Polska on a Dime – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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 Must-See Places

in Poland

Poland. A land of record holding attractions. A heavily wooded country in places, beautifully urbanized in others, Poland is a gem of European intrigue with a complex history scathed by the tragedies of armed conflict. In this account, we showcase a visitor’s 10 must see sites in surprising Poland, including the world’s largest castle and a mysterious forest.

10. Malbork Castle

Did you know that “The King of Castles,” the largest castle on the planet (by land area) is in Poland? Poland’s Marlbork Castle is a medieval gem that should rank well in any world itinerary of castle tours. Built in the 13th Century, Marlbork Castle, known as the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, consists of a castle and associated fortress construction close to the Polish town of Malbork. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the magnificent building attracts visitors looking to tick “biggest castle” off the touring achievements list.

Marlbork Castle is near the River Nogat in northern Poland, built out of brick and typifying Gothic architecture. The construction reflects the Teutonic Order state located in Prussia, where militant German monks fought crusades against Prussian and Lithuanian pagan tribes from the south coast of the Baltic Sea. The crusaders also attacked the Kingdom of Poland, a Christian Kingdom. Thus, the castle is seen as a symbol of the violent religious conflict that embodies much of Europe’s grand but often troubled history.

9. Bialowieza National Park

The primeval forest of Bialowieza National Park is the refuge of the majority of the world’s few remaining European bison, Poland’s national animal. Also designated as a World Heritage Site, the huge relict tract preserves the last of the temperate forest that once grew lush and mysterious across much of the European continent. The first national park to ever be established on the European continent, Bialowieza was declared a protected area in 1932 and stands out for its exceptional diversity. Along with the huge bison, other species seen here include lynx, wild boar, wolves and red deer.

Despite the relatively cool climate of Poland and surrounding lands, 12,000 animal species call the park home. Also known as the Zubr, the European Bison that define this park are iconic giants as Europe’s largest land animal in existence. During the Second World War, pressures on the bison increased, being seen as a source of meat in challenging conditions. Their survival in the refuge stands out as a heroic work of conservation in European history, an accomplishment of the Bison Breeding Center located in the park, the place where all bison left in the world originate.

8. Tatra Mountains

Poland is a country with diverse and fascinating geography, spanning from high mountain Europe to the Baltic Sea. In the south of Poland lies the Tatra mountain range, which is the highest set of mountains in the Carpathian range.

Tatras National Park contains spectacular cave sites as well as mountains, offering the visitor a glimpse of Poland’s most spectacular geographical region. Lakes in these mountains are impressive, particularly Morskie Oko, a lake whose name means Eye of the Sea in English. Morskie Oko is the Tatra Mountains’ largest lake, ranking fourth in depth and located within the national park. The conifer trees, rock outcrops and high elevations contrast sharply with brilliant blue waters that seem tropical in nature until you see the snow beyond. A destination for world class sight-seeing, rock climbing, hiking and caving, as well as paragliding, mountain biking and wildlife viewing, the “Polish Alps” — as they are sometimes called — are a lesser known great attraction of Europe worth any visitor’s time. Strict environmental protection policies are in place to preserve the flora and fauna of the park.

7. Tri-City

Poland is not all about farmland, forest and castles. It is also a seaport nation, with an impressive section of Baltic Sea coastline to offer visitors. Gdansk and and two other coastal municipalities, Gdynia and Sopot are known as the Tri-City, a municipal area with spectacular coastal architecture that is most whimsical, combined with heavy industry and a population of around one million.

The National Maritime Museum in Gdansk showcases seafaring and fishing history of coastal Poland, while the city has some dark history as the place where the first bullets were fired in World War II during the German invasion of Poland. The Solidarity Social Movement also first broke through the Iron Curtain in Gdansk 40 years afterward. Sopot is a lighter destination, established as a sort of recreation zone for European ruling classes of old. Spas, beachfront resorts and summer homes define the often bustling coast of Sopot. Gdynia offers a different sample of Poland, with a more subdued style. Art Deco, socialist and communist architecture are all juxtaposed here, along with fascinating relics, such as the Polish World War II battleship ‘Blyskawica’, now a visitor’s attraction and military exhibit.

6. Wawel Royal Castle

Considered a cultural icon of Polish history as well as a masterpiece of European royal architecture, Wawel Castle is located in the center of one of Poland’s most famous cities, Krakow. The 11th century saw construction of a small castle by King Boleslaw I Chrobry.

King Casimir III the Great renovated until the Royal Castle was a grand Gothic structure, only for it to burn in 1499. Zygmunt I Stary created the current palace, Italian-inspired and representing Renaissance glory. The cultural and political center of Poland throughout the 16th Century, Wawel Royal Castle is a museum in modern times, consisting of five distinct sections open for visitation. These are the Crown Treasury and Armory, the State Rooms, the Royal Private Apartments, the Lost Wawel and the Exhibition of Oriental Art. These works and the stunning grounds of the castle give visitors a most memorable experience of Polish Royal history. A survivor of history, Wawel Royal Castle was vandalized by Swedish and Prussian forces, Austrian-occupied in the 19th century with intent to make it a mere barracks and then re-incorporated into Poland following World War I. Restoration was underway between the two world wars, continuing once World War II hostilities ceased. Much improvement has been made to the rooms and the castle exterior.

5. Zamosc

Dating back to the 1500s, Zamosc is a Renaissance town that offers a time capsule-like experience for visitors, giving an authentic glimpse of ancient Poland with strong Italian architectural influence. The sights of the town range from churches to a grand old university to historic dwellings that reflect the lengthy history of this unique master planned town. The community is located in close proximity to the Ukrainian border. Attractions are diverse and visually pleasing in the town that was built as a collaboration between the great Italian designer Bernardo Morando, and chancellor Jan Zamoysky, after whom the town is named. Zamosc was not only built with specific architectural ideas in mind.

The town was planned with care on a larger scale to be a multicultural hub of European social and commercial exchange, strategically placed along the trade route that connected western and northern Europe with the Black Sea coast. Interestingly, the construction in Zamosc reflects efforts to implement tolerance, as the town contains religious buildings that serve as locations for a variety of faiths to worship.

4. Wroclaw

Peaceful yet vibrant, full of life Wroclaw is a jewel of Polish cultural life. Visitors to the Western Polish city will marvel at the stunning and innovative Gothic architecture that is juxtaposed on unique geography. Wroclaw is spread across riverside lands and a remarkable 12 islands, built by the River Oder, which flows from the Sudeten Mountains to the Baltic Sea. Founded in the 900s, the city has changed hands an incredible number of times. Wroclaw has been under Polish, Silesian, Bohemian, Hungarian, Prussian and German as well as Austrian Habsburg Dynastic rule in its history.

The city survived Mongolian sieges and Nazi occupation, ultimately being returned to Poland after World War II. A remarkable 130 bridges span the city’s watercourse zones, connecting whimsical and grand architectural sites and urban park lands. Visitors can wander the human-scale streets and take in the towering Church of St. Elizabeth, the grand Wroclaw Town Hall, and the market square, Rynek.

3. Wieliczka Salt Mine

The southern Polish town of Wieliczka holds a secret attraction from Poland’s industrial legacy under the surface of the Earth. A source of salt since the Neolithic era, Wieliczka Salt Mine provided table salt from the 13th century up to 2007. Salt price drops and mine flooding led commercial mining to stop in 1996, but the mine is anything but closed. Designated an official Polish Historic Monument (Pomnik Historii), the former royal salt mine offers visitors a chance to explore shafts, passageways and remarkable mining equipment, including giant cogs and horse-operated treadmills.

The mine is also home to amazing underground architecture, including four chapels, each with immaculate detailing. Statues were created from rock salt by miners and stand to this day, while modern artists have added to the collection. To prove the salt mine has it all, there is even an underground lake. Together with nearby “sister” royal salt mine Bochnia Salt Mine and the Zupny Castle, Wieliczka Salt Mine is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2. Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum

The single darkest legacy among many from the Nazi government’s military occupation of Poland is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. With that name comes a diabolical past that historians have ensured will not be forgotten. Located in Oswiecim, the memorial and museum encompasses the two camps, named Auschwitz I and nearby Auschwitz II-Birkenau, with infrastructure connecting the two sites included in the memorial site. It is here that disturbing relics ranging from camp fences and watchtowers to bunkers and railway tracks used to transport prisoners can still be found.

