precipitation of volcanic sediments, ash, or both, after they accumulated 3 billion years ago. Concretions are often ovoid or spherical in shape because of which they are commonly mistaken to be dinosaur eggs, or extraterrestrial debris or human artifacts, in this case.

Examples of calcareous concretions, which exhibit equatorial grooves, found in Schoharie County, New York. 

The latitudinal ridges and grooves exhibited by Klerksdorp Spheres are also natural and are known to occur in concretions found elsewhere on earth. Notable examples include "Moqui marbles" found within the Navajo Sandstone of southern Utah, and carbonate concretions found in Schoharie County, New York. Similar concretion as old as 2.8 billion years were also found in Hamersley Group of Australia.

Many false claims have been made regarding these objects. An often repeated claim is that testing by NASA found the spheres to be so precisely balanced that they could have only been made in zero-gravity. Not only there is no record of NASA ever saying that, the objects aren’t spherical at all as evident from these images. Another claim is that the spheres are manufactured of a metal "harder than steel", a statement which is rather meaningless as steel can vary in hardness depending on the type of alloy and treatment.

Specimens of Klerksdorp Spheres are housed in Klerksdorp Museum in Klerksdorp, a city about 70 km away from Ottosdal.

Moqui Marbles, hematite concretions, from the Navajo Sandstone of southeast Utah show similar grooves and shape.

Moeraki Boulders in New Zealand is another example of spherical concretion


Top 10 Highest Bridges in the World

The earth is filled with countless gorges, cliffs and canyons and sometimes man needs to get to the other side real quick. So man learned to build bridges. By itself, a bridge is already a marvel of engineering. Bridges built in places where there aren’t supposed to be any is engineering on a totally different scale.

Here are the top 10 highest bridges in the world based on deck height, or the maximum vertical distance from the deck of the bridge to the ground or water surface it crosses over. There are other bridges currently under construction that may yet break their records, but as for now these are the world’s highest bridges.

10. Beipanjiang River Railway Bridge – 902ft (275m)

Currently the world’s highest railway bridge, the Beipanjiang River Railway Bridge carries the track of the Shibui Railway over the Beipanjiang River in Liupanshui, Guizhou province, China. The Beipanjiang (pronounced Bay-Pan-Gee-Ang) means North Winding River, cuts through some of China’s most breathtaking mountain gorges as it cuts through the northwest end of Guizhou Province to the southwest where it is called the Hongshui He river at the border of Guangxi Province.

9. Royal Gorge Bridge – 955ft (291m)

Located in CaƱon City, Colorado, U.S.A., this bridge supports a road over the Royal Gorge. The drop from the deck is 955 feet to the ground below and the bridge is 938ft (286m) long. It took six months, or between June 1929 and November 1929, and $350,000 to build this bridge. The cost was defrayed after builders put up a tollbooth on each end. One thing most people don’t know about this bridge is that it was not built to facilitate transport. It was intended to generate tourism and it did just that. It was the world’s highest bridge from 1929 until 2001 when the Liuguanghe Bridge in China took that honor. It’s recently under reconstruction following damage due to a wildfire

8. Zhijinghe River Bridge – 965ft (294m)

Connecting the towns of Yesanguan and Dazhiping in Badong County Hubei Province, China, this bridge is also the highest arch bridge in the world. Opened in 2009, this was also the world’s highest tunnel-to-tunnel bridge before 2012 when it lost the record to the Aizhai Bridge. The 1,410ft (430m) long Zhijinghe River Bridge carries the G50 Shanghai–Chongqing Expressway through a tunnel, across the valley of the Zhijinghe River, into another tunnel on the opposite side. Tunnel-to tunnel-bridges are considered somewhat of a thrill ride; drivers or commuters come out of the relative darkness of the tunnel into a bridge over a view, in this case a spectacular one, before being plunged into the darkness of another tunnel again.

7. Liuguanghe Bridge – 974ft (297m)

It was this bridge in Liu Guangzhen, Guizhou, China, that took the record of world’s highest bridge from Royal Gorge Bridge after it opened in 2001, but it also lost that record with the opening of the Beipanjiang River 2003 Bridge in 2003. Named after a nearby town , the bridge is 790 feet (240m) long and supports a road for normal vehicular traffic, in 2008 the toll booths on both ends were finally removed and suddenly tourists started pouring in, leading to the establishment of a small food village on the southeast side. The tourism has also increased the traffic and the bridge and its connecting highways often suffer from traffic jams. The big trucks that use this route over the mountains are not helping the situation any, prompting calls to add two more lanes to the connecting highways. There has been no word if renovations will be carried out.

