Monte Kali - Mountain of Table Salt

Monte Kali is an unusual landmark in the small town of Heringer in eastern Hesse, Germany. It’s a spoil heap containing nothing but sodium chloride or common table salt, which is a byproduct of potash mining. For over a hundred years, potash mining has been a major industry in the region. It started with the opening of Wintershall potash works, which began mining in 1903, and today is the world’s biggest potash mine with an operational area about the size of Greater Munich’s.

Potash mining produces a mixture of potash and sodium chloride, with potassium content between 20% and 35%. Thus, for every ton of potash recovered, several tons of sodium chloride is produced. This is dumped at several sites around the region. The dumps contain up to 96% sodium chloride.

Monte Kali began growing in 1973, and it’s where the K+S chemical company dumps sodium chloride. The heap rises over 200 meters above the surrounding land, and as of January 2014, covered an area of 93 hectares. It contains as approximately 188 million tonnes of salt, with another 900 tonnes being added every hour and 6.4 million tonnes a year.

Lying next to the border with the state of Thuringia, Monte Kali towers over Heringen and is a popular attraction. Locals refer to it as “Kalimanjaro” — a play of words between Kali (shorthand for Kalisalz, German for "potash") and the famous volcanic peak Mount Kilimanjaro. More than 10,000 visitors climb the artificial mountain every year.

But Monte Kali and other spoil heaps in the region are environmentally destructive. An enormous amount of salt seeps into the ground polluting the soil, rivers and groundwater. The surrounding soil has become virtually barren and only a few halophyte plants resistant to salt can grow there. The Werra river too has become inhospitable to freshwater organisms.


The Mysterious Marree Man

Etched into the dry sand of Australia’s barren outback is the world’s largest geoglyph, known as “Marree Man,” an enormous figure of an Aboriginal man hunting birds or wallabies with a throwing stick. Unlike other anthropomorphic geoglyphs found around the world, which were constructed by ancient civilizations, Marree Man was carved into the landscape only 16 years ago. However, its very existence presents one of the greatest mysteries Australia has ever seen; the geoglyph is so large that it is viewable from space, yet not a single witness can attest to its creation and to this day, its creator and the reason for its construction remain unknown.

The Marree Man geoglyph lies on a plateau of arid land, approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of the tiny township of Marree (population = 60) in South Australia. Trevor Wright, a charter pilot, was flying between the townships of Marree and Coober Pedy on June 26, 1998, when he spotted the towering figure in the landscape below.

The desolate road to Marree, close to where the famous geoglyph known as “Marree Man” was discovered.

The figure is 4.2 kilometers (2.6 miles) tall with a perimeter of 15 by 28 kilometers (9.3 by 17.4 miles). At the time of discovery, the outline was 30 centimeters (12 inches) deep and up to 35 meters (114 feet) wide. Surveyors speculate that the figure was made by bulldozer and could have taken weeks to complete, yet no one claims to have seen or heard a thing. Only one track led into and out of the site, but no footprints or tire marks were discernible, and a thorough police investigation conducted at the time came up with nothing.

Marree Man, South Australia, June 28, 1998.

Puzzling Clues
Not long after its discovery, several press releases were sent to the media from an anonymous source. A number of features of the writing seemed to point to a foreign author. For a start, the letter quoted measurements in miles, yards, and inches, instead of in the metric system, which is used in Australia. Furthermore, a number of phrases and names, such as “Queensland Barrier Reef” and “local Indigenous Territories,” are not terms used by Australians.

Adding to the mystery, a handful of peculiar items were found in a small pit at the site, including a satellite photo of the figure, a jar containing a small flag of the United States, and a note which referred to the Branch Davidians, a cult group that was based on a property near Waco, Texas, which was raided in 1993, leading to the death of the cult leader David Koresh, as well as 82 other Branch Davidian followers.

In January, 1999, officials found a small plaque buried close to the nose of the figure. It was an American flag with an imprint of the Olympic rings and a quote from “The Red Centre” by H. H. Finlayson, which read: “In honour of the land they once knew. His attainments in these pursuits are extraordinary; a constant source of wonderment and admiration.”

The quote came from a page that describes the hunting of wallabies with throwing sticks and contained photographs of hunters that looked similar to the Marree Man.