The ghastly relics include the actual crematoria used to dispose of murdered victims of the Third Reich, while an interesting asset includes the crude gallows used to hang SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer Rudolf Hoss, the first commandant of Auschwitz. Countless Jewish prisoners, as well as members of targeted ethnic groups, dissidents and others deemed targets of persecution by the Nazi regime were imprisoned at Auschwitz. A shocking 1.1 million people were killed here, including men, women and children. The museum and memorial was established in 1947, a relatively short time after the camp’s eventual liberation near the end of World War II.

1. Warsaw Uprising Museum

Warsaw, Poland’s capital, survived the Nazi invasion that sought to permanently take Poland as a new land asset of the Third Reich. Despite the damage, Warsaw is a city of both architectural and military historical interest. The Warsaw Uprising Museum is a Polish site of national pride that contains five display levels that document the Polish city’s efforts to overthrow German occupation force rule in 1944.

Opened 60 years after the liberation of Warsaw, the museum is within what was once a tram power station, constructed to commemorate the 1944 Warsaw Uprising by remembering the fighters for a free Poland. Exhibits include displays that portray the conflict of occupation era resistance, while a much newer section that opened in 2006 focuses on the history of Allied force supply air drops and includes a faithful replica of a B-24J bomber.


Polska on a Dime

WIF 10 Cent Travel

Fire, Floods, Famine, Lava and Shakers – WIF Bad Things Go Happen

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Epic Natural Disasters

Throughout History

Natural disasters have existed as long as humanity, and in fact a lot longer. This means that pretty much every century in recorded history has been forced to endure one or more incredibly destructive attacks of nature’s strongest powers. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest natural disasters in history, and how they affected the people of that era.

10. Peshtigo Fire

Most people are familiar with the Great Chicago Fire, with its “Mrs. O’Leary’s cow tipped over a lantern” backstory and hundreds of dead. However, it’s far from the most destructive fire in American history. It’s not even the most destructive one that started on October 8, 1871. That dubious honor goes to the Peshtigo Fire of Wisconsin — the most destructive forest fire in America’s history, which caused around 1,200 deaths, burned an incredible 1.2 million acres and burned through 16 different towns, in 11 counties. At one point, it even “skipped over” Green Bay to burn sections of two counties on the other side. It even made the same amount of damage as the much more urban Chicago fire — roughly $169 million.

Where the Great Chicago Fire was a disaster, the Peshtigo fire was hell, plain and simple. The fire was likely started by careless railroad workers who caused a brush fire which the dry summer and unfortunate winds soon whipped up into a superfast wall of flame that some say moved almost like a tornado. The flames “convulsed” and moved in strange ways, eating up all the oxygen and bursting fleeing people ablaze. It looked like the end of the world, and for many, it was. There were heroics, and tragic losses, and desperate survival stories. One heroic man reportedly carried a woman all the way to safety, thinking it was his wife, and when he found it was a stranger he immediately went insane. A young girl spent all night in the river to escape the inferno, holding on to a cow’s horn to stay moored.

The worst damage was done to the fire’s namesake, the town of Peshtigo. 800 of the fire’s 1,200 victims were from there, and the entire place was “gone in an hour.”

9. Ch’ing-yang event

There have been many times when meteors and meteorites have graced our planet with their presence, but arguably the one with the biggest death toll is the Ch’ing-yang event in 1490. Seeing as this meteor shower event in China happened well over five centuries ago, actual details about the event are unfortunately somewhat fuzzy. Accounts of the era report that “stones falling like rain” killed up to 10,000 people on the Ch’ing-Yang area of the Shaanxi Province.

Modern experts have expressed doubt over that exact figure — after all, it is the only meteor shower case with such a giant death toll. However, pretty much everyone agrees that a “dramatic event” happened at the reported time and place, and it’s speculated that a breakup of an asteroid may indeed have resulted in a deadly rain of celestial hail.

8. Calcutta cyclone

The Ganges River delta area is no stranger to tropical storms, but the Calcutta cyclone of 1737, also known as the Hoogly River cyclone, ranks among the absolute worst. It struck on an early autumn morning just south of the city of Calcutta, tearing 200 miles inlands before finally calling it a day. The cyclone brought with it a 30 to 40-foot storm surge (a sudden rise of water level in Ganges), along with 15 inches of rain over just six hours.

The combination of these elemental attacks was catastrophic. Most of the city of Calcutta, built largely of mud huts and brick buildings, was utterly demolished. The city suffered 3,000 casualties, but the cyclone’s overall damage was over a hundred times worse; The disaster is estimated to have killed up to 350,000 people and destroyed around 20,000 boats, ships and canoes of all shapes and sizes.

7. Dadu River dam landslide

On June 1, 1976, a huge earthquake shook the Kangding-Luding area of southwest China, causing all the problems that a major 7.75 magnitude quake can cause. What happened next was worse. A landslide dam (debris from the landslide blocking the water flow of the river), and as is so often the case in impromptu dams, it unfortunately wasn’t built to last.

After building a nice reservoir behind it for 10 days, the landslide dam eventually breached. The water cascaded downstream as a catastrophic wall of death, flooding the areas it encountered to the tune of 100,000 deaths. Experts think that this was likely the most destructive event of this particular nature in history.

6. Coringa cyclones

Coringa was a large and prosperous Indian port city at the mouth of river Godavari. These days, it’s still there, but only as a mere small village. This is because the former busy city went through some of the worst cyclones in history.

In 1789, Coringa received a massive blow when a nasty cyclone tore through the area, leaving around 20,000 people dead. The shaken city was nevertheless able to resume its functions, but unbeknownst to its residents, their terrors had only begun. On November 25, 1839, another, much worse cyclone came, bringing a 40-foot storm surge and punishing winds with it. Once the roar of the storm died down, Coringa’s entire port was destroyed. The death count of the cyclone was an estimated 300,000 people, which along with the 20,000 boats that were also destroyed by the storm marked the end of Coringa’s glory days.

5. Krakatoa volcanic eruption of 1883

What the Krakatoa volcano’s eruption in August 1883 lacked in death toll (it killed “only” 36,000 people), it delivered in pure, deadly spectacle. The volcano, which was on a 3-by-5.5 mile island between Sumatra and Java, started giving signs of upcoming trouble months before the incident, starting with massive ash clouds, “thundering” noises and strange “natural fireworks” that lit the sky. Unaware of the impeding doom, the people living on nearby islands took to celebrating the show — only to be rudely interrupted when Krakatoa started a very different, deadly party.

On August 26, the first blast threw debris and a gas cloud a good 15 miles in the air. The next morning, the area was shaken by four explosions that equaled the strength of 200 megatons of TNT (the Hiroshima bomb was around 0,01% of that) and could be heard from 2,800 miles away. Super-heated steam, hot gases and volcanic matter scorched the surrounding 25 miles at speeds over 62 miles-per-hour.

The eruption claimed its first victims via thermal injuries from its mighty blasts, and the rest fell victim to the 120-foot tsunami that came when the volcano collapsed into an undersea caldera. Even after its initial terrors were over, Krakatoa wouldn’t stop wrecking humanity’s day. The eruption was so strong that it actually changed the climate and dropped temperatures all over the world.

4. Shaanxi earthquake

In 1556, the Shaanxi province of China had the extreme misfortune of hosting what is thought to be the deadliest earthquake in recorded history. The quake was around 8 on the Richter scale, meaning it was a “great” earthquake that is totally capable of leveling communities near the epicenter. The Shaanxi quake wasn’t content with just communities, either; Chinese annals report that it lasted mere seconds, but was so incredibly strong that it destroyed buildings, remodeled rivers, caused floods, ignited massive fires and even “leveled mountains.”

