As humans, we often let our imagination run wild and can come back with some pretty surreal stuff that can surprise even the most well-seasoned of acid trippers. However, we can’t really compete with nature. Every now and then, we discover a new place that comes by its “could be from a Salvador Dalí painting” vibe completely naturally.
Weirdest Natural Places: Mendenhall Ice Cave
Few people actually get to see a glacier in person. Even fewer get to see a cave inside the glacier, which is typically formed by a stream of water or volcanic vents. That is what made the Mendenhall Ice Cave special. Well…that and the fact that it looked like the inside of the Fortress of Solitude.
Why the past tense, you ask? While Mendenhall Glacier still exists (you can’t miss it; it’s 12 miles long and just outside the Alaskan capital of Juneau), the cave does not. The cave’s roof collapsed earlier this year. Thankfully for the Alaska Board of Tourism, since getting inside the cave was so dangerous, difficult and time consuming, the cave was never really much of a tourist attraction.
Cave of the Crystals
The name of this Chihuahua, Mexico cave makes it pretty clear what you are going to find inside of it: crystals. Like really, really big selenite crystals. And when we say big, we mean over 10 feet in diameter and 50 tons in weight. The largest one ever found was 39 feet long and 13 feet wide.
The inside of this cave looks like a deadly chamber on set of an Indiana Jones movie. But just like the Mendenhall Cave, you can’t go see this one, either. Temperatures can reach a scorching 136 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity is always above 90%. Without proper protection, you would only withstand a few minutes before begging for mercy.
Luckily, this cave is connected to the more accessible Naica Mine, another large deposit of massive crystals. You can’t go there, either. It’s actually a working mine owned by Industrias Peñoles, so if you want to go inside, you’ll have to apply for a job.
Son Doong Cave
While we’re talking about amazing places that look like movie sets, how about one from The Land That Time Forgot? It really wouldn’t be too far-fetched to come across a pterodactyl gently nesting inside this place. Located in Vietnam, near its border with Laos, Son Doong Cave is the biggest known cave in the world.
Just how big is it? Son Doong stretches for about 30,000 feet. The biggest chamber is over 650 feet tall. To put that in perspective, we could put the Gateway Arch from St. Louis inside the cave and there would still be room on top. Even though the cave was found in 1991, it wasn’t until 2010 that people actually managed to reach its end. This is because of a giant 200-foot high calcite wall later named the Great Wall of Vietnam.
Would you like to visit it? Good news! You could…possibly. Last year the first tourist group ever was taken inside and more tours are being planned. All you need is years of spelunking experience and about $3,000 (plus the money to get to Vietnam and back).
Lake Hillier is a seemingly innocuous lake located on an island in the Recherche Archipelago in Australia. It’s pretty big, but not incredibly so. It’s not very deep. It’s not a strange shape, nor does it have any rare, incredible creature living in it. It would be a perfectly average lake if not for one peculiar characteristic. It’s pink.
That’s not because someone spilled food coloring in the lake. Pink is its natural color. However, we can’t say for sure why. Most theories point to various bacteria or micro-algae that live in the lake and create a dye that gives it its distinct coloration. Whatever it is, it appears to be harmless to humans. If you ever find yourself on Middle Island where it’s located, feel free to jump in for a dip.
Actually, it is kind of surprising that we don’t have more pink lakes in the world. That being said, Lake Hillier is not the only one. There is also the creatively named Pink Lake, still in Australia, as well as Lake Retba in Senegal (which also means Pink Lake).
Technically, Socotra is an archipelago that consists of four islands. However, one of the islands takes up 95% of the total mass so people usually refer to that island when talking about Socotra. More interesting, though, is the fact that the island has been described as “the most alien-looking place on Earth”.
What gives the island its reputation? It’s the flora. Socotra is kind of like Madagascar, but for plants. It also broke off from the supercontinent of Gondwana, and life on the island has evolved in isolation. As a result of this, Socotra has hundreds of plant species found nowhere else on the planet.
Arguably the most famous feature of Socotra is the Dragon’s Blood Tree, known for its very peculiar branches as well as its red sap from which the name of the tree comes. The island also has a ton of endemic species of birds and spiders. Of course, the number of species started taking a nosedive the minute man stepped foot on the island. We introduced harmful, non-native species like cats that ate all the birds and goats that started wreaking havoc on the vegetation.
One could argue that the view from the top of any mountain is staggering. However, very few of them could ever match up to the feeling you can get standing on top of Venezuela’s Mount Roraima. It’s not really the height that gets you. The summit is only about 9,000 feet tall, which isn’t all that majestic. It’s the feeling of standing on top of one of the world’s oldest geological formations, dating around two billion years ago.
And then there’s the shape. Tabletop mountains are always a weird sight because straight lines are so unusual in nature. But Mount Roraima looks like it’s been carved or molded, not the product of a few billion years of natural erosion.
There is also an added bonus to tabletop mountains. Because of its flat plateau, people who want to visit the summit can skip the whole pesky “rock-climbing thing” and just take a helicopter up top. There’s also a footpath for those who want the illusion of putting forth an effort, but it’s nothing too dangerous. Actual thrill seekers can delight in Roraima’s steep, almost perfectly vertical mountain sides.