Investigators tried, unsuccessfully, to piece together this odd collection of clues. However, some suggested that they may have all been planted as red herrings, to divert attention away from the real creator.

An illustration showing the outline of Marree Man by Lisa Thurston, 2005. 

Marree Man Theories
Rumours were quick to spread around the tiny town of Marree. Some suggested that the creation of the geoglyph was a stunt pulled by a local scenic flight operator, who served to profit from the tourism generated by its discovery. Indeed, local charter planes found themselves working overtime to meet the demand for joy rides to see the spectacular figure on the ground below.

Other theories began circulating that Marree Man was the work of extraterrestrials or a warning to politician Pauline Hanson regarding racist comments made about Australian Aborigines.

A more plausible theory is that it was crafted by Bardius Goldberg, an Australian artist, who had expressed interest in creating a work visible from space. When questioned about it, he would neither confirm nor deny that he had created the Marree Man. Goldberg passed away before this theory could be fully investigated.

The giant geoglyph of the Marree Man was quick to become an icon of the small South Australian township and a popular tourist destination, but the famous carving can now barely be seen. While the site has never been accessible to the general public as it falls on Native title lands, the geoglyph is slowly fading through natural erosion. It is only a matter of time before the famous figure disappears forever, taking the secrets of its creation along with it.


The Dark Hedges aka Game of Thrones’ Kingsroad

Every natural wonder is unique in its own way, so is the Dark Hedges in County Antrim’s Bregagh Road, Northern Ireland. What’s special about that long, dreamy tree-tunnel? It was a sole family project! Wonderful, isn’t it?

The Backstory
The Stuart family planted those beech trees along the both sides of the road leading to their Georgian mansion known as the Gracehill House in the eighteenth century. The mansion, which has been currently transformed into a golf club, was built at the end of the road. With the passage of time, the road has been turned into one of the most photographed natural phenomenon in Northern Ireland.

It is amazing that the whim of a single family has eventually turned into the center of attractions of thousands of travelers though it’s a sure bet that the Stuart family had not have the slightest idea that their driveway would garner so much attention in future.

Kingsroad in Game of Thrones
The magnificent sight has been used as a location in HBO’s widely popular series ‘Game of Thrones’ where the road has been filmed as the “King’s Road”. The series features the road in the first episode of its Second Season where Arya Stark (played by Maisie Williams), disguised as a boy, escaped from King’s Landing with Hot Pie, Gendry, Yoren, and others in a cart to join the Night’s Watch. They were seen travelling north on the King’s Road.

Now, thousands of tourists each year flock together near the village of Armoy to watch the intertwined line of Beech trees curve in crazy cool ways, leading to Stuart manor. Northern Ireland has started promoting the sight in their tourism campaigns since the late 1990s.

The Supernatural Grey Lady
The intertwined trees definitely look mesmerizing but they also appear a bit spooky, especially at dusk and night. In fact, rumors are there that a ‘Grey Lady’ haunts the Dark Hedges! She appears to walk down the thin strips of the winding road beneath the ancient trees. The silent lady quietly glides along the roadside at dusk and gets vanished after passing the last tree of the road.

The Haunting Charm of the Picturesque Sight
At the first glance, the road will not look like something worthy of so much attention and popularity because it is just a small road surrounded by farmer’s fields. But, once you take a good look, you will understand why this eerily beautiful road has been the center of attention of curious tourists, photographers, and painters for decades. The boughs of the trees stretch from the both sides and have been intertwined with each other to form a canopy, forming the scenic and haunting natural cathedral.

Photographers from all across the world visit this road each year to capture its beauty in different scenarios. Since this day, this mesmerizing tree-tunnel has been captured under bright sunlight, golden sunsets, amid thick fog and even snowstorms. This natural wonder is also a favorite wedding destination where couples like to take their romantic wedding photos.


Cruise Ship On a Cliff in South Korea

Perched high above the shores on the costal cliff in Jeongdongjin, a South Korean tourist town known for having the best view of the sunrise, according to the website, is a cruise ship that appears to have been mysteriously transported from the sea. That is Sun Cruise Resort & Yacht - the world’s first on-land cruise themed resort.

The hotel measures 165 metres in length, 45 metres in height, and 30,000 tons in weight. The Sun Cruise Resort has 211 rooms, both condominium and hotel style, a Western and a Korean restaurant, revolving sky lounge, a night club, a karaoke, and sea water pool. It also offers six state-of-the-art function rooms for seminars and workshops.

