Posts Tagged 'nature'

A Lost World is Discovered in Australia

Scientists have just discovered the closest thing to Jurassic Park that we’ll ever find. No they didn’t find any preserved dinosaur DNA nor did we find any dinosaurs still living, we found something much cooler. In an extremely remote part of Northern Australia scientists discovered what they’re calling an undiscovered “Lost World” that they only found thanks to Google Earth. On this isolated plateau they found a rainforest that has been preserved since before the dinosaurs even existed. Many of the animals that they found there were completely undiscovered species that have been isolated from their closest cousins for hundreds of millions of years. It is thought that this plateau hasn’t changed too much since the end of the Permian Extinction about 250 million years ago.

The scientists have discovered and documented three species so far in their initial exploration, the Cape Melville leaf-tailed gecko, the Cape Melville shade skin, and the Blotched boulder frog. I find it absolutely incredible that there are parts of the Earth that we still haven’t fully explored yet and species of plants and animals that we haven’t yet discovered. It took Google Earth and a helicopter to find one of these last unknown frontiers and seeing this story makes me wonder just how many more unexplored places there are.


No one in human history had ever laid eyes on that frog before this week.

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World’s Tallest Mountain is Discovered in the Pacific Ocean

We have known for quite a while that the summit of Mt. Everest is the highest point of land above sea level in the world at 29,029 feet above sea level. However, it’s not actually the world’s tallest mountain nor is it the solar system’s biggest mountain. The reason is because the definition of a mountain is more complicated than you might think. Using Wikipedia’s definition a mountain is “a large landform that stretches above the surrounding land in a limited area, usually in the form of a peak.” This is a moment in science that is very similar to when Pluto got demoted to being a dwarf planet.

One thing that many of us tend to forget is that the ocean floor is by no means flat and there are massive, undersea mountain ranges in all of our oceans formed mainly by underwater volcanoes. Some of these volcanic mountains get so tall that they break the surface of the ocean and become islands. Some of those islands include all of the islands that make up Japan and Hawaii. Using that definition though, scientists just recently discovered the largest mountain in the world beneath the Pacific Ocean about 1000 miles east of Japan. This mountain, Tamu Massif, is a rounded dome about the size of the state of New Mexico that rises up 21,120 feet above it’s base reaching its summit about 6500 feet below the ocean’s surface.

Tamu Massif has been known to humanity for about a century but it was only recently that it was discovered that this mountain is one giant volcano. It was previously thought that it was an underwater plateau or mountain range built up by many different volcanoes close to one another but further analysis revealed that most of the mountain was formed by one massive eruption about 145 million years ago when dinosaurs were walking the Earth. Geologists estimate that the volcano went extinct very soon afterward and has been quiet ever since. Now that it has been confirmed that the mountain was made by one volcano, this mountain actually takes the title of the biggest mountain in our solar system away from Olympus Mons on Mars. This is one of those moments that makes us realize that there is still so much about our own planet that we still don’t yet know especially when it comes to things in the depths of the ocean.


A topographic map of the ocean floor is not quite as impressive as Mt. Everest

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The World’s Most Dangerous Nature Preserve

There are parts of the Earth that were once settled and inhabited by people that have since been abandoned for various reasons. Some of these places were once settlements of ancient civilizations that have been abandoned for centuries while some are more recent. In all of these areas, nature has a way of slowly taking back the evidence of human settlement. Structures deteriorate from the environment and weather and all kinds of plants and animals move in to replace the people who left. National Geographic recently released some amazing photos of one of the more recently abandoned areas of the world, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

The DMZ was established in the ceasefire that effectively ended the Korean war in 1953 and anyone who was living there at the time was moved out by the two governments. This buffer zone stretches across the entire Korean peninsula and extends out about 2 kilometers either way from the official boundary of the two countries. Despite its name it is one of the most heavily militarized areas in the world and the site of the world’s largest minefield making any attempt for people to live there suicidal. This abandonment has turned most of the area into a giant nature preserve where plants and animals can live and thrive in peace. The Korean War more than anything else shaped what both Koreas are today and I find it quite interesting that 60 years later one of its most enduring legacies is the world’s most dangerous nature preserve.


It turns out that birds can coexist with land mines just fine.

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Underground Rivers are Resurfacing

Most big urban areas have underground rivers that their residents never knew about and more and more of them are being brought back to the surface. Underground rivers are the by-product of a century of urban development. Small streams on the surface were seen as mere obstacles by developers back in the day so they would either divert the streams or push it underground through a series of pipes making the land buildable. Most of these rivers would end up completely forgotten as the decades passed.

Now though several cities like Yonkers and Kalamazoo are bringing their subterranean rivers back to the surface for a variety of reasons. Environmentally, areas that are built over underground rivers are far more prone to severe flooding than if the rivers are open and exposed. Also the natural biological processes that break down water pollution work far more efficiently when exposed to sunlight enabling the cities to save money on water treatment while still having clean water. The benefits are also economic too. Some daylighted rivers are made into beautiful parks that bring people into the city and raise surrounding property values. It’s kind of amazing though that rivers we never knew existed are suddenly appearing in the middle of our cities.


The last time this part of the Saw Mill River saw daylight, Theodore Roosevelt was the President.

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Best Hikes for Car-free New Yorkers

Millions of people live in New York City without owning a car and there are many advantages to that lifestyle like never sitting in traffic and not paying for fuel and car insurance. However not having a car makes it far more difficult to escape the city into the great outdoors. Difficult as it may seem to get to some great hiking in the wilderness from the city, there are some excellent hikes in the Hudson Valley that you can access with public transit from Manhattan and DNAinfo New York put together a great list of those areas:

Breakneck Ridge
Undercliff
Fishkill Ridge
Pine Meadow at Harriman-Bear Mountain State Parks
Anthony’s Nose
Sugarloaf Hill and Osborn Loop
Appalachian Trail


The top of Fishkill Ridge

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The Lesser Known National Parks

America has some incredible national parks within its borders. In total America’s national parks cover 52 million acres of land and attracted 63 million visitors last year. However, they’re not all created equal. For every well known and well visited park like Grand Canyon or Yellowstone there are several other lesser known parks like Acadia or Isle Royale. CNN has put together a list of four of these parks that are incredibly beautiful but far less popular. The next time you’re considering traveling to one of our country’s 59 National Parks, consider some of these less traveled parks:

1. Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
2. Glacier National Park, Montana
3. Redwood National Park, California
4. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

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Crater Lake, the world’s second deepest lake and one of the National Park Service’s best kept secrets.

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