As you can probably expect, such a massive disaster was bad news for any and all humans who happened on its way. The Shaanxi earthquake had an estimated 830,000 casualties, and it actually cut the population of the area by a ridiculous 60 percent. Oddly, it also managed to affect the architectural trends of the area: Because many people had been killed by falling stone buildings, the rebuilding process saw the adaptation of wood, bamboo and other more earthquake-resistant materials.

3. Yellow River floods of China

Between 1887 and 1938, China’s famed Huang He (Yellow River) went through the top three most destructive floods in recorded history. The 3,395-mile river is extremely silted, which makes especially the North China Plain’s flatlands to be in constant risk of flooding: Since the 2nd century BCE, it has flooded an estimated 1,500 times, and no one can even begin to calculate the death and destruction these floods have brought in total.

We do, however, know unpleasantly well the havoc these three ultra-destructive floods brought on the ill-prepared China. In the flood that happened over September and October of 1887 (and the famine and diseases it brought to the survivors) the death toll is estimated somewhere between 900,000 and two million people. An even more destructive one in August 1931 covered 34,000 square miles of land in water, and “partially” flooded a further 8,000. Up to 4 million people were killed by the flood and its aftermath, and a devastating 80 million people were left homeless. This particular flood is often considered the most deadly natural disaster in recorded history.

The last of the three mega-floods came in June 1938, and it was actually completely man-made. Thanks to the military’s destruction of dikes near Kaifeng in an effort to stop the approaching Japanese forces in the Sino-Japanese war, up to 900,000 people died.

2. The great European famine

If even honest men can do terrible things when they’re desperate, and the best way to make a person desperate is to make them terribly hungry, imagine what would happen if you’d make a whole continent starve. Actually, you don’t need to, because that exact thing happened in 14th century Europe.

The Great European Famine happened when bad weather conditions caused crops to fail all over Europe from 1315 to the summer harvest of 1317. The results were nothing short of cataclysmic. The few years of hunger single-handedly stopped a centuries-long time of wealth and growth, and plunged the continent into a pandemonium of disease, death, crime, and even the indescribable horrors of infanticide and cannibalism. Millions of people died, and it took until 1922 for Europe to recover from the terror. In fact, the effects of the disaster can still be felt today: Reportedly, certain parts of France are still more sparsely populated than they were just before the Great Famine hit.

1. Plague of Justitian

Disclaimer: this one has a death toll that goes right through the roof, though technically it’s not a natural disaster in the “earth rises to devour us all” sense, but rather an outbreak of disease. A massive, massive outbreak of disease.

Imagine being an all-powerful emperor trying to cement your legacy, only to find that the main thing history books remember about you is that a bunch of rodents managed to kill countless thousands of people during your reign … and then giving the ensuing epidemic. Such was the fate of Byzantine’s emperor Justitian I, who became the namesake of the Plague of Justitian (or Justitian’s plague, because why bother giving it just one version of the guy’s name?) just because he happened to be in charge when it struck.

Justitian’s plague, which was basically a nasty cellar band version of the Black Plague before it went mainstream, had formed in China and/or India, and its tours eventually took it to Egypt and assorted trade routes. it got its big break in the year 542, when the rodents bearing the disease finally reached the mighty city of Constantinople. Reports indicate that the city was struck with pretty much all forms of plague at once: Apart from the Black Death classic bubonic plague, pneumonic and septicemic types were also present. As such, citizens started keeling over by the thousand. Tens of thousands of people died in an extremely short span of time, and matters weren’t helped by the fact that authorities were unable to dispose of the masses of dead, diseased bodies in a timely manner.

After the plague was done with Justitian’s Constantinople, it turned its attention to the Mediterranian and later Persia. Its active career lasted for an estimated half a century, though some indicate that the plague continued its Mediterranean tour for a good 225 years. Ultimately, it’s estimated that the Plague of Justitian killed up to 40% of Constantinople’s residents, and the entire Byzantine empire lost somewhere between 25 and 50 million people. Nice legacy, Justitian.


Fire, Floods, Famine, Lava and Shakers

WIF Bad Things Go Happen

Monuments to Something – WIF Landmark Travel

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Mysterious

World Landmarks

The world is filled with ancient monuments built by master craftsmen in order to honor everything from kings and presidents to religious figures. And although most of these landmarks have been carefully studied and researched by scientists and historians, some are simply so old, incomplete, or obscure that we still don’t know very much about why they were built or what purpose they served. The following are 10 world landmarks that, whether by intention or simply due to the passage of time, continue to baffle the people who study them.

10. The Cahokia Mounds


Cahokia is the name given to an Indian settlement that exists outside of Collinsville, Illinois. Archaeologists estimate that the city was founded sometime around 650 AD, and its complex network of burial grounds and sophisticated landscaping prove that it was once a thriving community. It has been estimated that at its peak the city was home to as many as 40,000 people, which would have made it the most populous settlement in America prior to the arrival of the Europeans. The most notable aspect of Cahokia today are the 80 mounds of earth, some as high as 100 feet, which dot the 2,200-acre site. These helped create a network of plazas throughout the city, and it is believed that important buildings, like the home of the settlement’s chief, were built on top of them. The site also features a series of wooden posts that archaeologists have dubbed “woodhenge.” The posts are said to mark the solstices and equinoxes, and supposedly figured prominently in the community’s astronomical mythology.

The Mystery
Although scientists are constantly discovering new information about the Cohokia community, the biggest mystery that remains is which modern Indian tribe is descended from the residents of the ancient city, as well as just what it was that caused them to abandon their settlement.

9. Newgrange


Considered to be the oldest and most famous prehistoric site in all of Ireland, Newgrange is a tomb that was built from earth, wood, clay, and stone around 3100 BC, some 1000 years before the construction of the pyramids in Egypt. It consists of a long passage that leads to a cross-shaped chamber that was apparently used as a tomb, as it contains stone basins filled with cremated remains. The most unique feature of Newgrange is its careful and sturdy design, which has helped the structure remain completely waterproof to this day. Most amazing of all, the entrance to the tomb was positioned relative to the sun in such a way that on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the rays from the sun are channeled through the opening and down the nearly 60 foot passageway, where they illuminate the floor of the monument’s central room.

The Mystery
Archaeologists know Newgrange was used as a tomb, but why and for who still remains a mystery. The painstaking design needed to guarantee that the yearly solstice event occurs suggests that the site was held in high regard, but other than the obvious hypothesis that the sun featured prominently in the mythology of the builders, scientists are at a loss to describe the true reason for Newgrange’s construction.

8. The Yonaguni Monument


Of all the famous monuments in Japan, perhaps none is more perplexing than Yonaguni, an underwater rock formation that lies off the coast of the Ryuku Islands. It was discovered in 1987 by a group of divers who were there to observe Hammerhead sharks, and it immediately sparked a huge amount of debate in the Japanese scientific community. The monument is made up of a series of striking rock formations including massive platforms, carved steps, and huge stone pillars that lie at depths of 5-40 meters. There is a triangular formation that has become known as “the turtle” for its unique shape, as well as a long, straight wall that borders one of the larger platforms. The currents in the area are known for being particularly treacherous, but this has not stopped the Yonaguni monument from becoming one of the most popular diving locations in all of Japan.

The Mystery
The ongoing debate surrounding Yonaguni centers on one key subject: is the monument a natural phenomenon, or is it man-made? Scientists have long argued that millennia of strong currents and erosion have carved the formations out of the ocean floor, and they point to the fact that the monument is all one piece of solid rock as proof that it was not assembled by a builder. Others, though, point to the many straight edges, square corners and 90-degree angles of the formation as proof that it’s artificial. They often cite one formation in particular, a section of rock that resembles a crude carving of a human face, as evidence. If they are right, then an even more interesting mystery presents itself: who constructed the Yonaguni Monument, and for what purpose?