The resort was designed to give tourists a realistic feel of a cruise ship without the motion sickness. Overhead speakers play sounds of crashing waves around the ship and even bird calls. Opened in 2002, it quickly became one of the most popular attractions in South Korea. Any why not? You can enjoy the whole experience for only £45.12 a night (80,000 South Korean Won).


Mysterious Phenomenon of Bamboo Flowering

Bamboos are the fastest-growing plants on Earth. A typical bamboo grows as much as 10 centimeter in a single day. Certain species grow up to a meter during the same period, or about 1 millimeter every 2 minutes. You can actually see the plant grow in front of your eyes. Most species of bamboo reach maturity in just 5 to 8 years. Compare this to other popular hard woods that barely grow an inch in a week. Trees such as oak, can take up to 120 years to reach maturity. But when it comes to flowering, bamboos are probably one of the slowest plants in the world.

The flowering of bamboos is an intriguing phenomenon, because it is a unique and very rare occurrence in the plant kingdom. Most bamboos flower once every 60 to 130 years. The long flowering intervals remain largely a mystery to many botanists.

Bamboo flowering in spring in a garden in Roskilde, Denmark.

These slow flowering species exhibit another strange behavior — they flower all at the same time, all over the world, irrespective of geographic location and climate, as long as they were derived from the same mother plant. Most bamboos are exactly that — they are ‘division’ taken from the same mother plant at some point. These divisions were re-divided over time and shared across the world. Although the divisions are now geographically in different locations, they still carry the same genetic makeup. So when a bamboo plant in, say, North America flower, the same plant in Asia will do the same at roughly the same time. It is as if the plants carry an an internal clock ticking away until the preset alarm goes off simultaneously. This mass flowering phenomenon is called gregarious flowering.

According to one hypothesis, mass flowering increases the survival rate of the bamboo population. The hypothesis argues that by flooding the area with fruit, there will still be seeds left over even if predators eat their fill. By having a flowering cycle longer than the lifespan of the rodent predators, bamboos can regulate animal populations by causing starvation during the period between flowering events. The hypothesis still does not explain why the flowering cycle is 10 times longer than the lifespan of the local rodents.

Bamboo flowers and fruit. 

Once a bamboo species has reached its life expectancy, had flowered and produced seeds, the plant dies, wiping out entire swaths of forests over a several year period. One theory is that seed production requires an enormous amount of energy which stresses the bamboo plant to such an extent that they actually die. Another theory suggests that the mother plant dies to make room for the bamboo seedlings.

The mass flowering events also attract predators, mainly rodents. The sudden availability of fruits in huge quantities in the forest brings in a tens of millions of hungry rats who feed, grow and multiply at alarming rates. After they devour the bamboo fruit, the rats start consuming crops — both stored as well as on fields. A bamboo flowering event is almost always followed by famine and disease in nearby villages. In the northeastern India's state of Mizoram, the dreaded event occurs almost like clockwork every 48 to 50 years, when the bamboo species Melocanna baccifera flowers and fruits. The phenomenon, which occurred last in 2006 to 2008, is known in the local language as mautam or "bamboo death."

A black rat munches on corn in a field near Zamuang village in northeastern Mizoram. 

Children captures rats after a bamboo flowering season in Burma. 

The Fargesia nitida, in flower, once in 120 years. 

Bamboo flowering.


These Silica Rocks Resemble Beautiful Natural Scenes

Agate is a crystalized form of silica, made up primarily of chalcedony, a type of quartz that is composed of very fine intergrowths of the minerals quartz and moganite. Agates form primarily in cavities of volcanic rock by the deposition of silica from groundwater that seeps through the rocks. Gradually layers of silicate material build up eventually filling the cavity completely. The layers often have subtle differences in mineral content and impurities giving the agate a banded appearance. This banding gives many agates interesting colors and patterns that make it a popular gemstone. Sometimes these patterns resemble familiar natural scenes such as mountains, skies, rivers and trees. These agates are called “Landscape agates”.

A landscape agate that resembles an ocean with low clouds on the horizon.

A sunset behind trees. 

This agate appears to be a watercolor painting of a country side. Is that a house on the right? 

