The other day – Earth Day – I paused to reflect upon global warming on Earth. Today I’d like to pose 12 13 questions about the Earth – about some of its most incomprehensible and mysterious phenomena that have come to my knowledge over the years, many of which phenomena I’ve visited.
So here we go – 12 13 questions about Earth’s mysteries. Ready? Off we go…
And I’ll start… right at the bottom of Earth – in Antarctica!
I. Water in an ice desert
Practically the whole of Antarctica (with the exception of some mountains and coastal areas) are covered with thick layers of ice – compacted snow that’s fallen over the centuries millennia. But in some places there is real ice – frozen water. Like this:
‘Blue ice’, they call it here. I took a stroll across it, humming Elton John’s Blue Eyes, of course ).
It’s also suitable for ski-mobiling upon…
You can also… land an enormous cargo plane on it!
All righty: question!
Where did the water come from to make this here ice, on this here 80th parallel – some 700km from the shore?
II. Mysterious balls.
What’s perhaps all the more extraordinary is that occasionally ‘new’ balls are exposed on the shore by the sea lashing upon it. How many more there may be underneath the sand I don’t know. I do know it’s all a very mystifying.
The phenomenon isn’t a unique one, apparently; there are similar stones in Franz Josef Land and Costa Rica (how different can you get?!). Local sources in New Zealand (as we found out in 2013) and also the internet both state that there are several theories as to where they came from or how they came about. Indeed there are. But it’s still going to be my question here!
How did these mysterious stone spheroids come into existence?
III. Between an Ayer’s Rock and a hard… comprehensibility.
The next mysterious enigma is practically in the very center of Australia. It’s Uluru, aka Ayers Rock, a sacred site for the aborigines. Geologists to this day can’t come up with an answer as to the whats, whys or hows.
The base of the rock/mountain in places looks as if seawater once played a role in eroding the rock. But how could such a thing happen here in center of the oldest of continents – a place that hasn’t been near an ocean for billions of years?!
Actually, there’s not just the one rock, but three – all in a line: (i) Kata Tjuta, (ii) Uluru (25 kilometers away), and (iii) Conner (a further 90km away). Every one very distinct from the others, all very unusual, and each providing very beautiful views – looking both at and from them. Here’s a view of Ulura, with Kata Tjuta in the background on the horizon:
And now the questions:
How did these rock formations come about? And how deep do they go down beneath the surface of the Earth?
VI. Giants’ kids’ crayons
Here’s a straightforward question, and I gave an answer to it myself a long time ago. It’s about these here rock formations:
These rock formations are called Benard Cells, and can be found in quite a few places around the world.
An astonishing phenomenon. And here’s the question:
How are these giant stone pencils formed?
V. Stone LEGO
This is Giant’s Playground in Namibia. These ancient stone LEGO bricks are scattered placed carefully over a wide area. It’s sometimes hard to believe all these LEGOs are the result of erosion.
Or could there be another theory as to their provenance? Thus, my question:
Are these scattered stone blocks a completely natural phenomenon?
VI. Massive hole, massive mystery
One of few places on this planet I haven’t been to! And it’s in Russia! But I think I’ve a reasonable excuse: it’s reeeeaaal hard to get to. It’s called the Kondyor Massif, and it happens to be both mysterious and an important source of platinum. An ideal circle, but it isn’t a volcanic crater. It’s not a crater caused by a meteorite hitting Earth either (the photos, btw, are from Yandex Maps and Google Maps):
The question here is the obvious one:
If it’s natural, how did it come about – and why is there only one of them on the whole planet?
VII. The Eye of the Sahara
And from the side:
Another obvious question:
What are some of the different theories about its origin?
VIII. Delicate red arch – in a place that’s parched
Optical illusion! Which ‘foot’ is nearer?!
Bewildering shapes and forms:
Yes – another obvious question:
How were these rock formations formed – particularly Delicate Arch?
IX. Kung fu… fish!
There’s a small fish lives in the oceans around Hawaii. But when it needs to spawn, it heads… to the top of this here 100+ meter waterfall!
Ok, all these questions are obvious; I see that now! Next obvious question!
How is this little fish able to pull off such a feat?!
X. Brothers from different mothers
The distance between the two archipelagos is more than… 16,000km! But these tortoises are very close relatives.
How is it that two endemic species turn out to be directly related to each other, when they’re on opposite sides of the planet? And no – they can’t fly ).
XI. Question: Where did the Earth’s water come from?
Lots of water:
It’s a scientific mystery – there’s still no answer!
XII. Earth vs. Moon
I remember once asking the following question:
Since the Moon moves away from the Earth at a speed of four centimeters per year, when will it finally leave the Earth’s orbit, and start to orbit the Sun as we do? Also – what will happen first: such a disconnection, or the Sun eating up the Moon, putting an end to the ‘waltz of a billion years’?!
I was later informed by professional astronomers that the Moon won’t fly away from the Earth. The oceanic tides will slow Earth down: it will rotate slower and slower. And when the Earth finally comes to a standstill – and one day will be the same as a lunar month! – the system will stabilize for good.
Did someone think up this carefully balanced lunar-earth system, or were those astronomers pulling my leg?!
PS / dessert!…
For dessert a few questions about human feats…
And not just that humans are fouling up the earth something awful. They are, yes; but… volcanoes or even just some bacteria have done a lot more fouling up. But I digress…
XIII. Get yer blocks off
Last year I finally made it down to Baalbek in Lebanon. While there I saw the unbelievably gigantic man-made ‘bricks’ that made up the walls of the ancient temples and palaces there.
The largest – a certain Trilithon of Baalbek – was so enormous it wouldn’t all fit into a photo, even with my ultra-wide lens! While nearby there’s the quarry it came from, where there’s another, even larger, brick, but which was never completely quarried out of the ground:
How did they move such immense blocks of rock the few hundred meters from the quarry to the temples’ construction site all those thousands of years ago (i.e., without modern-day mechanization)?
I can see some of the answers already: ‘Clearly this is evidence of aliens existing. There’s no way man could ever move something so mammoth and heavy without machinery’!
PPS: the world’s heaviest monolith that was quarried, moved and erected isn’t in Baalbek. That honor goes to a monolith somewhere else…
Where is the world’s heaviest monolith that was quarried, moved and erected located?