7. The Nazca Lines


The Nazca lines are a series of designs and pictographs carved into the ground in the Nazca Desert, a dry plateau located in Peru. They cover an area of some 50 miles, and were supposedly created between 200 BC and 700 AD by the Nazca Indians, who designed them by scraping away the copper colored rocks of the desert floor to expose the lighter-colored earth beneath. The lines have managed to remain intact for hundreds of years thanks to the region’s arid climate, which sees it receive little rain or wind throughout the year. Some of the lines span distances of 600 feet, and they depict everything from simple designs and shapes to characterizations of plants, insects, and animals.

The Mystery
Scientists know who made the Nazca Lines and how they did it, but they still don’t know why. The most popular and reasonable hypothesis is that the lines must have figured in the Nazca people’s religious beliefs, and that they made the designs as offerings to the gods, who would’ve been able to see them from the heavens. Still, other scientists argue that the lines are evidence of massive looms that the Nazcas used to make textiles, and one investigator has even made the preposterous claim that they are the remnants of ancient airfields used by a vanished, technologically advanced society.

6. Goseck Circle


One of the most mysterious landmarks in Germany is the Goseck Circle, a monument made out of earth, gravel, and wooden palisades that is regarded as the earliest example of a primitive “solar observatory.” The circle consists of a series of circular ditches surrounded by palisade walls (which have since been reconstructed) that house a raised mound of dirt in the center. The palisades have three openings, or gates, that point southeast, southwest, and north. It is believed that the monument was built around 4900 BC by Neolithic peoples, and that the three openings correspond to the direction from which the sun rises on the winter solstice.

The Mystery
The monument’s careful construction has led many scientists to believe that the Goseck Circle was built to serve as some kind of primitive solar or lunar calendar, but its exact use is still a source of debate. Evidence has shown that a so-called “solar cult” was widespread in ancient Europe. This has led to speculation that the Circle was used in some kind of ritual, perhaps even in conjunction with human sacrifice. This hypothesis has yet to be proven, but archaeologists have uncovered several human bones, including a headless skeleton, just outside the palisade walls.

5. Sacsayhuaman


Not far from the famous Inca city of Machu Picchu lies Sacsayhuaman, a strange embankment of stone walls located just outside of Cuzco. The series of three walls was assembled from massive 200-ton blocks of rock and limestone, and they are arranged in a zigzag pattern along the hillside. The longest is roughly 1000 feet in length and each stands some fifteen feet tall. The monument is in astonishingly good condition for its age, especially considering the region’s propensity for earthquakes, but the tops of the walls are somewhat demolished, as the monument was plundered by the Spanish to build churches in Cuzco. The area surrounding the monument has been found to be the source of several underground catacombs called chincanas, which were supposedly used as connecting passageways to other Inca structures in the area.

The Mystery
Most scientists agree that Sacsayhuaman served as a kind of fortress of barrier wall, but this has been disputed. The strange shape and angles of the wall have led some speculate that it may have had a more symbolic function, one example being that the wall, when seen next to Cuzco from above, forms the shape of the head of a Cougar. Even more mysterious than the monument’s use, though, are the methods that were used in its construction. Like most Inca stone works, Sacsayhuaman was built with large stones that fit together so perfectly that not even a sheet of paper can be placed in the gaps between them. Just how the Incas managed such expert placements, or, for that matter, how they managed to transport and lift the heavy hunks of stone, is still not fully known.

4. The Easter Island Moai


One of the most iconic series of monuments in the Pacific islands is the Moai, a group of huge statues of exaggerated human figures that are found only on the small, isolated island of Rapa Nui, or Easter Island. The Moai were carved sometime between 1250 and 1500 AD by the island’s earliest inhabitants, and are believed to depict the people’s ancestors, who in their culture were held in the same regard as deities. The Moai were chiseled and carved from tuff, a volcanic rock that is prevalent on the island, and they all feature the same characteristics of an oversized head, broad nose, and a mysterious, indecipherable facial expression. Scientists have determined that as many as 887 of the statues were originally carved, but years of infighting among the island’s clans led to many being destroyed. Today, only 394 are still standing, the largest of which is 30 feet tall and weighs over 70 tons.

The Mystery
While there is a fairly solid consensus on why the Moai were erected, how the islanders did it is still up for debate. The average Moai weighs several tons, and for years scientists were at a loss to describe how the monuments were transported from Rano Raraku, where most of them were constructed, to their various locations around the island. In recent years, the most popular theory is that the builders used wooden sleds and log rollers to move the Moai, an answer that would also explain how the once verdant island became almost totally barren due to deforestation.

3. The Georgia Guidestones


While most of the mysterious monuments on this list only became that way as centuries passed, the Georgia Guidestones, also known as American Stonehenge, are one landmark that was always intended to be an enigma. The monument, which consists of four monolithic slabs of granite that support a single capstone, was commissioned in 1979 by a man who went by the pseudonym of R.C. Christian. A local mason carefully crafted it so that one slot in the stones is aligned with the sun on the solstices and equinoxes, and one small hole is always pointed in the direction of the North Star. Most interesting, though, are the inscriptions on the slabs, which an accompanying plaque describes as “the guidestones to an Age of Reason.” In eight different languages, the slabs offer a strange ten-point plan to ensure peace on Earth that includes vague proclamations like “prize truth–beauty–love–seeking harmony with the infinite,” to very specific commands like “maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.” Comments like this one have made the Guidestones one of the most controversial landmarks in the United States, and they have long been protested and even vandalized by groups that would like to see them demolished.

The Mystery
For all their controversy, very little is known about who built the Guidestones or what their true purpose is. R.C. Christian claimed he represented an independent organization when he commissioned the landmark, but neither he nor his group has spoken up since its construction. Since the monument was built during the height of the Cold War, one popular theory about the group’s intentions is that the Guidestones were to serve as a primer for how to rebuild society in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust.

2. The Great Sphinx of Giza


Sphinxes are massive stone statues that depict the body of a reclining lion with the head and face of a human. The figures are found all over the world in different forms, but they are most commonly linked with Egypt, which features the most famous example in the form of the Great Sphinx of Giza. Incredibly, the statue is carved out of one monolithic piece of rock, and at 240 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 66 feet tall, it is considered to be the biggest monument of its kind in the world. Historians largely accept the function of the Sphinx to have been that of a symbolic guardian, since the statues were strategically placed around important structures like temples, tombs, and pyramids. The Great Sphinx of Giza appears to be no different. It stands adjacent to the pyramid of the pharaoh Khafra, and most archaeologists believe that it is his face that is depicted on that of the statue.

The Mystery
Despite its reputation as one of the most famous monuments of antiquity, there is still very little known about the Great Sphinx of Giza. Egyptologists might have a small understanding of why the statue was built, but when, how, and by who is still shrouded in mystery. The pharaoh Khafra is the main suspect, which would date the structure back to around 2500 BC, but other scientists have argued that evidence of water erosion of the statue suggests that it is much older and perhaps even predated the dynastic era of the Egyptians. This theory has few modern adherents, but if true it would mean the Great Sphinx of Giza is even more mysterious than previously believed.

1. Stonehenge


Of all the world’s famous monuments, none has gained as much of a reputation for pure, simple mystery as Stonehenge. Stonehenge has been inspiring debate among scholars, scientists, and historians since the Middle Ages. Located in the English countryside, the landmark is believed to date back to 2500 BC, and consists of several mammoth pieces of rock arranged and piled on top of one another in what appears at first to be a random design. The site is surrounded by a small, circular ditch, and is flanked by burial mounds on all sides. Although the rock formations that still remain are undoubtedly impressive, it is thought that the modern version of Stonehenge is only a small remnant of a much larger monument that was damaged with the passing of time, and it is largely believed that the building process was so extensive that it could have lasted on and off for anywhere from 1500 to 7000 years.

The Mystery
Stonehenge has become renowned for puzzling even the most brilliant researchers, and over the years the many gaps in the history of its construction, the nature of its use, and the true identity of its builders have become known as “The Mystery of Stonehenge.” The Neolithic people who built the monument left behind no written records, so scientists can only base their theories on the meager evidence that exists at the site. This has led to wild speculation that the monument was left by aliens, or that it was built by some eons-old society of technologically advanced super-humans. All craziness aside, the most common explanation remains that Stonehenge served as some kind of graveyard monument that played a role in the builders’ version of the afterlife, a claim that is backed up by its proximity to several hundred burial mounds. Yet another theory suggests that the site was a place for spiritual healing and the worship of long dead ancestors.