6. Beipanjiang River 2009 Bridge – 1,043ft (318m)

Not to be confused with the Beipanjiang River 2003 Bridge which will join our list later, the 2009 bridge is part of the of the G60 Shanghai–Kunming Expressway crossing the Beipanjian River. Opened in 2009, the bridge, located at Qinglong, Guizhou Province, China, has a length of 2,087 feet (636m) and a deck height of 1,043ft (318m). It is a suspension bridge supporting a road for normal traffic.

5. Aizhai Bridge – 1,150 ft (350m)

With a length span 3,858 ft (1,176m) and a deck height of 1,150 from the valley below, this bridge in Jishou, Hunan Province, China, is also a tunnel-to-tunnel bridge, and, as mentioned before, somewhat of another thrill ride. It took $208 million to build this bridge, which was started in October 2007 and completed in 2011 ahead of schedule. Commuters and passengers passing the bridge can enjoy the view during the day, but after dark the almost 2,000 lights on the bridge transform it into an attraction, it has been described as akin to a shaft of light bridging two mountains. Now that we have mentioned thrills, in September 2012, the Aizhai Bridge was the site of an international BASE jumping festival where more than 40 jumpers from 13 countries participated.

4. Beipanjiang River 2003 Bridge – 1,201ft (366m)

This became the world’s highest bridge after taking the crown from Liuguanghe Bridge but also lost it to the Hegigio Gorge Pipeline Bridge in 2005. Located in Xingbeizhen, Guizhou Province, China, this suspension bridge has a deck height of 1,201 feet and a length 1,273 ft (388 m). The bridge is an attraction for tourists and convenient parking spaces are available at both sides of the span. The bridge itself has a walkway for foot traffic. To those keeping count, this is the third bridge spanning the Beipanjiang in our list. No other river in the world has three of the world’s highest bridges spanning it. Apparently the government is not through just yet; a fourth crossing is planned for a highway between Kunming and Bijie just near the railway bridge.

3. Balinghe River Bridge – 1,210 ft (370m)

With the height of 1,210 ft the Balinghe River Bridge in Guanling County, Guizhou Province, it third on our list. It was the length of 3,570 ft (1,088m) that builders took into consideration when they built it. The 1,088 meter length span was reportedly to make the bridge lucky. Chinese hold the figure ‘8’ lucky because in Mandarin it sounds like the word for “prosperity.” Opened in 2009, this bridge is part of the G60 Shanghai–Kunming Expressway between Kunming and Guiyang. In July 2012 the Balinghe River Bridge was the location for the 2012 China Bridge Parachuting International Challenge where 30 BASE jumpers from 15 different countries participated in the event.

2. Hegigio Gorge Pipeline Bridge – 1,289ft (393m)

This was the world’s highest bridge from 2005 to after taking the record from the Beipanjiang River 2003 Bridge, but it is relatively unknown perhaps because it neither a supports a road nor a railway but rather a petroleum pipeline. Located deep in the southern highlands of Papua New Guinea, the pipeline bridge was built by the construction company Kellogg Brown & Root to carry petroleum over the deep limestone gorge of the Hegigio River to the refineries of several companies. The entire pipeline itself is 10 miles long from source to refinery but the span that stretches across the Hegigio gorge is only 1,540ft (470m). This is not some bridge people can just go and look at. Permission from one of the companies using the pipeline must be obtained first. This is usually followed by a grueling 435 mile (700 km) trek through harsh jungle terrain. It lost the record in 2009 when the Sidu River Bridge opened.

1. Sidu River Bridge – 1,627 ft (496 m)

With a deck height of 1,627 feet and a length span of 1,627 feet (496m) the Sidu River Bridge, located in Badong County, Hubei, China, is the reigning highest bridge in the world. The area it spans is so remote that when it was built, engineers could not use a helicopter to drag the pilot lines across. They decided to shoot it across one side of the river to the other with a rocket. Without the bridge, travel to Shanghai on the Pacific coast with the cities of Chongqing and Chengdu in the west would take an extra day through dangerous mountain roads, or five hours by river boat which is a safer choice.

This bridge also has the unique distinction of being the only bridge in the world where anything falling from the deck can reach terminal velocity, that is the speed at which a falling object will no longer accelerate, before it hits the bottom.


