Strange Places


Stonehenge - England

Stonehenge is the UK’s most important ancient monument and has been throughout history. It’s one of Britain’s most important tourist destinations and attracts about 900,000 visitors every year. It was visited by Romans stationed in the region and a Saxon burial on the site confirms that it was seen as a place of religious significance during both the dark and middle ages. The earliest known written reference appears in 937 AD with regard to a land deed from King Athelstan to Wilton Abbey which refers to ‘Stanheyeg’. It’s near impossible to imagine how Neolithic people managed to build it and rearrange it several times over the millennia. It’s important to pagans and druids as a religious site and is at the centre of the British crop-circle phenomenon. Some archaeologists believe it was a temple while others believe that it represented a doorway into the afterlife.

Stonehenge is at the heart of an ancient stone-age complex that is far larger than the monument that can still be seen today.

Google Earth Coordinates: 37°55’29.73″N 29° 7’23.86″E
The strange and weirdly beautiful terraced pools of Pamukkale have been appreciated for over two millennia and yet still remain a little known wonder of the world. Thousands of years ago earthquakes, which are common in Turkey, created fractures that allowed powerful hot springs to bring water rich in calcium carbonate to the surface. As the water evaporated the chalky material condensed and formed layer-upon-layer of Travertine and thus slowly built up the walls over time in the same way that a stalactite forms in a cave. Apparently Pammakale means Castle of Cotton but the Greco-Romans built a town above it called Heirapolis – meaning “Holy City” or “Sacred City”. They too recognised it as a rare and important place attributing healing powers to the milky-white waters.Pamukkale is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and to save them from further damage, the pools have been closed to the tourists that once bathed in their waters.


Google Earth Coordinates: 45°20’59.27″S 170°49’40.28″E
These large, spherical, alien and strangely beautiful boulders are mainly located on Koekohe Beach, part of the Otago coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Known as “Moeraki Boulders” they were originally formed on the sea floor from sedimentary deposits that accreted around a core in the same way that a pearl will form around a particle of sand. The erosion of the cliffs often reveals these boulders from the surrounding mudstone allowing them to join those already on the beach. Some of the larger boulders weigh several tonnes and can be up to three metres wide.Maori legend attributes their origin to the arrival of the first ancestors / giants who came in the great Araiteuru canoe which was sunk by three great waves at nearby Matakaea.

It is said by the Maoris that some of the surviving crew of the Araiteuru canoe were turned into stone and became mountains. The Moeraki boulders are said to be the pots and chattels from the canoe.
The Nine Hells of Beppu

Google Earth Coordinates: 33°18’58.03″N 131°28’16.43″E
Beppu, located on the Japanese island of Kyūshū, is the second largest producer of geothermal water in the world. Located in the same area are the “Nine Hells” or ponds that each has its own remarkable character and colour thanks to the variety of minerals in the outflows. These “Hells” are a popular tourist attraction in Japan but are little known outside of the country. Seven of the strange geothermal springs are located in the Kannawa area and are known as: Sea or Ocean Hell (Umi Jigoku), Shaven Head Hell (Oniishibozu Jigoku), Cooking Pot Hell (Kamado Jigoku), Mountain Hell (Yama Jigoku), Devil or Monster Mountain Hell (Oniyama Jigoku,) Golden Dragon Hell (Kinryu Jigoku) and White Pond Hell (Shiraike Jigoku).Further away in the Shibaseki District are Blood – Pond Hell (Chinoike Jigoku) – right – and Waterspout Hell (Tatsumaki Jigoku). 


Google Earth Coordinates: 28°15’28.59″N 16°38’5.82″W
At the summit of Mount Teide, one of the largest Island volcanoes in the World is the Las Cañadas caldera. The crater, which is an enourmous sixteen kilometres across, is a picture of what Hell might look like if it cooled a little. Sheer walls that formed when the caldera first collapsed encircle this dry and alien place. And, with an arrogance than can only be accepted as typical, humanity has built roads and observatories across this no mans land that is little more than a plug over a sleeping yet still active and very large volcano. When we visited it some years ago we were standing in the viewing gallery when the ground beneath our feet trembled and several windows suddenly cracked. The sleeping giant was grumbling in its sleep. The land mass created by the volcano is Tenerife in the Canary Islands.