Monuments to Something

WIF Landmark Travel

The Grand Canyon of the Pacific – WIF Oceanography

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 Mysteries of

the Mariana Trench

Space may be the “final frontier,” but it’s far from the most alien one. The oceans are still full of mysteries and strange lifeforms, and nowhere in the wet part of the world is more mysterious than the Mariana Trench. This vast ocean pit in the Western Pacific reveals new secrets whenever a brave explorer ventures in its lethal depths, and continues to amaze even the most jaded ocean researcher. Today, we’ll take a look at some of its strangest aspects and most enduring mysteries.

10. The size of the Mariana Trench

To even comprehend all the weird stuff that’s going on in the Mariana Trench, we must first understand its sheer size. Picture an underwater Grand Canyon. It’s easy to think that the place is just some deep, watery hole where a few creepy bioluminating critters hang about. In reality, however, the Mariana Trench is absolutely massive. It’s no less than 1,580 miles long and 43 miles wide, which understandably makes its exploration an incredibly daunting task even if you ignore the water pressure and the terrifying-looking lifeforms that lurk within its depths, which extend all the way down to roughly 36,000 feet below the surface at the trench’s deepest point, the Challenger Deep.

The Trench is technically U.S. territory, but since a giant, super-deep ocean hole that contains all sorts of strange ecosystems is obviously fairly vulnerable to human tampering, President George W. Bush declared it a “marine national monument” in 2009. This means that the majority of the Mariana Trench, along with a whole bunch of surrounding seafloor and several underwater volcanoes, are a protected marine reserve.

9. The Mariana Trench mystery sound

One of the strangest things that have emanated from the Mariana Trench hasn’t been a frightening sea monster, though we’d be surprised if the option isn’t on the table whenever the mysterious “bio-metallic” sound that sometimes emanates from the trench is heard. Marine researchers have dubbed this almost mechanical, “twangy” noise “Western Pacific Biotwang,” and it first turned up in 2014 when scientists recorded ocean sounds near the Mariana Trench with diving robots called “passive acoustic ocean gliders.”

The complex, 3.5-second sound turned up several times during the research period, and while it seemed mysterious, the scientists eventually decided that the most likely culprit is a minke whale, a peculiar small whale that can sound like a Star Wars sound effect. However, the minke whales themselves remain largely a mystery to science, and they still have no idea what the call is about, and why it has been recorded year-round.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time the elusive minke whales have puzzled scientists. For 50 years, researchers were puzzled by a strange, duck-like underwater sound that seemed too repetitive and rhythmical to be anything but man-made, and far too loud to be a fish. We didn’t figure out that this “bio-duck” sound was minke whales until 2014.

8. Strange undersea volcanoes

When listing deep-sea dangers, one imagines things like giant sharks and maybe huge octopus creatures. What you wouldn’t expect, though, are massive mud volcanoes, spewing hot mud and rock fragments from the depths of the earth to the, uh, depths of the sea. Still, such natural structures exist within the Mariana Trench, which exists in a spot where the Pacific tectonic plate is pushed downwards by the Philippine Sea Plate. This makes the area a hotspot of volcanic activity, and the mud volcanoes are part of the deal.

Incidentally, these massive geological structures bring warmth to the kinds of depths where very little would otherwise exist. Thanks to the heat and minerals of the mud volcanoes, researchers have found evidence of microbial life as deep as six miles under the Mariana Trench. This is a hint that life may survive in the kinds of extreme environs we’re yet to truly comprehend. As project leader Oliver Plumper puts it: ““This is another hint at a great, deep biosphere on our planet. It could be huge or very small, but there is definitely something going on that we don’t understand yet.”

If that quote wasn’t ominous enough, the Mariana Trench can up its volcano game to an even weirder level: It’s also home to a submarine volcano that spews molten sulphur, and another one where the eruptions are liquid carbon dioxide. Life under the sea may not always be fun, but it’s certainly eventful.

7. The Mariana Trench Megalodon

In 2018, the Jason Statham movie The Meg introduced the world to the novel concept of giant Megalodon sharks lurking in the Mariana Trench. The movie depicts the Mariana Trench having a “fake” bottom, behind which these super-sharks have lurked all along, but apart from that novel feature, the conspiracy theories about Megalodons secretly haunting the seas have been around for quite a while — and what better location for them to hide their existence from puny humanity than the deepest pit in the sea?

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your views on massive sharks), this is very unlikely to be true. The Mariana Trench could not even theoretically support a creature as large as the Megalodon, and anyway, the creature used to hang around in fairly shallow, warm waters. But hey, one can always dream, right?

6. The Hadal Deep

The Hadal Deep is technically a joint moniker for the deepest parts of the ocean all around the world, but the Mariana Trench is where it is at its absolute most unforgiving. The zone is named after the Greek mythology’s underworld Hades, and fittingly enough, it’s so intensely hostile to human life that more people have been to the Moon than ventured there. This is a big part of why it holds so many mysteries: To keep people alive (and equipment intact) in the pressures of the Hadal Deep is intensely difficult.

Oh, and here’s where things get really nasty: When it comes to the Mariana Trench, the beginning of the hellish Hadal Deep is pretty much just the halfway point. The Hadal Deep starts at 20,000 feet below the surface, while the deepest (as far as we know) parts of the Mariana Trench are well over 35,000 feet deep. So, before you venture there, maybe do a practice run in one of the other 45 Hadal areas in the world.

Yes, you read that right. There are no less than 46 of these underwater hells scattered around the world, and we’ve barely scratched their surface.

5. Sounds from the Deep

Weird whale noises are one thing, but when scientists managed to capture audio from the deepest ocean pit on the planet in 2016, things got all sorts of creepy. You’d expect that the Challenger Deep would be a serenely quiet place at 6.7 miles beneath the surface, but recordings show that the area is actually chock-full of sounds that seem like something out of a horror movie.

Yes, the deep is full of screeches, moans and rumbles, and while the occasional sound can be traced back to a whale or an earthquake, a whole bunch of them remain a mystery. Perhaps the strangest thing about the recordings is the fact that you can often hear the surface sounds shockingly clearly, and boat propellers and typhoons are clearly audible on some of the tapes. In fact, marine scientists are kind of worried that man-made sounds will only increase in the ocean, even in the pits of the Hadal Deep. So, you know. When the creatures of the deep inevitably rise against us surface dwellers, there’s a fair chance it will be because they’re just coming to complain about their noisy upstairs neighbors.

4. The crazy marine life of the Mariana Trench

Imagine a science fiction monster and there’s a decent chance that a variation of it exists somewhere in the depths of the Mariana Trench. There are relatively huge amoebas that surround and consume their prey like a gelatinous cube monster in Dungeons & Dragons. There are various translucent and bio-luminescent creatures. There are, of course, many-toothed monsters like the freaky anglerfish and the huge goblin shark, not to mention creatures with telling names like “deep sea hatchetfish” and “fanfin sea devil.” What else is lurking down there? Who knows!

To be fair, the marine life of the Mariana Trench is not just pure nightmare fodder. The most fearsome predator of the area is a perfectly unassuming little pink guy called the Mariana snailfish, which gets along simply because it can live a lot deeper than some of its toothier neighbors. As it’s able to exist at a depth of an impressive 26,200 feet, it’s free to feast on smaller marine life without risk of getting eaten itself.

3. The secrets of the ocean floor

In 2012, James Cameron — yes, the Titanic director — climbed into a small specially-made submarine and spent two hours and 36 minutes descending to the lowest point of the Mariana Trench. This was the deepest solo dive in human history, and though Cameron didn’t exactly discover the Kraken, his adventure yielded some mightily interesting scientific results. Apart from various larger and weirder than expected (though not large enough to star in a disaster movie) bottom-dwellers, areas of the trench’s bottom were covered by an “astonishingly bizarre” ecosystem of a thick layer of bacteria that seemed to subsist solely on chemical reactions between the water and the rock.