The Ghost Army That Duped The Nazi Germany

Deception and decoy are part of war strategy. During the Second World War the Allied forces employed dozens of tricks to confuse, mislead or intimidate the German army — from dropping dummy paratroppers to dropping aluminum tinfoil, from faking the death of a fictitious Major William Martin to completely covering up a military aircraft plant. One such deceptive operation that came to light only a few years ago is the so called Ghost Army.

The Ghost Army was a 1,100-man unit officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops whose goals were to impersonate vastly large U.S. Army units to deceive the enemy. The men that made up this secretive unit weren’t your regular soldiers. They were artists, illustrators and sound technicians handpicked for the job from New York and Philadelphia art schools. They didn’t carry M1s and Thompsons, but large inflatable tanks and rubber aircrafts, powerful amplifiers and speakers to mimic the noise created by a large gathering troop and radio equipment to transmit phony messages.

Over the course of the war, the Ghost Army travelled all across Europe staging a sort of “traveling road show of deception” aimed at Hitler’s legions. They staged more than 20 operations where they conjured up phony convoys, phantom divisions and make-believe headquarters to fool the enemy about the strength and location of American units. The Ghost Army is estimated to have saved tens of thousands of soldiers' lives with its deceptions, yet almost no one knew about them. Their existence and their every move were highly classified and remained so for more than 40 years after war ended.

To create the impression of a huge army, the unit would set up inflatable tanks, trucks, artillery and airplanes, and play pre-recorded sounds of armored and infantry units through giant speakers that could be heard up to 15 miles away. Radio operators created phony traffic nets, actors dressed as soldiers hung out at local cafes and spun counterfeit stories for spies to pick up, while another impersonated a major general and drove from town to town in a convoy of jeeps. Sometimes the unit would drive just a couple of trucks in loops to create the illusion of an entire infantry unit being transported. Often the thousand-men-unit would impersonate the presence of twenty to forty thousand men.

Dummy M-4's like this one were the mainstay of Ghost Army visual deceptions. The unit had literally hundreds of these.

One of their biggest performance came towards the end of the war. In March 1945, as the 9th Army prepared to cross the Rhine into Germany, the 23rd was called upon to feign a crossing in a different place to draw German units away from the point of the real attack. More than 600 inflatable tanks and artillery were set up. At night they played the sounds of trucks rolling in. In the daytime they played sounds of heavy construction, as if bridging units were being put together. Artillery fire was mimicked by setting off flash canisters. While the Germans concentrated their effort over a rubber army, the real one successfully made the crossing facing minimum resistance.

After the war, many of the men who served in the unit, went on with their art careers. Some became famous, including fashion designer Bill Blass, painter Ellsworth Kelly and photographer Art Kane. Fewer than 50 of the men are left today. They found recognition after more than seventy years, thanks to a PBS documentary titled The Ghost Army released in 2013, where several of the members were interviewed.

Men assembling an inflatable tank.

This is one of the halftracks equipped for sonic deception. Each carried 800 pounds of audio equipment capable of playing a half hour show from a wire recorder and projecting the sounds as far as 15 miles.

A dummy airplane.


Xe Bang Fai River Cave

Tham Khoun Xe Cave, also known as Xe Bang Fai River Cave, is an immense river cave located in a remote corner of Khammouane Province in central Laos. It is believed to be one of the largest river cave in the world with enormous passages some 120 meters tall and 200 meters wide.

The Xe Bang Fai River originates in the Annam Trung Sun Mountains on the border between Lao and Vietnam and flows across the Nakhai Plateau en route to the Mekong River. The Nakhai Plateau is composed of sandstones and massive carbonates layers which the river had dissolved to create Tham Khoun Xe, a subterranean channel 7 km long.

The cave is well-known to the Lao people who for centuries have fished in the river downstream from the cave exit, and scaled its entrance walls to harvest bird’s nests. The first European exploration were carried out in 1904, and then again in 1905 by French explorer Paul Macey and his team in bamboo rafts. No further attempts at exploration were made for the next ninety years after which, due to reasons unknown, the area was closed off to foreigners. The cave was finally opened with great reluctance in 2005-2006 for western kayakers. Since then, French and North American teams are operating in the area.

The entrance to the cave is a 60-meters tall arch at the base of an imposing limestone amphitheater over 150 meters tall. The river passage on average is 76 meters wide and 53 meters tall, but frequently exceeds 100 meters in width in places. The largest passage widths, the teams discovered, were 200 meters. The cave passage is between 4 to 12 meters deep. Many stalagmites here are more than 20 meters high, and some of the cave pearls seen were 32 cm in diameter.