Poachers targeting California’s redwoods to feed drug habits

FoxNews.com

California’s majestic redwood trees are in danger as poachers enter the sunshine state’s national parks to steal its wood to sell for furniture.

Rangers at Redwood National and State Park are taking extreme measures to protect the massacre of the national treasures, some of which are thousands of years old.

“It’s very disturbing, these trees are priceless,” Jeff Bomke, California State Parks Redwood Coast Sector acting superintendent, told Fox News Channel. The poachers are targeting burls, a knotted piece of wood that protrudes from the tree.

Only 5 percent of the remaining old growth redwoods since the time of western settlement still stand, Bomke said. “To see them injured in this way is very disturbing. These trees belong to everyone.”

Bomke said the poachers have generally been drug addicts or people with criminal records who look at the trees as an easy and alternative way to support themselves.

“The legitimate sources are becoming less available, private timberlands and private properties, for various reasons and the individuals that are supplying the materials to the vendors, are either drug addictions or have other criminal records,” he said. “So this is a way that they can get an income to support their needs and sell to these other sources.”

Although the trees can live when cut into, an open wound can cause pests and diseases to enter the redwoods. It can also destabilize the trees in the event of a windstorm, said Bomke.

“The redwoods are very resilient and they can heal but obviously the visual impact and also the adjacent impact to endangered species [is an issue].”

Bomke is working with local law enforcement agencies to help prevent the poaching.

“There’s an effort to close the roadway in the evening,” he said. “[It gives us] the ability to monitor closer this particular area.”

Rangers are also taking on extra shifts and patrols have increased.

“This is a very high priority for our law enforcement staff.”

Confirmed: Oldest fragment of early Earth is 4.4 billion years old

  • oldeast-Zircon2.jpg

    Cathodoluminescence image of a 400-µm Jack Hills zircon. (JOHN VALLEY/UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN)

Ever heard this life advice? When solving a big problem seems impossible, break it into smaller steps.

Well, scientists just took one of geology’s biggest controversies and shrunk it down to atomic size. By zapping single atoms of lead in a tiny zircon crystal from Australia, researchers have confirmed the crystal is the oldest rock fragment ever found on Earth 4.375 billion years old, plus or minus 6 million years.

Confirmation of the zircon age holds enormous implications for models of early Earth.

“We’ve proved that the chemical record inside these zircons is trustworthy,” said John Valley, lead study author and a geochemist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The findings were published yesterday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Confirmation of the zircon age holds enormous implications for models of early Earth. Trace elements in the oldest zircons from Australia’s Jack Hills range suggest they came from water-rich, granite-like rocks such as granodiorite or tonalite, other studies have reported. That means Earth cooled quickly enough for surface water and continental-type rocks just 100 million years after the moon impact, the massive collision that formed the Earth-moon system. [How Was The Moon Formed?]

“The zircons show us the earliest Earth was more like the Earth we know today,” Valley said. “It wasn’t an inhospitable place.”

Dubious history
Zircons are one of the toughest minerals on the planet. The ancient Australian crystals date back to just 165 million years after Earth formed, and have survived tumbling trips down rivers, burial deep in the crust, heating, squeezing and a tectonic ride back to the surface. The Australian zircons, from the Jack Hills, aren’t the oldest rocks on Earth those are in Canada but about 3 billion years ago, the minerals eroded out some of Earth’s first continental crust and became part of a riverbed.

Geologists have carefully sorted out more than 100,000 microscopic Jack Hills zircons that date back to Earth’s early epochs, from 3 billion to nearly 4.4 billion years ago. (The planet is 4.54 billion years old.) The crystals contain microscopic inclusions, such as gas bubbles, that provide a unique window into conditions on Earth as life arose and the first continents formed.

Just three of the very oldest zircons have been found, ones that date back to almost 4.4 billion years ago. Their extreme age always makes the dates suspect, because of possible radiation damage. The radiation damage means the zircons could have been contaminated during their long lifetime.