It’s almost certain that Cameron’s dive was just scratching the surface, too — researchers have estimated that the bottom of the trench might house 50-100 species of xenophyophores (basically giant amoebas) alone, let alone all the other species Cameron saw… and, no doubt, many that we’ve yet to discover.

2. The whole Mariana Trench is a giant mystery

What do we know about the Mariana Trench? At the moment, next to nothing. The researchers keep constantly finding mysterious new species and freely admit that “much of the trench and surrounding areas remain unexplored.”

When you really think about what you’ve read on this list, is it any wonder? It’s almost like our planet custom designed the Mariana Trench to be a mystery wrapped in an enigma, and made it as difficult as possible for a fragile human being to observe. It’s a place of total darkness, cold, and crushing pressures, populated by alien-looking creatures and constantly bombarded by constant noise from both man-made and natural sources. All in all, there are belief systems out there that have less scary hells.

1. The most horrifying beast in the Mariana Trench

Yes, of course it’s humans. It’s always humans, even in the least people-friendly crevasse on the planet.

In 2019, a diver reportedly discovered several candy wrappers and a plastic bag in the Mariana Trench, a good 35,849 feet under the sea. This means we’ve already managed to contaminate the place that we have barely begun to explore, and it’s getting pretty bad. In fact, a group of experts estimated in 2017 that certain areas of the Mariana Trench are more contaminated than some of the most polluted rivers in China.

Interestingly, many deep sea amphipods hanging around at the bottom of the trench (and the oceans in general) are now stuffing themselves with plastics and microfibers that litter the sea floor. It remains to be seen how this affects them, and what effect their new diet will have on the ocean’s ecosystem in the long run. Experts’ predictions, unfortunately, aren’t too great.


The Grand Canyon of the Pacific –

WIF Oceanography

Amazon = River – NOT = Fulfillment Center

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Amazing Mysteries

of THE Amazon

Not Amazon.com

Depending on who is looking, the mysterious jungles of the Amazon inspire many different urges. The wise fear and respect the incredibly diverse biosphere. The curious enter its jungles with a sense of wonder and harbor hopes of discovery, while the greedy view the green tangle of dense forest as something to be destroyed and converted into a different kind of green.

Sometimes called the lungs of the world, the Amazon basin lies mostly in the South American country of Brazil (although the rainforest spans multiple nations including Peru, Colombia and minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and the French territory of French Guiana). The Amazon basin itself is huge — almost 2.9 million square miles — or about 35% of South America. Even with the horrible exploitation of slash and burn farming practices, most of its unexplored rainforests are very difficult to penetrate. Under its deep and thick canopy lie many mysteries…

10. The explorer Francisco de Orellana

After Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incan Empire, his half brother Gonzalo Pizarro (who took part in the Incan destruction) arrived in Peru as the ruler of the city of Quito. The local people spoke of a great Kingdom East of the Andes called the Land of Cinnamon, or the famous golden city of El Dorado. In 1541 Pizarro choose one of his trusted underlings, Francisco de Orellana, to accompany him on his quest to find the Kingdoms. From the beginning, things did not go well with the exploration crusade. Thousands of expedition members died or simply disappeared into the wilderness. After crossing the towering mountain peaks of the Andes only a few dozen remained. Pizarro decided to return to Quito and ordered Orellana to try and find more kingdoms to conquer and to also follow the rivers to the Atlantic.

With about 50 men, Orellana built some riverboats and set off down the Amazon. Along the way he recorded encountering multiple riverside cities that they determined were ruled by an Inland Empire. When Orellana interrogated these people about the location of the cities of gold the locals didn’t know what he was talking about. Thinking they were lying, the European conquistadors resorted to torture, eventually turning most of the peoples they came into contact with against them. On June 24, 1542, they came across another group of riverside dwellers. Warned of Orellana’s hostile actions by natives farther upstream, they attacked the Orellana party. While fighting off the brave combatants, the conquistadors were stunned to be fighting women warriors. This would later remind Europeans of the famous Amazon fighters of Greek legend — thus giving the river its name.  On August 26, 1542, the men reached the Pacific, becoming the first Europeans to travel down the Amazon.

Returning to Spain, Orellana spoke of his travels and the great urban areas he encountered along the river. Yet years later when the Spanish were able to finally get back to the Amazon they found nothing but thick jungle. What happened to all the people he saw?

9. The Amazon jungle was once home to millions

When later expeditions tried to find the civilization that Orellana spoke about all they could find along the Amazon river was jungle. Orellana had died soon after his voyage and could not offer any insight or defense for what people now claimed was, at best, an exaggeration, and at worst a lie in hopes of scamming the Spanish crown out of money for a new expedition. For centuries this was the conventional wisdom of the academic world: that the Amazon jungle was sparsely populated with a smattering of now-famous  not-contacted native tribes.

New research is smashing these assumptions, aided by emerging technology like satellite imagery and LIDAR (a laser imaging system that can harmlessly see through forest canopies). Analyzing this data has revealed that during 1200 and 1500 A.D. a huge civilization of millions lived along the Amazon River system.

It is thought that this civilization was ruined by its success as a complex trading network, as newly introduced European diseases spread to every corner of the Empire. People became infected without ever seeing or coming into contact with a sick European. With most of its people dead and its society destroyed, the jungle grew over the abandoned urban settlements within a few years. When European explorers returned years later all they saw was a thick, impenetrable jungle.

8. Black soil

One of the biggest arguments against a large Amazon civilization was the basin’s famously poor soil quality — soil so bad that it could never have supported a civilization with such a large population. Even today, after the jungle is mowed down and its trees burned up, farmers can only grow a limited yield of crops before the soil becomes exhausted and they have to move on and continue the destructive slash and burn farming cycle.

This argument was finally overturned with the discovery of terra preta. Scientists would find patches of rich, dark soil that they termed terra preta. Crops grown in this soil grew exponentially more than crops grown in normal Amazon soil. At first, it was thought to be naturally occurring but then researchers were able to determine that the soil was made by craftsmen of the ancient Amazon civilization through a process scientists are only now beginning to understand.

7. Boiling river

Deep in the Peruvian jungle lies a mysterious boiling river. For decades it was thought to be a myth; it was only when Andrés Ruzo trekked deep into the forest to try and seek it out that it was confirmed to exist. Traveling up river after river, he finally found a river so hot that if anything falls in it is boiled alive. Its non-volcanic origins are a mystery. The river starts off cool and passes through a hot spring before eventually cooling off again. With no known local volcanic activity, researchers are unsure of the boiling river’s origins.

Some suspect that it was actually accidentally created by unscrupulous prospectors that comb the jungles looking for oil or mineral deposits with little care of the environmental consequences of their Wild Wild West drilling techniques. Similar drilling practices caused an ecological disaster in Indonesia: the Sidoarjo mudflow. There, an oil drilling rig unleashed a mud volcano that, for about a decade, has buried multiple villages in as much as 130 feet mud, forced 60,000 people from their homes, and still spurts out mud to this day.

6. Man-made structures are everywhere in the Amazon 

For decades, impoverished farmers have been plundering the incredibly diverse biosphere of the Amazon. The scale of deforestation is mind-boggling. As of 2019 scientists estimate that almost 20 percent of the original Amazon has been slashed and burned. While this ransacking of the rainforest’s unique ecosystem is unforgivable, there have been some startling discoveries among the burnt stumps and charred endangered species.

As the forest retreats from the fires, hundreds of fortified urban areas, as well as mounds of circles, squares, and other geometric shapes, have been revealed. Researchers estimate that hundreds and possibly thousands of more structures are still hidden by the existing jungles. This has been partially confirmed by limited LIDAR scans. These shapes hint at a complex lost civilization. To create such structures would have required astrologers, as they are aligned to the stars, and artisans with complex math knowledge as shown by structures that are difficult to create, like squares in circles. There would also have to be a society that was big enough to support these specialized roles. Only a fraction of the remaining jungle has been revealed by LIDAR scans. As more of the jungle is scanned, more of the lost civilization will be revealed.