Las Cañadas caldera, Mount Teide. Not dead just sleeping! The UN Committee for Disaster Mitigation has listed Teide for close observation due to its history of powerful eruptions and its location near several large towns.
The Great Blue Hole of Belize

Google Earth Coordinates: 17°18’56.95″N 87°32’6.66″W
Found on both land and in the ocean throughout the Bahamas and the national waters of Belize are deep circular cavities known as Blue Holes which are often the entrances to cave networks, some of them up to 14 kilometres in length. Divers have reported a vast number of aquatic creatures some of which are still new to science. In addition, they’ve recorded chambers filled with stalactites and stalagmites which only form in dry caves. For the explorers this was proof that at one time, nearly 65,000 years ago, when the world was in the grip of the last major ice age, the sea level of the Bahamas was up to 150 metres lower than it is today. Over time the limestone of the islands was eroded by water and vast cave networks created. When sea levels rose again about 10,000 years ago some of these collapsed inwards and the Blue Holes were formed.The Great Blue Hole is located in the Light House Reef aproximately halfway between Long Caye and Sandbore Caye. It is about 60 miles east from the mainland of Belize (city). In 1997 it was designated as a World Heritage site.


Google Earth Coordinates: 40°15’8.83″N 58°26’22.08″E
Located in the Kara-Kum desert of Turkmenistan is the village of Darvaza (Derweze) near to where, in 1971, a team of Soviet prospectors allegedly drilled into a large chamber filled with natural gas. The roof of the cavern collapsed leaving a crater-like sinkhole some 25 metres deep with a diameter of approximately 60 – 70 metres. It soon became evident that natural gas was still rising into the crater from even deeper sources and the story goes that the decision was made to ignite the emissions rather than risk either a concentrated build-up of gas or local poisoning. According to various sources it has burned continuously since then and has apparently been named “The Gate to Hell” by the local people. However, another source that spoke with the guides from the region claims that it is a wholly natural phenomenon.

It is most impressive at night and the glow from its flames can be seen miles away. The inside of the crater is black from carbon build up and the heat is so intense that it is only possible to stay near the edge for a few minutes.

Google Earth Coordinates: 28°54’15.32″N 118° 3’38.08″E
Sanqingshan is a relatively small National Park near the city of Shangrao in the Jiangxi province of China. What it lacks in size it makes up for in shear natural beauty. It is officially the 7th World Heritage Site designated in China and has been noted for its exceptional scenic attraction. The key mystique of this remarkable place is the combination of extraordinary granite geology in the form of weird outcrops and pillars combined with seasonal climate variations than often cause mists, fogs and striking sunsets. Those that have visited this place describe a feeling of overwhelming peace and tranquility. This effect is enhanced by the profusion of natural waterfalls, pools and springs. If you allow yourself, it is truly possible to see Earth, Water, Wind and Fire joined in time.A story that is told is that Mu-Go the “Lord of the East” wished to create a garden for the amusement of his consort “Yin” and persuaded the four elements to fuse together and create Sanqingshan as a private garden for her amusement. 


Google Earth Coordinates: 21° 7’15.37″N 11°24’2.09″W
From space this mysterious depression in the Sahara Desert of Mauritania really does look like a human eye. The image to the left is the “pupil” but a visit to Google Earth zoomed out a little will reveal the cliffs that make up the rest of the eye. This natural phenomenon is actually a richat structure caused by the dome shaped symmetrical uplifting of underlying geology now made visible by millennia of erosion. Please note that this explanation is not wholly accepted by the scientific community. There still remain academics that believe it is the sight of a meteor impact and yet others still that believe it resembles the formations caused by underground nuclear blasts. By the way, we estimate that the detonation would have had to be in the gigaton range. Currently no country in the world has a weapon even close to this destructive yield.

Currently scientists believe that they know what caused this formation. Hey! It’s a Ri chat structure … whatever that really means. A more Bizarre theory is that it is the impact site of an ancient but very powerful bomb.
Racetrack Playa

Google Earth Coordinates: 36°40’31.47″N 117°33’37.32″W
Located in one of the flattest places on the face of this planet are the strange and unexplained Sailing Stones of Racetrack Playa – Death Valley – California – USA. Once a year the “Playa” or flat desert pan experiences short winter rains and becomes slippery as the hexagonal desert floor turns back to mud. During this time the boulders and rocks move leaving clearly visible tracks behind them. Although scientists believe that high winds are responsible, some of the rocks will suddenly change directions and move at almost perfect right angles to their previous direction. All the evidence suggests that this is not a hoax although it is also said that the movement of these rocks has never been captured on film or video. In this technological age we wonder why time lapse photography hasn’t been used?The Sailing Stones add mystique to Death Valley but the real strangeness of this place is its desperate isolation, heat and incredible flatness.