Zircons hold minute amounts of two naturally occurring uranium isotopes isotopes are atoms of the same element with different numbers of neutrons. Uranium radioactively decays to lead at a steady rate. Counting the number of lead isotopes is how scientists date the crystals. But as the uranium kicks out lead atoms, the radioactive decay releases alpha particles, which can damage the crystals, creating defects. These defects mean fluids and outside elements can infiltrate the crystals, casting doubt on any conclusions about early Earth based on the zircons.

More important, uranium and lead can move around within a crystal, or even escape or enter the zircon. This mobility can throw off the lead isotope count used to calculate the zircon ages, and is the source of the decades-long controversy over the Jack Hills zircons’ Methuselah lifespan.

“If there’s a process by where lead can move from one part of the crystal to another place, then the place where lead is concentrated will have an older apparent age and the place from where it moves will have a younger apparent age,” Valley said.

Atom by atom
Valley and his co-authors hope to end the debate by showing that even though one of the oldest Jack Hills zircons suffered radiation damage, the lead atoms stayed in place. The researchers painstakingly counted individual lead atoms within the oldest-known zircon with a recently developed technique called atom-probe tomography. Inside the zircon, lead atoms clustered together in damage zones just a few nanometers wide. Imagine cliques of teens during high school lunch like teenagers, no lead atoms had left their zones.

“We’ve demonstrated this zircon is a closed geochemical system, and we’ve never been able to do that before,” Valley said. “There’s no question that many zircons do suffer radiation damage, but I think relative to these zircons, this should settle it once and for all,” Valley told Live Science’s Our Amazing Planet.

The key finding, that lead atoms stick close to home inside this primeval zircon, means age estimates based on uranium-lead dating techniques are accurate, the researchers report. The lead hasn’t wiggled around enough to throw off the ages. A typical age measurement, made with a machine called an ion probe, zaps zircon segments that are thousands of times larger than the damage clusters.

“This careful piece of work should settle the debate because it shows that indeed there is some mobility of lead, which was hypothesized to result in dates that were too old, but the scale of mobility is nanometers,” said Samuel Bowring, a geochemist at MIT, who was not involved in the study.”Even the smallest volumes analyzed with the ion probe average out the heterogeneities,” or variations within the zircon.

The new atom-probe technique, while extremely laborious, can also be used to address questions of reliability at other sites where extremely old rocks have been found, the researchers said. [Have There Always Been Continents?]

“Good zircons are forever, and what this does is help us separate the wheat from the chaff in a way we could never do before,” Valley said.

It’s back: Winter looms on with return of Polar vortex

FoxNews.com

Don’t pack up your winter gear just yet — the polar vortex is back and blasting arctic air across the nation.

After a brief tease of warmer weather this weekend, temperatures are expected to drop as low as 20 to 40 degrees below normal in some cities.

“Record cold temperatures are possible for the High Plains, Upper Midwest and Great Lakes later this week,” the National Weather Service said in an online report.

Cities such as Minneapolis, Chicago and Buffalo can expect the temperature to reach single digits this week while other cities will see temperatures as low as 40 degrees below average midweek.

The cold weather is caused by a high altitude flow of air that circles west to east bringing all the cold air down from the North Pole.

The frigid temperatures are forecast to last through the first week of March, according to the Climate Prediction Center.

Sheriff says Lake Michigan ice caves in Leelanau County no longer safe because of winds, thaw

Associated Press
  • 122e9d982edc51074c0f6a706700dbbe.jpg

    People take photos of the frozen waters and snow of Lake Michigan that have formed huge ice caves along the shore of northern Leelanau County, between Northport and Leland, Mich., on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. Sub-zero temperatures in late December through mid-January, along with strong winds and heavy snowfall, created the huge ice ridges several hundred feet from shore. (AP Photo/John L. Russell) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

  • 8b85cb112edb51074c0f6a7067002e70.jpg

    People take photos of the frozen waters and snow of Lake Michigan that have formed huge ice caves along the shore of northern Leelanau County, between Northport and Leland, Mich., on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. Sub-zero temperatures in late December through mid-January, along with strong winds and heavy snowfall, created the huge ice ridges several hundred feet from shore. (AP Photo/John L. Russell) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

  • 29dd43862edb51074c0f6a706700d330.jpg

    People look at an ice cave at Lake Michigan along the shore of northern Leelanau County, between Northport and Leland, Mich., on Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. Sub-zero temperatures in late December through mid-January, along with strong winds and heavy snowfall, created the huge ice ridges several hundred feet from shore. (AP Photo/John L. Russell) (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LELAND, MICH. –  Authorities in northern Michigan say it’s no longer safe to visit spectacular ice caves that have formed along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Milder temperatures and high winds have broken up the ice sheet on the lake side of the formations, and open water is visible near the caves. Large cracks have opened on some of the arches.