5. Amazon nutrients come from Africa

Amazon soil is notoriously poor in nutrients, the most important of which is phosphorus. What phosphorus the Amazon does have slowly leaks away in the massive Amazon River complex. What is even more amazing is that the nutrients it does have do not come from local sources — not even from the landmass of South America. It is replenished through dust from across the ocean.

Hundreds of million tons of wind-borne, phosphorus-rich dust flows from Africa across the Atlantic ocean and drops onto the Amazon, providing valuable nutrients. Over half of the dust fertilizing the Amazon rainforest comes from the Bodélé depression in Northern Chad in the Sahara desert. Winds stir up the dust, where it rises into the upper atmosphere and is carried to South America and the prevailing winds.

4. Something is mysteriously making little silk towers

Deep in the Peruvian Amazon jungles, scientists like spider hunter Phil Torres were mystified by the incredibly intricate silk structures found throughout its trees. If they were human-sized they wouldn’t look out of place as a city plaza or art sculpture. Dubbed “Silkhenge,” these symmetrical “buildings” hearken back to the architecture of the ancients. The tiny silk constructions have two parts: a tall, central tower, and a circular fence that’s about 6 millimeters across.

After months of investigation, researchers were finally able to determine their purpose when a baby spider emerged from the tower. This shocked the researchers, as a spider species that lays just one or two spider eggs is incredibly rare. Even with all their research, spider experts are still unsure of which species make the Silkhenge complexes.

3. Man is causing droughts in the Amazon

One of the greatest fears of climate scientists is Earth’s carbon release feedback loops. One of the more famous examples is the Arctic permafrost. As climate change increases, the worldwide temperatures rise. Nowhere is this more dangerous than the Arctic. There, rising temperatures are melting the permafrost. This in turn is releasing methane and other greenhouse gases that the permafrost had kept trapped under its frozen mass. This released gas is further raising the temperature, melting more permafrost and releasing more greenhouse gases — a feedback loop.

The Amazon jungles are a great carbon sink. When it rains, the jungles grow, and tons after tons of carbon are locked away into Amazon’s vegetation. So much of the Amazon is being deforested that it is causing droughts — droughts so rare that they were thought to be once in hundred-year events. Now they are happening more frequently as fewer trees mean less rain. Episodes of drought in 2005, 2010 and 2015 are alarming scientists as during droughts carbon is actually released from the Amazon as tree growth is stunted and trees die from thirst. From 2005 and through 2008 the Amazon basin lost an average of 0.27 pentagrams of carbon (270 million metric tons) per year. This causes a feedback loop. More deforestation causes less rainfall and droughts. As the more droughts happen, more of the forest dies, causing more droughts — a climate change feedback loop.

2. There’s a plastic eating fungus in the Amazon

One of the greatest innovations of the modern age has been the invention of plastics. It has also been one of our greatest curses. Plastic litters the landscape, causing huge problems — problems so bad that cities and even countries have banned things like plastic bags. In the oceans, discarded plastic has created huge garbage patches that are bigger than Texas. Oceans are littered with so much plastic that it is being mistaken as food by fish and animals. Dead birds and even whales are washing up on shores with stomachs full of plastic debris. The problem with plastic is also its best feature: it is so durable. An answer to this problem might have been found in the Amazon.

Pestalotiopsis microspora is a fungus that may be our way out of our plastic waste crisis. Discovered in the Amazon, scientists have tweaked the fungi into Fungi Mutarium, which turns plastic into food. At present, the process is too slow to be an effective way to deal with the plastic crisis. Hopefully, in the future, a new industry based on this fungus will be created that will be able to deal with the mountains of plastic waste our world creates every… single… day.

1. Amazon forest is an overgrown garden

The lost Amazon civilization is slowly emerging from oblivion. Stories like that told by Spanish explorer Francisco de Orellana are being looked at in a new light. Structures emerging from the ravaged jungles are showing us physical proof of its existence. Their advanced technology, as shown by the mysterious black soil, is now only beginning to be understood. However, one of the biggest vestiges left by their society has been hidden in plain sight.

Studies of the plant species of the Amazon have revealed startling results. While surveying the tree species of the Amazon, scientists discovered a large percentage (too high to be by chance) are domesticated flora like the Brazil nut, the Amazon tree grape, and the ice cream bean tree. The results show that the lost Amazon civilization was advanced in silviculture — or the science of identifying, domesticating, growing, and cultivating trees. Not just any trees, but trees that provide enough food to support millions of people.

The Amazon isn’t a random collection of trees, as would be expected if it was untouched wilderness. No, the Amazon jungles are really just a giant collection of overgrown, man-made orchards.


Amazon = River –

NOT = Fulfillment Center

Gotta-Go Go-To Go-There(s) – WIF Travel

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Tourist Destinations

Made Famous

Through Pop Culture

Someone who is enjoying a book, a song, a movie, or a television show is enriching his or her inner world by imagining new physical, intellectual, and emotional possibilities. Sometimes, however, the world a person creates in his or her art isn’t imaginary at all. All of the places on this list are actual places that a tourist could visit. All of them have been popularized because of their associations with certain books, music, movies, and television shows.

10. Graceland (Home Of Elvis Presley)

When the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, bought his Memphis estate, Graceland, in 1957 it was one of the most costly properties in the area. Unable to afford the expense of caring for the estate after Elvis’ death, Elvis’ former wife, Priscilla Presley, opened it to the public in 1982. Now, roughly 600,000 people visit Graceland each year to pay homage to their favorite rock and roll royalty.

Graceland is a tourist destination because of its sociocultural significance. Elvis spent 20 years of his life there. However, Graceland also has artistic significance, as it has served as a muse for successful songwriters. In “Walking In Memphis,” singer/songwriter Marc Cohn sings about seeing the ghost of Elvis Presley while touring Graceland. In “Graceland,” a song from an album of the same name, singer/songwriter Paul Simon sings about the creative and personal redemption he finds while visiting his idol’s home.

9. Lyme Park And Sudbury Hall (Pride And Prejudice)

Mr. Darcy, the hero of Jane Austen’s 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice, was mentioned more in 1995 than at any time since 1900. This is partially because when screen and teleplay writer Andrew Davies adapted the novel into a six hour miniseries for the BBC, he put a handsome face to the famous name.

When the novel’s heroine, Elizabeth Bennet (played by Jennifer Ehle in the miniseries) tours the estate of Mr. Darcy (played by Colin Firth), whose marriage proposal she has rejected because she thinks him haughty, she realizes that the man she has turned down is very well endowed… with property. His estate, Pemberley, consists of lush woodlands and a stately manor. When they unexpectedly meet at Pemberley, Elizabeth and Darcy better understand both each other and the nature of their own romantic feelings.

The Pemberley of the 1995 miniseries is actually two places. The exterior shots of Pemberley were filmed at Lyme Park in the Peak District in Cheshire. When the cast and crew were ready to film the interior shots for Pemberley, Lyme Park — which is open to the public — was no longer available. The interior shots for Pemberley, including the elegant, long gallery, were shot in Sudbury Hall, an estate in Derbyshire. Tour guide Maddy Hall says that when she takes tourists who are using P and P Tours to Lyme Hall, she doesn’t go inside herself. She wants to keep her vision of Pemberley (literally) intact. Says Hall, “In our minds we think we have seen Jennifer Ehle [as Elizabeth Bennet] looking out of the windows and seeing the lake [on the grounds of Pemberley] – but in fact it’s all down to skillful editing.”

8. Middle-earth (The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy)

While he was writing the The Lord of the Rings, British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien meticulously created the vivid details of Middle-earth, the setting for his trilogy. Tolkien produced a colorful, annotated map of Middle-earth, now housed in the Bodleian Libraries at Oxford University. Tolkien also made sketches of his fantasy realm.