Another view of the country side. 

An agate resembling carboniferous swamp plants reflected in the murky water. 


10 Extinguished Nopes that You Should Really be Glad are Dead!

Here are 10 extinct nopes that you should really be glad are dead.

1. Carbonemys:

With a name that means “carbon turtle”, what harm could this thing possibly do? Other than being carnivorous, being the size of a Volkswagen, having a head bigger than a football, and a razor sharp beak that can slice through other animals with ease, nothing much.

2. Arthropleura:

Perhaps one of the more well-known nopes in history, Arthropleura was basically a giant millipede the size of a car. It scuttled around ancient Carboniferous forests eating rotting plant matter. It was vegetarian, mostly. I mean, who can’t resist a little bite of lizard once in a while if you’re a giant millipede the size of a car?

3. Brontoscorpio:

Scorpions are badasses, considering that they have existed in one form or another for over 400 million years. Another thing that makes scorpions badasses is that they grew large, like really really large. Brontoscorpio was a meter long with a stinger the size of a light bulb. But it was a sea scorpion with gills, so it couldn’t have gone on land, right? Nope. It was one of the first animals to crawl out of the sea.

4. Helicoprion:

Sharks have been around the earth for at least 400 million years and have survived a lot of extinctions in one form or the other. Helicoprion survived the biggest mass extinction in history (Permian–Triassic extinction event). Up until 2013, the only known fossils of this genus on record were their teeth, which were arranged in a “tooth-whorl” strongly reminiscent of a circular saw.It was not until the discovery of the skull of a related genus of eugeneodont, Ornithoprion, that it was realized that the tooth-whorl was in the lower jaw. The tooth-whorl represented all of the teeth produced by that individual in the lower jaw, in that as the individual grew, with the older, smaller teeth being moved into the center of the whorl by the appearance of larger, newer teeth.Fossils have been found in the Ural Mountains, Wandagee Mountain of Western Australia, China, and Western North America, including the Canadian Arctic, Mexico, Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Texas, Utah, and California.

5. Anomalocaris:

Earth’s first superpredator, Anomalocaris is the smallest animal on this list. Growing only to the size of your arm, however, does make this “abnormal shrimp” (that’s what its name means) rather creepy. It was also the largest of its species known as the anomalocarids.

6. Plumonoscorpius:

Great, another giant scorpion. Again, the badasses have returned to their massive sizes in the oxygen rich atmosphere of the Carboniferous period. Growing to the size of its ancient uncle, Brontoscorpio, it had a smaller stinger, but it was every bit as voracious. Thankfully for fish, Plumonoscorpius was fully terrestrial.

7. Cameroceras:

Imagine a kraken. Now put it in an armoured ice cream cone. You get Cameroceras. This giant ancient ancestor of squids and octopi was a slow mover due to its 12 meter long shell. Nonetheless, it was powerful enough to take down sea scorpions and ancient predatory fish.

8. Kaprosuchus:

Crocodiles are pretty scary on their own right. They hunt in rivers and lakes, staying in the shallows to grab prey from the shore, but they rarely venture far from water. Enter Kaprosuchus, whose name means “boar crocodile” because of its long chompers. This thing was an all-terrain, six meter long killing machine. It could do what any crocodile could do. Go in the water, wait, attack, etc., but it also could run on land. So any living thing living in Cretaceous Sahara was fair game. Oh, and it could also kill dinosaurs.

9. Titanoboa:

Snakes these days usually are pretty small. The largest, by mass, is the green anaconda. The longest is the reticulated python. Titanoboa would have eaten them as a snack. Measuring over 12 meters in length, it was the size of T. Rex and its diet usually consisted of giant crocodiles and turtles that shared its territory. Thankfully for Tyrannosaurus, Titanoboa lived right after the dinosaurs’ extinction, ruling the earth just as the dinosaurs did before it.

10. Livyatan melvillei:

This giant whale would have made even Megalodon sharks cry. Megalodon was a giant shark with teeth the size of your hand. This whale trumps it. For starters Livyatan was named after the Biblical monster, the one that even God himself had to kill. Livyatan had teeth over a foot long. It grew larger than Megalodon. It hunted anything like baleen whales, beaked whales, dolphins, porpoises, sharks, sea turtles, seals and sea birds.