Thousands of people flocked to the area to see the caves last weekend, with lines of cars stretching more than 2 miles along narrow rural roads in Leelanau County, northwest of Traverse City.

A 21-year-old man was seriously injured Wednesday after falling 12 feet from one of the caves.

Montserrat: a modern-day Pompeii in the Caribbean

FoxNews.com

 

Soufriere Hills Volcano 

Glimpses of the Caribbean’s modern-day Pompeii

 

Known among locals simply as “the volcano,” Soufrière Hills on the Caribbean island of Montserrat roared to life in 1995 after decades of inactivity, causing many residents of the island’s capital city, Plymouth, to flee. Today, Plymouth and its environs stand abandoned and frozen in time, looking like the set of an apocalyptic sci-fi movie.

 

For first-time visitors to the Caribbean island of Montserrat, some of the local vocabulary evokes Geology 101. Words like “pyroclastic flow,” “seismic” and “dome collapse” pop up often in conversations with native islanders and longtime residents.

After all, these people experienced firsthand what now draws many tourists to the British overseas territory: the catastrophic damage from the Soufrière Hills volcano, which erupted twice in the mid-1990s and changed life forever on the drumstick-shaped island in the West Indies.

Known among locals simply as “the volcano,” Soufrière Hills roared to life in 1995 after decades of inactivity, causing many residents of Montserrat’s capital city, Plymouth, to flee. But the real destruction came in 1997, when it erupted again, killing 19 people, burying Plymouth under as much as 40 feet of volcanic debris and mud and forcing government officials to proclaim the city and the southern two-thirds of the 40-square-mile island uninhabitable.

More than two-thirds of Montserrat’s 12,000 residents left, and those who stayed found themselves facing yet another disaster in 2003, when the volcano’s dome collapsed, unleashing clouds of ash across the landscape that required a massive cleanup.

Today, Plymouth and its environs stand abandoned and frozen in time, looking like the set of an apocalyptic sci-fi movie. Behind the locked gates prohibiting entry into the “Exclusion Zone,” a deep drift of mud, lava and ash almost buries the clock tower of the former courthouse and rises to the upper stories of other buildings, prompting descriptions of a modern-day Pompeii.

“That’s still our catch phrase,” said Rosetta West, development officer for the Montserrat Tourist Board. “It’s really awe inspiring, I must say, even as someone from here. … You can’t really understand the contrast. One side of the island is lush and green, and the other is gray and dismal from the ash – although lately I’m seeing signs of grass growing and trees coming back.”

The island’s tourism infrastructure is showing similar signs of resurgence. In 1994 and 1995 the number of visitors, including overnight tourists and day trippers from Antigua, averaged 33,000 a year. Now it’s 7,000, according to government figures. The island hasn’t even had an official director of tourism for the last couple of years.

But West says the position will soon be filled, highlighting the government’s renewed focus on bringing visitors to the island. In 2005 Montserrat opened an $18.5 million airport to replace the one that was destroyed. And since then, several other major development initiatives have gained momentum.

The pivotal project on the horizon is a new capital city and port that will be built on the northwest coast, in Little Bay. According to Ivan Browne, CEO of the government-owned Montserrat Development Corporation, the project will include a hotel and government buildings and is estimated to cost around $300 million. Completion is estimated for 2020.

In the meantime, Montserrat tourism officials are awaiting a decision from the British government on whether it will fund all or a portion of the estimated $150 million needed to build the port. Covering the entire cost, Browne noted, would help quicken Montserrat’s efforts to become self-supporting again.

But even with tourism on the upswing, don’t expect Montserrat to fall into the fate of some other Caribbean islands: overrun with all-inclusive megaresorts, pre-packaged excursions and aggressive vendors. Tourism officials – and locals, too – are committed to maintaining the island’s unique identity: an unhurried pace, nearly nonexistent crime and other quirky attractions that are as fascinating as its volcano.