When movie director Peter Jackson acquired the rights for his movies based on Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he knew exactly which location would best represent Middle-earth: Jackson’s homeland, New Zealand. Jackson used 150 locations in New Zealand during the making of his movies. Each movie in the trilogy grossed an average of $970 million, and the third film was the highest grossing film for 2003. New Zealand embraces its identity as Middle-earth in its tourism marketing. On its tourism website, it’s called “the perfect Middle-earth.” Many people must see New Zealand’s sloping hills, majestic mountains, and limpid bodies of water as the perfect features for Middle-earth. Roughly 47,000 Tolkien fans per year visit film locations in New Zealand.

7. The Empire State Building (King Kong)

Since it opened in 1931, the Empire State Building has been featured in over 250 movies. One of the building’s earliest scene-stealing cameos was in the 1933 movie King Kong. In the film, the behemoth ape King Kong escapes from an exhibit and kidnaps the character portrayed by Fay Wray, with whom he is smitten. He carries her to the top of the Empire State Building, where she’s rescued when the gorilla is shot repeatedly by airplane gunners.

In 1933, the scene served as an homage to the sociocultural relevance of the (relatively new) Empire State Building. In 2019, the Empire State Building paid an homage to the film. As part of $165 million worth of renovations, designers built a gallery with interactive exhibits on the second floor of the world-famous tower. As visitors walk through a 1930s newsroom, King Kong’s fingers pierce the walls as he dangles from the rooftop, dodging airplanes. In another exhibit, visitors can step into King Kong’s arms.

6. The Iron Throne (Game Of Thrones)

A Song of Ice and Fire, the fantasy series author George R.R. Martin began writing in 1991, hasn’t been completed yet. The HBO series based on Martin’s books, however, premiered in 2011 and ended in 2019. The series earned 12 Emmy awards for its final season, the most wins for any individual show. The finale was watched by over 13 million viewers, the most viewers for any HBO show, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Since the show was filmed in 10 countries, fans of both the books and the miniseries have many tourist destinations from which to choose. Arguably, the most contested site in the series is King’s Landing, home of the Iron Throne that inspires the brutal succession “game” that gives the series its title. In 2019, HBO hid six Iron Thrones throughout the world and awarded prizes to fans who found them using clues posted on the Game of Thrones Twitter account. The scenes in King’s Landing featuring the “real” Iron Throne — the one built by the show’s set designers — were filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia. In 2015, the mayor of Dubrovnik claimed HBO was gifting the Iron Throne to his city. HBO denied the mayor’s claim. Dubrovnik does not have the Iron Throne yet, but it does have a museum honoring Game of Thrones.

5. Llanddewi Brefi (Little Britain)

One of the recurring characters on Matt Lucas and David Walliams‘ 2003 BBC sketch comedy television series, Little Britain, is Daffyd (a misspelling of the Welsh “Dafydd”) Thomas, a flamboyant, inexperienced youth who doggedly insists he’s the only gay man in his village of Llanddewi Brefi, Wales.

The sketches are actually shot in Buckinghamshire, England. Still, the popularity of Lucas’ character has strengthened the tourism industry in Llanddewi Brefi. Shop owner Neil Driver, who owns Siop Brefi in partnership with his wife, Glesni, says tourists come to have their photos taken while they’re standing in front of the sign at the town’s entrance, and sometimes they steal the signs. In 2005, Driver told Wales News he had sold roughly 40 shirts with a line from one of Daffyd’s sketches on them to visiting tourists.

4. Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey)

Sam Wallaston, a television critic for the British newspaper The Guardian, called Julian Fellowes’ series Downton Abbey “a posh soap opera [but] a pretty bloody splendid posh soap opera.” The series dramatizes the interpersonal relationships of the Crawley family, the owners of the estate Downton Abbey, and the servants who attend the Crawleys. The Crawleys’ story also intersects with important sociocultural and sociopolitical events in England at the turn of the 20th century.

Highclere Castle is where the interior shots (most notably the dining hall, the entrance room, and the staircase) and the exterior shots for the series were filmed. In a way, Highclere Castle is the titular character, since the show is named for the Crawleys’ estate. The popularity of the show has increased the popularity of Highclere Castle, Downton Abbey’s real world counterpart. George “Geordie” Herbert, the eighth earl of Carnarvon and Lady Fiona Carnarvon, who own Highclere Castle, say the tourism created by the show has assisted them in paying for the castle’s necessary repairs. As of 2015, 1,250 tourists per day visited Highclere Castle. In 2019, Airbnb offered two sweepstakes winners an overnight stay in order to promote the newly released Downton Abbey movie.

3. King’s Cross Station (Harry Potter)

In 2018, author J.K. Rowling’s seven book Harry Potter series became the bestselling book series in history. Rowling’s series has sold over five hundred million copies worldwide. Rowling’s work is appealing — especially for her most devoted fans — partially because of how deftly she depicts Hogwarts, the wizard training school where Harry seeks to master his craft.

In the book, Harry travels to Hogwarts by taking the train at platform 9 ¾ in King’s Cross Station. Boarders must reach the platform by running through a brick wall between platforms nine and ten. At the actual King’s Cross Station, platforms nine and ten are separated by tracks. Luckily for Harry Potter fans, there is still a platform 9 ¾… sort of. A luggage trolley is embedded in a wall in the station concourse. Above the trolley is a sign that says Platform 9 ¾. Tourists may have professional photos taken grasping the trolley. A nearby gift shop offers tourists the option to further personalize the photo by wearing a scarf in the Hogwarts house colors of their choice. The photo and the scarf are available for purchase. King’s Cross Station’s platform 9 ¾ welcomes over one million visitors each year. Rowling, for her part, said she immediately knew she would locate platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station, because it has emotional significance for her. Her parents met on a trolley there.

2. The Hollywood Sign

In 1923, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler invested in an upscale housing development. The housing development was called Hollywoodland. In order to advertise, Chandler bought 45-foot high white letters that spelled out the name of his development, located on the south side of Mount Lee in the Hollywood Hills. He anchored the letters to telephone poles, and attached a total of 4,000 illuminated lights to his lettering.

The word “land” was removed from the sign in 1949, long after Hollywoodland had gone out of business. The sign has received regular maintenance checks since the 1970s, and its sociocultural significance continues to be confirmed. The Hollywood sign, or at least a studio set replica of it, has appeared in over a dozen movies.

1. Abbey Road (The Beatles)

When rock and roll’s most famous quartet, The Beatles, crossed Abbey Road in the cover photo for their 1969 album of the same name, they elevated the significance of their recording studio, Abbey Road Studios. Now linked inextricably with the success of a band ranked Number One in the 2010 Rolling Stone list “100 Greatest Artists,” Abbey Road is a symbolic home for any musical artist who desires creative freedom.

Sam Smith, Lady Gaga, and Adele, for example, have recently recorded at Abbey Road Studios. While Abbey Road Studios isn’t open for tours, Abbey Road Crossing — the crossing on The Beatles’ album cover — is usually crowded with tourists taking photographs.


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50 National Parks on a Dime – WIF 10 Cent Travel

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National Park

Road Trip

The road trip Olson designed is 14,498 miles long and it would take you about two months to complete the loop if you’re going “at a breakneck speed.” In other words, you’d better take a few months off work before getting on the road.

Here’s a list of all the national parks Olson included in his itinerary. Note that you can start the trip at any stop in the loop.

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Sadly, Alaska is too far out-of-the-way, thereby busting our budget.

 

 

By chance, or maybe not, we are beginning our journey at perhaps the single most breathtaking sight in these United States of America, the Grand Canyon. Keep in mind that the first hints of winter are creeping their way into the Northern tier of our country (and our origin is far from the circus that is our nation’s Capital).

So it is: From desert to desert, the American West to East and back again, the unparalleled vision of Theodore Roosevelt unfolds behind every rise, hill and mountain.

Keep in mind that it took passion and foresight for   to preserve and protect these wilderness and forested areas, by and through the office of the President. Without such sanctions, this trip may never have left the garage… just one more thing to be thankful for as we approach **Thanksgiving… but that is a story for another day.

So…

“What a place to run out of gas!”

** Special credit is due to the Creator, without which none of this would be possible.


National Park Road Trip –

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