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Architecture & Design Nature

Zhangjiajie’s Bailong Elevator is the highest outdoor elevator in the world

The Bailong Elevator is the world’s highest outdoor elevator, towering an astonishing 1,070 feet high inside the National Forest Park in the Wulingyuan area of Zhangjiajie, China. Opened in 2002, the cliff-facing elevator allows 50 visitors at a time to skip up the mountain in two minutes versus a dangerous five-hour car ride.

As you can imagine, the outdoor lift also provides panoramic scenery to its riders of bridges and villages below. Meanwhile, the top of the mountain features the scenic Yuanjiajie natural heritage spot.

Bailong Elevator
Photo: Instagram/@nk7
Bailong Elevator
Photo: Instagram/@nk7
Bailong Elevator
Photo: Instagram/@world_walkerz

Add Zhangjiajie National Park to the list of places to visit, along with Vietnam’s Golden Bridge and Coron Island in the Philippines. See more about the Bailong Elevator in the video below.

Categories
Nature Travel

Iran’s mesmerizing rock salt formations

Who knew salt could look like beautiful snowcones?

Mountains of rainbow-colored rock salt formations dominate the Zagros mountains of Iran.

The Jashak salt dome formed when the Persian Gulf evaporated millions of years ago and left behind massive quantities of salt.

Salt and other evaporites have since risen upward through the overlying layers of rock. Rain also washed down mountain sediment over the years which helped compact the salt glaciers.

Thanks to the monstrous salt accumulation that transpired when the ocean turned to mountains, ocean life has flourished.

Jashak salt dome
Photo: Flickr/sipos.szandra
Categories
Architecture & Design Travel

This mythical bird statue in India is the world’s largest

Jatayu Nature Park in Kerala, India, holds the largest bird sculpture on Earth, occupying about 15,000 sq feet and standing at the height of about 1200 feet above sea level. It is five times the size of the Pyramid of Giza.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons/The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation, Bengaluru

Opened in 2018 as a tourist destination, the 70-foot tall giant concrete figure pays tribute to the famed divine bird, Jatayu, from the Hindu epic Ramayan.

It was built over a decade by filmmaker and sculptor Rajiv Anchal, who wanted to make the mythology come alive.

According to the legend, this is the jungle hilltop where Jatayu once fell and injured his left wing at the location in an attempt to save Sita from the clutches of evil kidnapper Ravana.

The stone-cut eagle now serves as a tribute to nature’s splendor and a symbol for the protection of womankind. Visitors must use a passenger ropeway to reach the top.

View more of the sculpture in the videos and images below.

Jatayu
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/athulnair
Jatayu
Construction of Jatayu (2013) Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Kumar.kisalaya
Categories
Nature Travel

Meet the Eye of Earth, Croatia’s Cetina Cave Spring

The Eye of Earth is a karst spring located in Croatia’s Mount Dinara Nature Park.

The small body of water is the primary source of the Cetina River, which flows from the northwestern slopes of Dinara — 6,000 feet above sea level — down through southern Croatia.

No one knows the precise depth of the cave containing the crystal clear water, but it is suspected to be more than 300 feet deep.

This hidden gem is no easy dive or swim, though, as the water is frigid. Temperatures can go as low as 46.4F even during 95F summers.

Croatia’s Cetina Cave Spring
Croatia’s Cetina Cave Spring
Croatia’s Cetina Cave Spring
Croatia’s Cetina Cave Spring
Croatia’s Cetina Cave Spring
Categories
Animals Nature

The slender sunfish shaped like a Dorito

One of the more peculiar fish you’ll ever see, the slender sunfish (Ranzania laevis), looks like a mutant fish that’s been cut in half.

Yes, this Dorito-shaped fish is in its complete form! Interestingly, they also can’t close their funnel-like jaws, which makes them look like mouth-breathers of the ocean.

The Ranzania laevis is a species of mola but longer — up to 3 feet — and is primarily found in the world’s tropical waters. In fact, the fish was originally discovered off the coast of Adelaide, Australia, in 1944.

The slender sunfish can give off the impression of a shark from its side view, allowing it to scare off would-be predators. Despite its small fins, the slender sunfish is a skillful and quick swimmer.

The incredible (and slender) Ranzania Laevis is shaped like a Dorito
Close-up of a slender sunfish (Photo: Wikimedia/Escapemodule)
Categories
Animals Nature

The Picasso bug, where art and nature collide

You can’t beat the brushstrokes of nature. Native to tropical and subtropical Africa, the oval-shaped Picasso Bug or Zulu Hud Bug is truly nature’s work of art.

The Picasso Bug (Sphaerocoris annulus) is a shield-backed bug species with a vibrant carapace that does more than illustrate its aesthetic beauty. The mosaic markings serve as a warning to predators.

Nicknamed “stink bug,” the tiny creepy crawler also emits a putrid smell when disturbed.

As the famous abstract artist Pablo Picasso once said, “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” But seeing a bug like this would’ve tempted Picasso to become a naturalist instead.

The Picasso bug, where art and nature collide
Photo: Eu Curto Biologia (via TW/Nature_Is_Lit)
Categories
Nature

Rare Rainbow Waterfall at Yosemite National Park

Said the “Father of the National Parks“ of America’s national parks John Muir, “Most people are on the world, not in it.” His advocacy helped protect the Yosemite Valley and ultimately led to the establishment of Yosemite National Park.

