We live on a truly strange and stunning planet, and there's a whole wide world out there to appreciate and explore. The question is: Have we really even seen half of it? Here are some of the wildest natural occurrences found in nature, and the strange things that cause them. We know at least a few are going on your bucket list!
The Spotted Lake, Canada
Behold: It's Spotted Lake, the most magical pool in all of Canada. Every summer, this seemingly ordinary body of water becomes a world wonder. As the H2O evaporates, we are left with a pattern of green, yellow, and blue spots. You'd never guess it in winter or spring, though. All year, it looks totally normal! You can visit it in Okanagan Valley, in BC. But of course, choose your season wisely.
Why is it so colorful, under the surface? It's all due to minerals. A mix of calcium, magnesium sulphate, and sodium sulphates has run off the hills into the lake. Believe it or not, it used to be even more vibrant. A hundred years ago, mining stole some of it away!
Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela
If you've ever wondered where the lightning capital of the world is, that question has been certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. Lake Maracaibo is located in Venezuela near the Andes Mountains. It has the highest concentration of strikes by far, with an average of 233 flashes per square kilometer annually. NASA has measured it, and that amounts to a whopping thousands of lightning strikes per night!
The area rains 300 days a year and the cool mountain breeze and warm, moist air creates a perfect attraction over the lake. This is a bizarre situation for locals, of course. It must be pretty disruptive!
This might seem like an editing trick, but we assure you: It's 100% natural. Known as the rainbow eucalyptus tree, this super plant grows in the Philippines and Indonesia. Without a doubt, it's the most colorful tree on earth. Its unique exterior is created by a peeling process over time. When it's young, it's green. It turns purple and then brown as it ages. And as it peels, you can see each stage.
We love the final look, and so does Instagram these days. But not everyone thinks they are priceless: Rainbow trees are usually chopped down and turned into white paper. Can you believe it?
Tornadoes have rightfully terrified us since we saw Twister, back in the day. But we never knew that they could be made of flames. Don't believe us? Check out this photo, and beware. This is a fire whirl, and it is caused by a fire on the ground. If wind starts swirling around in just the right conditions, it can suck in gasses and the column can become spinning fire. Big ones can be 1,000 feet high!
As you can imagine, fire whirls can spread new fires everywhere they go. This doesn't happen often, but somewhere in the United States, it does occur about once a year!
Lake Hillier, Australia
Australia's Lake Hillier has been a phenomenon on social media lately, and for good reason. As you can see, it's bright pink! People are shocked to find out it's not a filter. The lake is right next to the blue Indian Ocean, creating quite a contrast. Both are salty. But why does the lake look so different? Scientists say the cause of the color is alive: Dunaliella salina, a special micro-algae.
Lake Hillier is actually safe to swim in, actually. It's located in the Recherche Archipelago Nature Reserve. Next time you're in the area, make sure to stop by!
The Mysterious Ooze in China
Just what is this mysterious ooze? It popped up in China back in 2013, and it caught the attention of the world. One night, something stinky started coming out of the middle of the street. But after just a little while, it slithered back into a thin crack. Obviously, onlookers and locals wanted to know more. But really, the planet was curious. Did we ever get any solid answers on that?
Speculation and rumors were all that came out of the incident. None were ever confirmed. Some think it had something to do with a nearby construction site. But we've never seen this anywhere before or since!
You probably know that volcanoes produce smoke and lava. That's scary enough, all by itself. But did you know that these exploding mountains sometimes cause lightning, too? In real life, most people see electric bolts in the sky during a storm. But sparks seem to fly when volcanic ash particles collide and produce static electricity. It's quite a sight, as you can see. Some people call this a dirty thunderstorm!
We hope we are never close enough to get fried, but it sure is fascinating to look at from afar. Volcanic lightning has been seen from Alaska to the Philippines to Italy. Shocking, isn't it?
Penitentes are snowy formations that seem straight out of scfi-fi. But we assure you that they are very real, and very earthly. These tall, thin blades of snow point towards the sun in high, mountainous areas. They can grow up to 15 feet tall. Here we see rows of penitentes at the base of the Licancabur volcano in northern Chile. Tourists love to climb them, but do they know why they happen?
