Spanning across seven continents, our planet is teeming with natural occurrences and wonders. For decades, we have been observing but not knowing why and how such natural phenomenon’s take place. The oddities were observed not with just lakes, oceans and volcanoes, but also animals. Leaving most of us in awe, the world boasts a plethora of natural wonders that are not only amazing, but are rather weird as well. These bizarre natural spectacles are a true testament to Mother Nature’s uncanny ability to amaze even the most seasoned photographers and travelers.
1. Bioluminescent beaches where rare maritime critters paint the water and dot the shorelines with an effervescent blue glow.
Our planet is a downright magical place. For decades, scientists have been observing this natural glow around our planets oceans. The phenomenon, which occurs mainly on tropical waters, is caused by bioluminescent creatures called ostracod crustaceans, which typically emit their blue light for longer than plankton do. Visitors can usually witness the phenomenon at its full glory when the moon is low. These tiny bioluminescent creatures come out to feed at nightfall after spending the day burrowed in the sand.
The beautiful flashes of blue at nightfall are also called “sea sparkle”. The famous Mosquito Bay on the southern tip of Vieques, an island in Puerto Rico, is the brightest bioluminescent location on record — thanks to an abundance of dinoflagellates (tiny glowing marine plants). According to researcher David Gruber, there are at least 6,000 of them per tablespoon of water, making for an otherworldly experience as you move through the balmy bay. (source)
2. Volcanic Lightning, an electrical discharge caused by a volcanic eruption, flashes above erupting volcanoes and light up the sky like a living nightmare.
Volcanic lightning remained a mystery to scientists for decades since the phenomena was hard to study and it rarely occurred. Today, scientists are finally closer to understanding how they are formed. Volcanic lightning has very little to do with tectonic activity and only forms in a volcanic plume. When volcanic ash is emitted by erupting volcanoes, the lightning is formed. The higher the volcanic plume, the higher the chances of lightning occurring within the eruption. The tiny particles that make up a volcanic plume are tightly compressed and when they are ejected into the airy atmosphere aboveground, that is less dense, the change in density contributes to volcanic lightning.
To put things into perspective, when densely packed particles are ejected, they rub against each other, causing friction. These volcanic plumes rub against each other and they become electrically charged. When these charged particles are released into the atmosphere, they become increasingly separated from negatively charged particles. As the separation becomes too great for air to resist the flow of electricity, lightning is formed, connecting the positively and negatively charged particles. (source)
3. Murmurations are mass aerial stunts where thousands of birds swoop and dive in unison. The breathtaking view is in fact a tactic to avoid predators, share information about migration and to stay warm.
Murmurations have been observed for centuries. After the invention of the camera, photographers around the world started recording the phenomena, but had no explanation as to why birds exhibit this unusual behavior. In 1999, a murmuration of more than six million was recorded in Somerset and this led scientists to study as to why it occurs in the first place. The numbers can range from hundreds to thousands and in some cases, hundreds of thousands.
Birds flock together and perform aerial stunts, leaving behind breathtaking views while in search of food. They also know that their strength lies in numbers and by flocking together while changing the shape of their formation, predators such as the peregrine falcon will have a harder time focusing on one subject. This creates a hypnotizing effect, creating a safety net around them. Murmurations occur during the evening as a way to gather together and stay warm as well we exchange information, such as good feeding areas. (source)
4. Trees covered in ghostly spider webs due to millions of tiny spiders or spiderlings spinning out silk filaments to ride air currents in a phenomenon known as “ballooning”.
The scary event has been witnessed by many including countries such as the US, Australia, Great Britain and Pakistan. So, why would spiders turn trees or fields into haunted houses and scare away people? The answer is simple. After a heavy rainfall or flood, little arachnids will escape to higher ground by utilizing a phenomena known as “ballooning”. To ensure their survival, thousands of these little spiders or spiderlings will weave their silk towards the direction of the wind and allow it to be carried to a distant land.
Scientists have observed the silk being carried as far as 0.8 kilometers (0.5 mi) away. Once the silk is latched onto a tree or an array of trees, the spiderlings will make their way towards safety. This phenomena is essential for their survival but also causes panic among locals who witness it. The silk can span up to 30 meters (98 ft) high and can be so strong that it prevents people from walking through them. (source)
5. Fire rainbows are clouds in the sky that look just like a rainbow. They can occur when the sun has risen higher than 58° in the sky.