In addition, “the people in Montserrat are a huge attraction – they’re very friendly and welcoming,” said Pam Arthurton, a Montserrat native who runs an Antigua-based tour company called Carib-World Travel. “It’s a breath of fresh air to see the Caribbean as it used to be.”

Some visitors are surprised to learn of Montserrat’s heritage, which traces back to the 17th century, when settlers from Ireland colonized the island. Known sometimes as “the other Emerald Isle,” Montserrat throws an epic, weeklong celebration around St. Patrick’s Day, and its passport stamp features a shamrock.

Then there’s Montserrat’s spectacular, though not widely known, rock-star history. In 1979, Beatles producer George Martin opened Air Studios Montserrat, and over the next decade the tropical outpost drew such musical legends as Paul McCartney, The Police, The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton. The studio was shuttered in 1989 because of damage from Hurricane Hugo, and it remains closed to the public, but music lovers can still get a taste of Monserrat’s musical heritage at the Olveston House, a restaurant and guesthouse owned by Martin, whose star-studded guest list has included Sting and Elton John.

For many, though, the volcano remains the main draw. Toursinto the Exclusion Zone are popular (and are allowed only with a permit), and the Montserrat Volcano Observatory, which keeps a 24-hour watch on the volcano, is one of the most advanced seismic centers in the world.

At the charming guesthouse Gingerbread Hill, co-owner Clover Lea calls her lava-loving travelers “volcanophiles” who enjoy listening to her and her husband, David, give their firsthand accounts of the destruction and recovery. David also captured some well-known footage of the erupting volcano.

“People always want to know what makes a place tick, and we always get asked, what do people do for a living? Why did the people who stayed stay?” said David, who, along with Lea, arrived as a missionary in 1980. They opened their guesthouse in stages over the years.

“And really, the worst of the volcanic days were awful. It was ash everywhere, all the time, but we still didn’t have any intention of leaving.”

Added Clover: “[It’s like] the little island that could … There is no place like Montserrat. Its beauty, its people. We are truly blessed to have lived here all this time.”

We’ve found Amazon River’s true source, scientists say

Newser
  • Scientists: we've found Amazon River's true source

    In this Oct. 4, 2005 file photo, a boat tries to make its way through a section of the Amazon River suffering from lower water levels near Uricurituba in northern Brazil. (AP PHOTO/A CRITICA, EUZIVALDO QUEIROZ,FILE)

It’s an argument that’s persisted for nearly four centuries: Where does the Amazon River begin?

The question is complicated by the number of tributaries that feed into it, with at least five Peruvian rivers grabbing the title at some point since the mid-1600s.

Now, a group of researchers write in Area that the Apurimac River has wrongly been attributed as its source since 1971, and they have a replacement: southwestern Peru’s Mantaro River.

If the designation sticks, another change would follow: The Amazon would grow, with another 47 to 57 miles being tacked on to its roughly 4,000-mile length.

But it’s a somewhat muddied conclusion. First, the definition of “source” isn’t entirely established, but the currently accepted explainer is “the most distant point up the longest tributary in the river’s drainage basin,” explains National Geographic.

Using topographic maps, satellite imagery, digital hydrographic datasets, and GPS tracking data to chart the Mantaro, the team determined it was roughly 10 percent longer than the Apurimac, handing it the title.

Except the Mantaro doesn’t flow year-round; a dam constructed in 1974 causes it to run dry for nearly five months. Some geographers say that means it’s not a contender; the study’s authors say man-made or temporary changes shouldn’t factor in.

A Smithsonian geographer concedes that the Mantaro could be considered “a new source of the Amazon”—but not “the source.” (It’s not the only Amazon discovery made in recent months.)

More From Newser

2 dead after boulder smashes into Alps tourist train in France

Associated Press

PARIS –  An enormous boulder hurtled off a mountain and smashed into a tourist train in the French Alps on Saturday, derailing it on the mountainside and killing two passengers, officials said. Nine people were injured.