In the rare condition of high altitude and very dry air, strange things pop up. The sun turns ice directly into vapor without melting it, and snow forms in these shapes. NASA believes penitents exist on Jupiter's moons and on Pluto, too.
The Crooked Forest, Poland
Pine trees are pretty predictable, as far as things go. Never have we come across any variation beyond height and thickness. We usually don't imagine that these trees are going to start bending and twisting around, if given the chance. That's exactly what happened in the crooked forest, though. In Poland, 400 pines were planted around 1930. Today, they all bend strangely northward. What could be the explanation for this, besides magic?
It is actually a mystery to this day. One theory is that human tools were used to make the trees bend, earlier in history. Perhaps the idea was to make curved wood for boats, but we didn't witness the technique. Could be witches!
The Ijen Volcano, Indonesia
Lava always seems to be red or orange, and molten. We've never pictured it any other way. The Ijen Volcano has changed our mind about the subject, since seeing its strange blue goo. Located in Indonesia, it's become famous for its unique lava, the result of sulfuric gases. Because it's all burning above 360°C, a cool-looking effect is produced when oxygen hits. But don't be fooled: This is deadly stuff.
Tourists like to visit the nearby lake formed from the lava. The volcano aldo created the largest sulfuric acid crater lake on earth. At night, it's said to be the most beautiful.
Lake Natron, Tanzania
Lake Natron is a blood-red body of water located in Tanzania, Africa. As you might guess, it's not hospitable to swimmers. If it looks scary, that's because it is. The temperature of the water can reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Almost nothing lives in it, besides a special fish, and the alkaline level is close to ammonia. Why is it so hot and nasty? Well, there's a nearby volcano. That's where all the trouble began!
Magma lies underneath the ground and releases carbonic acid into the water. When animals die in it, they become coated in minerals and look like they have turned to stone. We're fascinated, but only from afar.
Cave of Crystals, Mexico
From Cancun to Cozumel, Mexico is famous for its beautiful, natural beaches. But deep below the ground, we were shocked that there's even more natural beauty. Check out the cave of crystals, under a mountain near Naica, Mexico. In the year 2000, miners were looking for mineral deposits. Perhaps they hoped to take home zinc or silver. Instead, they discovered sparkling beams of gem 12 meters long were surrounded by chunks jutting out in every direction.
Apparently, it all started 26 million years ago. A mix of rising magma and mineral-rich water formed this cave, and that's where the crystals started growing, undisturbed. What we see here is mostly a colorless variety of gypsum known as selenite. Only researchers are allowed in, for now.
Halos in the Sky
A halo is not just a crown on an angel. It's also an optical phenomenon in the sky, as captured here. We can't say it happens often, but when it does, it certainly gets deserved attention. What causes it? Science has the answer. First, light from the sun or moon hits ice crystals in the atmosphere. Then light refracts, as the crystals act like prisms. The final look is quite spectacular!
Halos are not just beautiful. They actually convey information, because the type of clouds that cause these conditions are pretty full. Usually, halos indicate that rain will happen within 24 hours. The more you know!
Blue Glowing Plankton
Scientists call it bioluminescent bloom. We call it an eerie blue glow covering the night sea. All over the world, from Hong Kong to the Maldives, this phenomenon has been appearing. When movement disturbs the water, it lights up even more. Satellite studies show it has been spreading in recent years. What is it, exactly? Well, it turns out to be a special species of plankton called red Noctiluca scintillans.
These itty bitty organisms absorb blue light more than red light. They even glow blue when under a microscope in a lab. Sadly, they are known to be toxic. Already linked to animal deaths, there is some concern about its impact on people. For now, enjoy it from the shore!
Red Rain in Bangladesh
Mistri para, Khulna, Bangladesh experienced a terrifying day when red rain started pouring down and filling the streets. It looks downright biblical, and we imagine folks thought it could be a bad sign. And even more disturbingly, this isn't the only place the phenomenon has been seen in recent years. We've also seen photos of the same rain from India and Sri Lanka. What is going on in the clouds of the east?
Relax: It's not blood. In these areas, there is a common green algae that grows. The spores happen to be red, and those became airborne and mixed with the rain. The result was this terrifying scene!