The video of the rainbow waterfall by landscape photographer Greg Harlow at Yosemite (see below) is just one of the many wonders in the 747,956 acres park. The very high winds and early winter sun created the special circumstances to unveil the 2,400-foot rainbow waterfall.

“This phenomenon lasted over 8 minutes. This is how the 1400’ Yosemite Falls rainbow looked from Glacier Point in real-time. This certainly was not a planned event. I spent over 3 months total in Yosemite last year and just got lucky,” explained Harlow after capturing the dancing rainbows.

The California-based national park is one of the few places in the US where you can see a rainbow, or moonbow, at night.

Yosemite also played host to the recent documentary entitled Free Solo which filmed the super sensation seeker Alex Honnold climb El Capitan, the vertical granite rock formation located at Yosemite National Park.

PS. If you’re interested in learning the art of adventure photography and film, consider taking National Geographic photographer and the producer of Free Solo, Jimmy Chin’s course teaching adventure photography course on MasterClass. 

Rare Rainbow Waterfall at Yosemite National Park
Rare Rainbow Waterfall at Yosemite National Park
Rare Rainbow Waterfall at Yosemite National Park
Categories
Nature Travel

The gorgeous Great Blue Hole of Belize

The Great Blue Hole is a flooded sinkhole that lies 50 miles off the coast of Belize. The hole is 1,000 feet wide and about 410 feet, the bottom of which is so murky and limited in oxygen it’s claimed to be unlivable for most creatures.

The Lighthouse Reef surrounding the hole is so much lighter in color that the hole visibly stands out as seen from space.

The Blue Hole formed as a limestone cave during the last glacial period. As sea levels rose, the cave collapsed and thus created the mysterious-looking blue hole.

Undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau made the site popular when he declared it one of the top diving sites in the world in 1971. It is teeming with magnificent marine life. Hello, sharks!

A team of scientists and explorers led by Richard Branson used two submarines to help map the hole for the first time in 2018.

The Blue Hole is now part of the Belize Barrier Reef System, a 190-mile-long swath of coral that UNESCO declared a World Heritage site in 1996.

Great Blue Hole of Belize
Great Blue Hole of Belize
Great Blue Hole of Belize
Great Blue Hole of Belize
Categories
Health Science

Santiago Ramon y Cajal: The father of neuroscience was also an amazing artist

More than a hundred years ago, the father of modern neuroscience, Santiago Ramón y Cajal demonstrated that information is the output of messy internal wiring provided by the brain’s chemical synchronicity.

Cajal was an artist trapped in a laboratory. He used his trained skills as an artist to draw masterful sketches of the brain. In doing so, he illustrated the neuron doctrine.

But where the Renaissance master goes sensual, macro, and dynamic, the Spaniard zeros in, mapping the miraculously microscopic using new methods of staining slide tissues that isolated single cells under the microscope. In this way, Cajal drew the newly visible synaptic networks of the brain and discovered a breakthrough that proved that neurons are in touch without touching. These results changed neuroscience. His work is still widely used as a teaching device.

Vulture Magazine
Santiago Ramon y Cajal
Santiago Ramon y Cajal
Santiago Ramon y Cajal
Santiago Ramon y Cajal

He called the connection between the neural impulses synapses, the gaps between the neurons that allowed them to talk to each other. However, he couldn’t identify the synapses under the microscope like we can with 200X magnification today.

You can still walk across an invisible bridge even if you can’t physically see it there. All you need to know is that the magic is working.

Categories
Culture & Society Nature

World’s third-largest diamond discovered in Botswana

A unit of De Beers unearthed one of the world’s largest diamonds in Botswana earlier this month.

The 1,098-carat diamond is believed to be the third-largest gem-quality stone ever mined. It’s worth a jaw-dropping $100+ million. 80% of the income through sales will be passed on to the state to “be used to advanced national development in the country,” according to the Botswana Government.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi revealed the palm-sized stone to the public on Wednesday.

The world’s largest stone remains the 3,106 carat Cullinan stone discovered in South Africa in 1905. It was cut and placed into the British Crown Jewels where it remains to this day.

Photo: Twitter/@journoreece

The second-largest diamond remains the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona found in the Lucara Diamonds in Botswana in 2015. That’s a whole lot of rings.

Categories
Nature

Marvel at the Giant Groundsels of Mt Kilimanjaro

Giant Groundsels (Dendrosenecio kilimanjari) are prehistoric plants found on top of Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

They evolved about a million years ago in altitudes above 14,000 feet where they learned to harness the ability to survive sub-zero temperatures. They can also grow as high as 30 feet tall.

Giant Groundsels are a member of the dandelion family but look more like a twist between a pineapple and a cactus. The plant retains its large dead leaves to help insulate the stem. The leaves even close when it gets too cold.

Marvelous and strange, one can imagine dinosaurs just snacking on these big old plants.

Giant Groundsels of Mt Kilimanjaro
Giant Groundsels of Mt Kilimanjaro
Giant Groundsels of Mt Kilimanjaro
Giant Groundsels of Mt Kilimanjaro