The force of the boulder caved in the side of the train, which takes a leisurely three hours to travel about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Nice to Dignes-les-Bains.

“A rock the size of an automobile came off the mountainside and slammed into the first car of the train,” Jean Ballester, mayor of nearby Annot, told BFM television. “There are unfortunately two dead.”

The uninjured among the approximately 30 passengers were evacuated to Annot, a little more than half-way through the train route, Ballester said. Two rescue helicopters were dispatched to the remote area, he said.

France’s top security official, Manuel Vals, confirmed two dead and nine injured.

The train was still dangling dramatically from the tracks hours after the accident, the crushed front car nose-down in the snowy woods.

The train travels along the mountains on track that regularly receives snow and rock falls, but regional transport official Jean-Yves Petit said even in winter it is considered safe.

“The track isn’t unusually dangerous,” Petit told BFM

World’s record-breaking sand dunes

FoxNews.com

With just the right amount of sand and wind, Mother Nature can sculpt some incredible works of art. Just take a look at these 10 captivating, record-breaking sand dunes from around the world.

  • 1Great Dune of Pyla: La Teste-de-Buch, France

    Atout France/ Franck Charel

    Also known as the Great Dune of Pilat, this monstrous sand dune located in southeastern France is Europe’s tallest. Each year, easterly winds alter the dune’s height, but it typically measures anywhere between 328 and 377 feet tall. The winds also affect the dune’s location, moving it 3 to 16 feet every year and pushing it farther back onto the adjoining forest. Over the years, the mobile dune has been said to swallow pine trees, roads and even houses.

    Although the dune is a protected site, you can still hike to the top (just don’t expect to sandboard back down, as it’s illegal). If you’re traveling with children, check out the kid-friendly workshops and permanent dune exhibition. If you’re looking for an adult-only activity, try your hand at paragliding – you’ll get a great view of the dune.

  • 2Dune 7: Namib Desert, Namibia

    Vicki Brown,Solimar International 2012/ Namibia Tourism Board

    Dubbed by the Namibia Ministry of Environment and Tourism as the highest sand dune in the world, you need to see Dune 7 to believe it. The 1,256-foot dune got its name because it is the seventh dune past the Tsauchab River, which runs through part of the Namib Desert. The desert itself, believed to be dry for at least 55 million years, is considered the oldest in the world, so make sure you spend some time exploring it while you’re here.

  • 3Star Dune: Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Colorado

    NPS Photo

    Travel 35 miles northeast of Alamosa, Colo., and you’ll wind up smack dab in the middle of the tallest sand dunes in North America. The 30-square-mile main dune field at the Great Sand Dunes National Park (adult entrance fee, $3) contains a dizzying amount of impressive record-breaking sand dunes, the tallest of which is the 750-foot Star Dune. Framed by the Rocky Mountains, the view from Star Dune’s summit is stunning, but the trek to the top is a hard one. The dune is over three miles from the parking lot and takes two hours to climb.

    The Great Sand Dunes National Park is open for exploration 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but it’s best to explore in the early morning or evening during the summer to avoid the dangerously hot sands. Rent a sandboard in town before you go, because sandboarding is perfectly legal on these dunes.

  • 4Simpson Desert Dunes: Australia

    Tourism and Events Queensland/Charlie Ferguson

    Covering over 65,000 square miles, the Simpson Desert is not only the world’s largest sand dune desert, it is also home to the world’s longest parallel sand dunes. The magnificent red dunes stretch north to south — from the Northern Territory to Queensland to South Australia — and extend as long as 100 miles in some areas. The desert’s tallest dune, Big Red, is 130 feet tall and is located within the Simpson Desert National Conservation Park in Queensland. This park is closed due to high temperatures during Australia’s summer (November to March), but it’s open every other month, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

  • 5Badain Jaran Desert Dunes: Inner Mongolia, China

    AP

    If you ever book a trip to the Badain Jaran Desert in northern China, you’re in for a treat. The gigantic sand dunes here not only look impressive, they have personality, too.

    The desert’s dunes are the highest stationary sand dunes in the world (the highest reaching 1,600 feet) and emit a constant rumbling and booming that sounds, strangely enough, like singing. It’s unclear what causes the noise, but it may have something to do with the layers of sand scratching against one another when the wind blows. Whatever it may be, the dunes are worth a visit. You can reach them by four-wheel drive or, if you’re feeling adventurous, camelback.