10 of the hottest places on Earth

1. Dallol, Ethopia

Dallol, Ethiopia
Dallol, Ethiopia
This scorching hot town in the Afar Depression of Ethiopia holds the record for having the highest average annual temperature ever recorded. From 1960 to 1966, Dallol averaged 94 degrees Fahrenheit (daytime temperatures regularly rose to over 100 degrees). This number is an annual average, meaning that Dallol’s temperature dips only moderately throughout the year. There is almost never a break from the heat at any time of the year.
Dallol is a ghost town today, but back in the 1960s it was a mining settlement. Its modern attractions include the fascinating hydrothermal deposits like those shown here. It’s also interesting to note that the Afar Depression, where Dallol is located, is a volcanically active region, not far from a volcano of the same name. So the heat must seem to come from every direction here: from the sun above, and bubbling up from the ground below.
2. Tirat Zvi, IsraelTirat Zvi is a religious kibbutz in Israel that sits in the Beit She’an Valley, 722 feet below sea level. Though the nearby Jordan River keeps the region fertile, the valley can get pummeled by the sun in the summer months. In June 1942, the settlement recorded the highest temperature ever officially measured in Asia: 129 degrees Fahrenheit.3. Timbuktu, Mali

Timbuktu’s history is a rich and storied one. Sitting at the crossroads of ancient Saharan trade routes, the city was once a thriving center of scholarship and central to the spread of Islam throughout Africa. Though it still retains a stable population, as well as one of the world’s greatest collections of ancient manuscripts, Timbuktu is slowly being overtaken by the encroaching Sahara Desert. Desertification is a major concern here, as great dunes loom over the city and the streets are frequently buried in windswept sand.
Temperatures can also soar here, and have been recorded reaching in excess of 130 degrees Fahrenheit. The good news is that the cooling waters of the Niger River are only about 15 miles away.
Timbuktu, Mali
4. Kebili, Tunisia

A desert oasis in central Tunisia, Kebili is ironically where people go to escape the North African heat. At least here, there are palm trees to provide shade, and water to cool off in. Even so, Kebili is no stranger to high temperatures: The mercury has topped out at over 131 degrees, some of the highest ever recorded in Africa.
The town is picturesque, though, and worth a visit in spite of its extreme climate. People have lived here for almost as long as modern humans have walked the Earth: There is hard evidence that Kebili was inhabited as long as 200,000 years ago.
Kebili, Tunisia
5. Rub’ al Khali, Arabian Peninsula

The largest continuous sand desert in the world, the Rub’ al Khali covers about a third of the Arabian Peninsula, an area that includes Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. Understandably, it gets hot here. Hot, and dry. High temperatures have been recorded at 133 degrees, and there is no respite for the thirsty: Typical annual rainfall is less than 1.2 inches.
Rub' al Khali
6. El Azizia, Libya
El Azizia, Libya
7. Death Valley

Death Valley is one of the Hottest Places on Earth

Death Valley shown above, is a  3.3-million-acre desert wilderness along the California-Nevada state line, where a sweltering July day in 1913 reached 134 degrees Fahrenheit, setting a record that still stands today.

Here, some of the hottest weather on the planet lives side-by-side with mountains whose peaks are often covered in snow.

8. Flaming Mountains, China

The Flaming Mountains, located in the Tian Shan Mountain range of Xinjiang, China, likely were named for striking gullies that have been eroded into the red sandstone bedrock, resembling a flame. But the name is also apt for another reason: These mountains are sizzling hot.
Though there is not a weather station located here to measure temperature directly, a NASA satellite equipped with a moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer, or MODIS — a device capable of measuring land surface temperatures from space — recorded one of the highest temperatures ever measured: 152.2 degrees. The reading, recorded in 2008, was the hottest measurement on Earth that year.
 Flaming Mountains, China
9. Australia’s Badlands

Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth, and much of its interior Outback is a vast desert. Scorching temperatures are known here, especially during periods of drought when there is little cloud cover to shelter the hot sands from the sun’s relentless rays. In 2003 — a year of particularly severe drought due to the 2002 El Niño-Southern Oscillation — a NASA satellite equipped with MODIS picked up a land surface temperature of 156.7 degrees Fahrenheit
Badlands of Australia
10. Dasht-e Lut, Iran

Dasht-e Lut, Iran
Here it is: the hottest place on Earth. Iran’s Lut Desert, an area so parched and desolate that no one is around to regularly monitor temperatures. (What a dreadful job that would be.)
Though maintaining a weather station is impractical in the Lut, a NASA satellite equipped with a moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) was able to measure temperatures here from space, during a seven-year study. In five of those years — 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009 — the hottest spot on Earth could be found in the Lut. In 2005, a temperature of 159.3 degrees Fahrenheit was measured, the highest reading ever officially confirmed for a location on Earth.

