Animals Travel

Why Western Australia’s Quokka is always smiling

The quokka is a marsupial from the smaller islands (e.g., Bald Island) off the coast of Western Australia.

The animal looks like a baby kangaroo and appears to be smiling at all times — it possesses a natural and cheerful grin.

There’s even a book dedicated to the so-called “world’s happiest animal” called The Quokka’s Guide to Happiness by wildlife photographer Alex Cearns.

Just take a look at these cuties.

Culture & Society Nature Travel

Born to dive: The Bajau sea nomads

The Bajau sea nomads are people from the Malay Archipelago (Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia).

Among the world’s best divers, the sea nomads act like the real mermaids — aquatic life is literally in their DNA.

According to a study from the journal Cell:

They are renowned for their extraordinary abilities, diving to depths of over 70 m with nothing more than a set of weights and a pair of wooden goggles (Schagatay, 2014) and spending 60% of their daily working time underwater (Schagatay et al., 2011).

They’ve evolved to harbor extreme breath-holding capabilities with up to 13 minutes underwater. Even without weights, the Bajau can stay negatively buoyant enough to walk across the sea bottom as one does on terra firma. 

For thousands of years, the Bajau people have developed expanded spleens due to their dependency on diving underwater for food.

No one knows what originally compelled the Bajau to dive other than their need to survive and feed entire families.

Without experimentation, evolution does not exist. It is through struggle and adaptation we evolve.

Learn more in the video below.

Featured photo by James Morgan.

Architecture & Design Space Travel

Mysterious metal monolith found in remote Utah desert

As if 2020 couldn’t get any weirder, the Utah Department of Public Safety stumbled upon a mysterious shiny monolith among red rocks in the remote Utah desert. 

The crew spotted the “unusual object” during a routine flyover to survey the area for bighorn sheep. 

In a public statement issued on Tuesday, Utah officials announced that they’re keeping the exact location of the 12-foot-tall silver monolith a secret. 

“The exact location of the installation is not being disclosed since it is in a very remote area and if individuals were to attempt to visit the area, there is a significant possibility they may become stranded and require rescue. We are encouraging anyone who knows the location of the monolith to not attempt to visit it due to road conditions.”

Photo: Utah Department of Public Safety
Mysterious metal monolith found in remote Utah desert
Photo: Utah Department of Public Safety
Mysterious metal monolith found in remote Utah desert
Photo: Utah Department of Public Safety

Note, however, that the object purportedly existed on Google Earth for more than five years. It is firmly planted in the ground with “human-made rivets,” after all. 

While the artist behind the sculpture remains unknown, the David Zwirner Gallery claims its the work of the late minimalist sculptor John McCracken.

Though McCracken never mentioned anything about the avant-garde piece to his family, friends, or business partners, he was an avid science-fiction fan. It’s no surprise that internet sleuths have already proclaimed the installation alien and compared the monolith to the scene depicted in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey

Animals Architecture & Design Travel

Topiary sculpture of a sleeping baby bird

Here’s a bird you’ll never get tired of looking at.

Children’s author and illustrator Claude Ponti’s gigantic topiary named Poussin Endormi or Sleepy Chick resides in Jardin des Plantes’ botanical garden in Nantes, France.

The outdoor installation relaxes nearby Ponti’s zany other works, the sleeping koala. Who wouldn’t want these in their front yard?

Check out some of Ponti’s surrealistic books below. What a wild imagination!

Culture & Society Science Travel

Two ash-covered bodies from Vesuvius eruption uncovered at Pompeii

Archaeologists uncovered the body of a wealthy 40-year old man and his young slave in Pompeii, 2,000 years after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. 

Excavations at the suburban villa Civita Giuliana, a suburb outside Pompeii, discovered the bodies covered in a bed of 6.5-foot ash.  

Researchers believe that the two men survived the initial eruption from Mount Vesuvius, only to succumb to a massive and more destructive cloud of scorching ash while seeking shelter in a cryptoporticus

The skeletal remains follow last year’s discovery of another Ancient Roman man crushed by a flying rock during Mount Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 A.D. 

Photo: Luigi Spina/Parco Archeologico, via AP
Photo: Luigi Spina/Parco Archeologico, via AP
Architecture & Design Nature Travel

Daisugi: Ancient Japanese technique for growing trees out of trees

The Japanese forestry technique for growing trees, daisugi, goes as far back to the 14th century.

The 600-year-old technique involves pruning a tree’s branches to construct a stable platform that supports producing perfectly straight lumber on top.

The ancient method, therefore, creates wood without cutting down trees. However, the ingenious forestry technique is no longer in use.

Daisugi:  Ancient Japanese technique for growing trees out of trees
Photo: Twitter/TaganiPH 
Daisugi:  Ancient Japanese technique for growing trees out of trees
Photo: Twitter/StevenGParker
Daisugi:  Ancient Japanese technique for growing trees out of trees
Photo: Twitter/HooaFury 
Nature Travel

Rock salt formations in Iran

There are mountains of rainbow rock salt formation in Jashak salt dome, in the Zagros mountains of Iran.

The beautiful rainbow rock formations are a result of rock salt and other evaporites that rose upward through overlying layers of rock millions of years ago in the Persian Gulf.

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
Architecture & Design Travel

Jatayu: The world’s largest bird sculpture

Jatayu Nature Park in Kerala, India, holds the largest bird sculpture on Earth.

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

According to the mythology, Jatayu once fell and injured his left wing at the location in an attempt to save Sita from the clutches of evil Ravana.

Photo: The Ganesh Shivaswamy Foundation, Bengaluru

The stone cut statue now serves as a symbol for the protection of womankind. View more of the sculpture in the videos and images below.

Nature Travel

The beauty of Slovenia’s Bled Island

Bred Island is a small tear-shaped island floating in the middle of Lake Bled in northwestern Slovenia.

On the island sits Pilgrimage Church of the Assumption of Mary, a Baroque church established in 1534.

The mountains and forests surrounding the lake add to the picturesque view of the church. During the winter, the frost over the island looks like a scene from a Disney movie. Tourists enjoy hiking around the lake and rowing in its peaceful waters during the summer.

Bred island is the only natural island in Slovenia. It’s also the country’s most popular destination. Straight out of a fairy-tale, we can all see why.


Vietnam’s Magical Golden Bridge

There are two hands at the Cau Vang (Golden Bridge) on the top of Da Nang’s Ba Nang Hills in Vietnam, one to pick up the people, the other to hold the bridge together. 

Suspended nearly a mile high above sea level, the 500-foot long bridge was designed by TA Landscape Architecture in Ho Chi Minh City. Said one of its principal designer Vu Viet Anh, the Instagramable scene intends to look like “giant hands of Gods, pulling a strip of gold out of the land.”

In fact, the stone hands have been on top of the mountaintop for centuries and have aged beautifully over time.

The Golden Bridge is quite simply, the apotheosis of where nature and great architecture collide. See more about Vietnam’s Magical Golden Bridge in the video below. 

Vietnam’s Magical Golden Bridge
Vietnam’s Magical Golden Bridge

Images via Nguyen Huy Kham / Reuters