The Taos Hum, Mexico
Sometimes, there are unexplained sights. But what about mysterious sounds? The Taos Hum is just one such case, and it's been spooking the residents of North Central New Mexico for years. First reported in the '90s, there is a humming sound plaguing the area day and night. But only some locals say they hear it. Despite efforts to track down the source, scientists really don't know the reason. Is it psychological?
That's one suggestion, among many. Other ideas include local industrial plants, mating calls from animals, tinnitus, or all of the above. More investigation is needed. Hopefully, no one goes crazy in the meantime!
The Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan
Does this look like the entrance to hell itself? If you think so, you are not alone. The Darvaza Gas Crater already earned the nickname ‘Doors to Hell’ long before we came along. The terrifying sight is a collapsed natural gas field. Humans intervened, fearful of the spread of methane gas. In 1971, concerned geologists set the crater on fire. It's been burning since then, and it's still going strong.
If you want to visit and get up close and personal with the embers, all you need to do is take a flight to remote Turkmenistan. That's in central Asia, and its government hopes the crater will become a tourist attraction.
The Underwater Waterfall, Mauritius
We love waterfalls above ground. But we didn't even know it was an option underwater. Here, on the idyllic island of Mauritius, we've discovered exactly that. Look at this extraordinary view, seemingly defying the laws of physics. We needed a little more explanation to accept that this is real. But indeed, this is an authentic drone shot from above. It can only be seen from there, in fact. How does this illusion work, in practical terms?
The island actually sits on a drop-off. When the wave pulls back sand and silt from the shore, it goes down fast. The effect is a waterfall look. Many have been confused before you!
Pyura chilensis is the scientific name, but it's commonly called a living rock. If you were to stumble upon this on the beach, you might think it is indeed a rock. But inside, it is actually full of flesh! This strange sea creature is born male, but ends up growing female parts and reproducing with itself. It has no eyes and no face. And it eats by sucking in ocean water and digesting microbes.
To some, this looks like a delicious meal! In Chile and Peru, this actually does get sliced up, seasoned, and cooked. It's a local delicacy!
Polar Lights, the North and South Pole
Known as northern or southern lights depending on where they occur, an aurora is a natural light display that happens closer to the poles of our earth. Those lucky enough to witness it are dazzled by brilliant colors in the night sky. It's something most of us will never see in person. That is, unless you live in Norway, Sweden, Antarctica, Chile, Argentina, Alaska, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia, Iceland, Greenland, or Finland.
Auroras occur when the magnetosphere is disturbed by solar wind. It's a little technical, but these disturbances change the movement of charged particles up there in the magnetospheric plasma. A process begins that results in dancing colors. In summary: Wow!
Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia
Ever heard of Salar de Uyuni? We are guessing no, but salt fans should know that this is the name of the world's largest salt flat. Located in Bolivia, it also holds about half the lithium on planet earth today. That's the ingredient that makes your batteries work. 4,000 square miles of bright white salt look beautifully cracked for most of the year. But during the wet season, it looks very different.
When things get watery, the area turns into a crystal clear, pristine lake that hosts pink flamingos. This seems like a Southern hemisphere must-see!
Rainbows always seemed pretty magical, and some people claim they actually are. Allegedly, there are pots of gold waiting if you follow them to the end. We're not sure about that part, but there are actually different types of rainbows in the world, most of which we never see. Take a look at this fire rainbow, also known as a circumhorizon arc. It's a sky painting without any obvious paintbrush. Where did it come from?
These color fragments appear when cirrus clouds are present. When the sun is very high in the sky, and it shines through one of these icy puffs, this is what you get.
Blood Falls, Antarctica
Blood Falls looks like a murder scene in the middle of Antarctica. We wouldn't blame you if you screamed seeing this in the wild. But scientists have studied the peculiar red waterfall, and we have good news to report. There is a secret, underground lake beneath this ice. That water is full of iron particles. And as we already know, that element turns rusty when exposed to air. That's precisely what is occurring here!
Interestingly, the water is full of germs that have evolved to eat iron. Usually, microbes enjoy sugar, like us. But in extreme conditions, mother nature has tricks up her sleeve.
The Black Crack in the White Rim Trail, Utah
If you've ever had a recurring nightmare about falling deep into the center of the earth, this one's not for you. The Black Crack in the White Rim Trail is found at Canyonlands National Park, in Utah. Once upon a time, it was used by miners and cowboys to travel the area. We wonder if they were intimidated by this massive crack on the way. It's a serious hazard if you're traveling at night!