9 Hotly Disputed Borders of the World

#1: Taiwan

After the Japanese defeat in World War II, the island of Taiwan reverted to China. The Chinese government itself, however, was soon overthrown on the mainland by the People’s Liberation Army of Mao Zedong, and the new communist state took the name the People’s Republic of China. The nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek went into exile on the island, which it continued to rule as the Republic of China (ROC). While the People’s Republic of China claims sovereignty over the “rogue province” of Taiwan, the ROC still regards itself as the legitimate government of China on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

#2: Somaliland

The modern borders of Africa are in large part the result of the competition between European colonial powers such as Britain and France for the control of the continent. During World War II, all the Somali territories were unified under British military administration, with the exception of French Somaliland. This process of unification continued after Somalia gained its independence in 1960. At the end of the 1980s, however, the country was shattered by the beginning of a decades-long civil war, and Somaliland, a region in the north on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, declared its independence in 1991. The Republic of Somaliland, however, remained unrecognized by the international community.

#3: Israel/Palestine

Impossible to ignore, the Israel-Palestine conflict is a source of insecurity for the Middle East and for the world at large.

#4: Antarctica

A number of countries, including the United Kingdom, France, and Argentina, have made claims over the frozen continent of Antarctica, but these claims have not been recognized by the international community since the signature of the Antarctica Treaty in 1959. The treaty forbade countries from taking possession of any part of Antarctica with these solemn words: “in the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue forever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord.” Some experts believe the discovery of precious natural resources could change the equation and revive countries’ claims to Antarctica. No word yet on a penguin independence movement.

#5: Western Sahara

The indigenous inhabitants of Western Sahara, the Saharawis, have fought for their independence against Morocco since the 1970s. Their organization, the Polisario Front, has waged an armed insurgency but also shown its readiness to sit at the negotiation table. In 1991, both parties agreed to a peace proposal under the auspices of the United Nations. The peace proposal specified a referendum for the indigenous Saharawi to decide whether they wanted an independent Western Sahara under Polisario Front leadership or whether the territory would officially become part of Morocco. Peace, however, was not yet in the cards, as Morocco moved tens of thousands of settlers into the territory to influence the referendum results, and Polisario soldiers resumed their armed campaigns. Still, hope for a peaceful resolution remained.

#6: The Korean peninsula

Lest we forget, the Korean War never really came to an end. South and North Korea signed an armistice but no peace treaty, and the two countries continued to face each other in a nerve-racking geopolitical standstill.

#7: Kuril Islands

The dispute over this volcano-intensive archipelago of 56 islands is the primary reason Japan and Russia have never signed a peace treaty to formalize the end of World War II. At the end of the war, the Soviet Union invaded the Kuril Islands, some of which Imperial Russia had previously controlled. While the transfer of the islands to the Soviet Union was included in the Yalta agreements, Japan continued to claim historical rights to the southernmost islands.

#8: Senkaku (Diaoyu) islands, East China Sea

On the surface, the Senkaku (Chinese: Diaoyu) islands seem to offer very little to fight over beyond rocks and water. The dispute over these islands, controlled by Japan and claimed by China, intensified after oil and gas fields were found underneath. In 2012 the sale of one of the islands by a wealthy Japanese family to the Japanese government enraged the Chinese population and led to massive anti-Japanese riots. Considering the growing power and assertiveness of China in Asia, many experts warn that the tension over the Senkaku islands could develop into a more serious conflict.

#9: Kashmir

The borders of modern Kashmir, a mountainous region about the size of Utah, have been in question ever since its creation in 1846, but things got more intense after the United Kingdom renounced its colonial claim to it. The main dispute, between Pakistan and India, turned into a violent conflict in the late 1940s. As part of a cease-fire, the two countries agreed to a temporary partition, which has prevailed ever since. To make matters more complex, China also contests its border with Indian-controlled Kashmir, a disagreement that turned into a war in 1962 and was never fully resolved.