During the summer, if you’re very lucky, you may notice a cloud in the sky that looks just like a rainbow. The so-called “fire rainbows” are actually known as circumhorizontal arcs and occur when the sun has risen higher than 58° in the sky. The phenomenon is dependent on latitude and weather conditions. Aside from the angle of the sun, the other necessary ingredient for fire rainbows to occur are cirrus clouds. The air is colder in higher altitudes and when the sun is at an angle higher than 58°, the light refracts through the plate-like crystals formed in the clouds; creating the rainbow. (source)
6. Striped Icebergs occur because some layers of ice form in special conditions. Brown, yellow, and even black stripes are caused by sediments picked up along the way when the ice sheet was sliding downhill.
Icebergs are formed when large blocks of ice break off from a glaciers ice shelf and floats in open water. Striped icebergs on the other hand occur when ice is formed from seawater that contains organic matter and minerals. In such cases, it brings a variety of color and texture to the iceberg. When the icebergs float around, the powerful winds and waves sculpt the icebergs, giving it wave like patterns and different colored layers.
Although blue is the most common color, striped icebergs can be blue, green, yellow, black and even brown. Blue stripes appear when crevices are filled with water and they freeze so fast that no bubbles are formed. Green appears because the water that freezes is extremely rich in algae, hence the color. Brown, yellow, and even black stripes are caused by sediments picked up along the way when the ice sheet was sliding downhill. (source)
7. Waves in the sky are formed when two air currents of varying speeds meet in the atmosphere.
The Kelvin Helmholtz cloud or ‘billow cloud’, is a cloud formation that occurs when two air currents of varying speeds meet in the atmosphere. These clouds look like breaking ocean waves, and are named after Lord Kelvin and Hermann von Helmholtz, who studied the physics of the instability that leads to this type of cloud formation. The clouds often form on windy days, when there’s a difference in densities of the air. These are often good indicators of atmospheric instability and the presence of turbulence for aircraft. (source)
8. Great Blue Hole, a naturally formed, large submarine vertical cave is over 990 feet in diameter and 407 feet deep. This is also one of the top ten scuba diving sites in the world.
Located in the center of an atoll called Lighthouse Reef, the Great Blue Hole is the world’s largest sinkhole. Light turquoise-colored waters of a lagoon surrounds the Great Blue Hole, and for centuries, what lies beneath the sinkhole remained a mystery. In 2018, scientists utilized a specially designed submarine and made the journey to the bottom of the hole. There, they discovered a set of tracks. After closer observation, they realized that it was made by living things struggling to survive at the bottom of the world’s largest sinkhole. The water is anoxic, containing zero oxygen. Today, it remains a largely unexplored natural wonder and also one of the top 10 scuba diving sites. (source)
9. Waitomo Caves in New Zealand contain thousands of glowworms that naturally illuminate the cave.
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves are a popular tourist destination located on New Zealand’s North Island. Visitors entering the cave are taken aback by the twinkling light show that is
provided by the many thousands of glowworms that inhabit the caves. According to scientists, Waitomo Caves were formed by a combination of natural phenomena more than 30 million years ago during the Oligocene period.
The glowworms are also known as Arachnocampa luminosa. They are carnivores, but can survive without food for weeks, sometimes even months. When they do finally eat, they catch midges, flies and mosquitos by setting a sticky mucus trap that hangs from the ceilings. (source)
10. Salar De Uyuni in Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flat. During the rainy season, the water turns this Bolivian salt flat into the world’s largest mirror. It’s been called “the border between heaven and earth”.
Salar de Uyuni is the worlds largest salt flat, spanning 4,086 square miles (10,582 sq. km) in southwestern Bolivia. Unlike traditional deserts, which have sand in abundance, the Salar de Uyuni features vast expanses of glistening white salt. During the rainy season, Salar De Uyuni, turns into a mirror, which only accentuates its surreal beauty. Underneath the cemented salt are large reservoirs of lithium rich brine. In fact, approximately 70% of the world’s lithium reserves are found in Salar de Uyuni. (source)