The crack is entirely natural, and it's a tourist draw today. Like many visitors, we wonder what has fallen inside. But hey: We're cautious enough to stay away and never really find out.
A desert rose isn't just referring to a special flower you might find growing out there. There is a stone version of this term, and it's right here to admire. A form of gypsum can develop in this pattern in desert sands that get floods. The wet-dry switch traps crystals in the sand in a very unique way, and the result is delightful. It only takes hundreds of millions of years, of course.
If iron oxides were in the area, the stone will actually have a rusty hue. We think a good chunk would make an enviable paperweight. Some are for sale on eBay, right now. Any takers?
Giant Permafrost Explosions, Siberia
Giant permafrost explosions aren't something we experience every day. After all, we don't live in Siberia. Some people do, though. The scientists up there uncovered a pretty intriguing crater in recent years. Located on the Yamal Peninsula, it is believed to have happened in 2013. But why, and how? So many questions needed to be answered, and the investigation began. The diameter and depth of this thing simply couldn't be overlooked.
Apparently, methane is a gas that can be frozen. Sometimes, it is trapped under permafrost. But if it heats up, it can explode! Researchers think that's exactly what occurred in this area, and that's why locals heard a very loud boom back then. The ground literally exploded!
Rainbow Mountains, Peru
The Rainbow mountains look like something out of a picture book, but they're actually real. Known by locals as Cerro Colorado Cusco, this extraordinary geology is located 3 hours south of the city of Cusco, Peru. It's an important cultural site for natives there, to this day. We understand why they love it! Naturally, you must be wondering how the colors happened without human intervention. The answer is ice, time, and minerals.
As the area warmed, melting snow revealed different layers of settled sediment. Each color is a different element of the earth. The pink is red clay, the red is due to iron, the green is ferromagnesian clays, and so on. What a magnificent mountain!
A Starling Murmuration
If we looked up above and saw this freaky formation, we would be a little uneasy. Is this a swarm of killer bees? No, luckily. It's called a starling murmuration. A starling is actually just a little bird. But when thousands or even millions get together at once, they can be pretty scary in the sky. Usually seen in America and Europe, the species has a complex, yet coordinated behavior.
Their instincts tell them to swoop as a group throughout the fall and winter. Scientists say they do it to confuse predators and stay warm. Birds of a feather flock together, as they say!
Eye of the Sahara, Mauritania
Modern Mauritania hosts the Eye of the Sahara. Scientists don't know how it was formed, but there are a few theories. Some think it's the remains of a big rock, eroded into a swirl. Each ring might be a part that eroded at a different rate. All of that happened super slowly, and we can only guess at this point. One thing we do know is that astronauts love it. Why?
Well, on the way back to earth, it makes a great landmark to know they are almost home. On the way back to the Florida base, it's highly visible from above.
Land tornados can really rip up a town. We think we prefer waterspouts, which seem more water-loving. Here we can see a rotating column of air over the sea. These twisters can form on calm water or during a storm. They are pretty versatile! Some have actually whipped up aquatic creatures and made them fall from the sky. We bet that was the most confusing day of their watery lives.
Although they occur all over the world, they are most common in America on the Great Lakes and in the Florida Keys. Stay away: Waterspouts are powerful enough to pick up an alligator and whip it far away.
Clonal Tree Groves, Utah
While this might just look like an ordinary forest in the fall, it is anything but. These are not even separate trees. It's all one tree. What do we mean? Well, in a clonal tree grove, a complicated network of roots lives in the soil. Taken in Utah, this photo might look like 47,000 trees from a helicopter above. But it's just a grove of clones, popping up over, and over, and over.
Technically, this is just one giant organism. Its nickname is Pando, and scientists think it dying. The reasons vary, but they include too many deer, disease, and wildfire suppression measures. Sad times for Pando!
Many can't believe these Bismuth crystals are a natural occurrence. Surely these must be man-made! But no, they're just rare. Bismuth is a very shiny metal that actually exists all around us. You can find it in paint and even Pepto-Bismol. But how often have you tried to melt it on your stove? As it turns out, letting it cool slowly forms an interesting pattern. Look at this fine specimen, and be impressed.
The molecules really prefer to hang out in this interesting shape. This beautiful formation is actually rarer than platinum. Who knew?
Green Sand Beaches, Hawaii
We thought we saw it all on Instagram. There are tan sands, white beaches, and even black sand from volcanoes. But it seems one more colored beaches exist out there. Check out the green sand beach in Hawaii. A special mineral called olivine was spread from an eruption, and the sand here is full of it. The official name of the beach is Papakolea, next time you're in town.
Only four beaches in the world boast this hue. The others are Talofofo Beach on Guam, Hornindalsvatnet in Norway, and Punta Cormorant in the Galapagos Islands.
Eternal Flame Falls, New York
Next time you're in upstate New York and near the Canadian border, check out this worthy landmark. A small waterfall in the area called Eternal Flame Falls has caught many eyes on the trails. Onlookers would immediately notice that there is an eight-inch tall fire in the middle of it. Many questions arise, and curious minds need answers. Sure, it's thrilling. But why, and how did these flames get there?
As luck would have it, a natural gas seep is located right under the rock. Water is pouring over it, but there is a small, naturally covered spot. Human hands lit the flame, and the gas keeps feeding it.
Nacreous clouds usually turn up near the poles of the earth. They form very high in our atmosphere. They appear twice as high as where pilots fly, and where things are awfully dry. The beauty of this cloud formation is its color, which occurs because of the lower position of the sun. In this situation, sunbeams are reflected back to us, and that creates the effect. But are these clouds really all sunshine and rainbows?
In reality, they aren't desirable. Chemical reactions from nacreous clouds destroy our ozone, and that's a big deal when it comes to the dangerous rays out there.
Pele’s Hair, Hawaii
If this looks like a bird's nest to you, we understand the mixup. This isn't any kind of nest, though. This is Pele’s Hair, the name of a volcanic creation from Hawaii's Mt. Kilauea. When lava is around, tropical wind makes contact with it and stretches bits into these shapes. Some of these glass hairs can reach a length of 6 feet. Around the world, similar formations have been discovered.
In Norway, for example, locals have gathered the same material. But over there, they have a better name. They call it Witch's Hair, and we like the way they think.
Snow Snails, Wyoming
Snow is a reality for half the planet during winter. If you don't live near the equator, there is a good chance you experience it for a few months out of the year. If that's you, maybe you think you've seen it all. Sleet, hail, ice, and the whole spectrum of snow. But in Yellowstone National Park, rangers found a new way to experience it. Have you ever seen a snow snail?
Well, here it is. It's rare, but when light and sticky snow meet strong winds, the right conditions can start to roll it down a hill. If it is the type of snow that can stick to itself, but not the ground, this is the effect on the way down.
Also known as a white rainbow, a cloudbow, or a ghost rainbow, the fogbow clearly goes by many names. But let's examine what it actually is, in the world of meteorology. Fogbows differ from traditional rainbows because they form from small droplets inside fog or clouds. Rainbows are the result of larger drops in the air. The difference ends up being mostly a matter of pigment. Look at how pale this ring is!
Diffraction causes many pale rings to form in a circle. Sailors have known about them for ages, and nicknamed them sea dogs.
Glow Worm Caves, New Zealand
New Zealand is a land of breathtaking beauty, far, far away. Much of the world was introduced to its scenery for the firm time in Lord of the Rings. That franchise showed the fields, mountains, and valleys of the country. But it never showed its caves full of glowing worms. Why not? We suppose it didn't fit with the story. But it's time to tell a new story, starting with this intriguing photo.
This limestone river cave in Waitomo is lined with luminescent glow worms. This species is found nowhere else on the planet, actually. Boat rides by worm light are highly recommended by kiwis!
The Zhangye Danxia Landform, China
China is a vast landmass, we know. But as far as landmarks go, we only seem to hear about the Great Wall. With a little investigation, there seems to be plenty more. Take the Zhangye Danxia Landform, for example. The colors on the mountains here are extraordinary, and we've never seen anything quite like it. Over millions of years, minerals were pressed together with sandstone. At this point, the layers are truly unique.
Considered to be one of the most beautiful natural wonders around, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chinese and foreign tourists alike love to visit. It's a must-see!