  • 6Mt. Tempest: Moreton Island, Australia

    Tourism and Events Queensland

    Located in Moreton Island National Park, just off of the southeast coast of Queensland, Mt. Tempest is considered the highest coastal sand dune in the world: The record-breaking beauty rises 935 feet above sea level. Because the dune is so high, the hike to the top can be hard, but there are seats along the way and the 360-degree view when you get there is worth it. Once you conquer the dune, take some time to check out the nearby shops, walking tracks, lagoons and lakes. If you’re interested in spending the night, the park provides camping sites.

  • 7White Sands National Monument: Tularosa Basin, New Mexico

    New Mexico Tourism Department

    At first glance the White Sands National Monument looks more like a snow-covered winter wonderland than a sand-filled dune field, but looks can be deceiving. The park’s distinct white sand gets its color from gypsum. There is so much of the mineral here (275 square miles, to be exact) that it has become the largest gypsum dune field in the world.

    The white sand dunes here are an especially rare sight because gypsum dissolves in water and generally is not found in the form of sand. But there is no river that drains through the Tularosa Basin, so the white gypsum sand has accumulated over the years. If you want to check out the brilliant dunes for yourself, you can access the park from 9 a.m. to one hour after sunset, year-round.

  • 8Cerro Medanoso: Atacama Desert, Chile

    Turismo Chile

    Rising 1,800 feet, Cerro Medanoso is often acknowledged as the second highest sand dune in the world, but this title remains uncertain. What is certain is that Cerro Medanoso is the tallest sand dune in Chile and is located in the driest place on Earth: the Atacama Desert, which receives a meager 0.004 inches of rain per year. But the dry conditions don’t deter tourists from exploring the dunes. Sandboarding is a popular sport in Chile, and it’s not uncommon to see boarders shredding Cerro Medanoso. If you want to join in on the fun and shred some sand of your own, you can rent a sandboard in town.

  • 9Oregon Dunes: Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Oregon

    Eric Vaughan

    Billed as the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America, the Oregon Dunes stretch an incredible 40 miles along the Pacific Coast. From Florence to Coos Bay, the wind-sculpted dunes reach a height of 500 feet and offer a great expanse for ATV riders, hikers, sandboarders and horseback riders.

  • 10Athabasca Sand Dunes Wilderness Provincial Park: Saskatchewan, Canada

    Tourism Saskatchewan/Davin Andrie

    Partially submerged in water and almost completely surrounded by dense forest, the Athabasca Sand Dunes aren’t your typical desert sand dunes. Extending 62 miles along the south shore of Lake Athabasca in the northwest corner of Saskatchewan, they are the northernmost major dune fields in the world. Because they are so isolated, they are accessible only by floatplane. There are no facilities or roads within the area and the park recommends that only those with wilderness experience traverse it.

Newly discovered wonders of the world

FoxNews.com

If you think we’ve uncovered all that Earth has to offer, think again. While humans began exploring our world long ago, the planet is so vast and ever-changing that we continue to uncover new wonders each year. And these past few years have been no exception.

Whether undocumented, rediscovered or altogether unexplored, we introduce to you eight new mind-boggling wonders of the world that are worth a visit.

  • 1Son Doong Cave, Phong Nha, Vietnam

    Ryan Deboodt

    Discovered in 1991 and first explored in 2009, the world’s largest cave is now open to public tours. The massive Son Doong cave measures over 5.5 miles long and 650 ft. wide and is believed to have formed 2 to 5 million years ago. It contains a jungle where scientists have discovered new animal species and a side-passage where paleontologists have uncovered 300-million-year-old fossils.

    The cave is home to waterfalls, sinkholes, cliffs and a river. If you’d like to be one of the lucky 224 visitors permitted to tour the cave in 2014, you can book through the host tour company, Oxalis. For $3,000, the six-day tour includes camping gear and caving equipment, food and drink and transfers to and from the cave.

  • 2Asik-Asik Falls, Sitio Dulao, The Philippines

    Cotabato Province

    Although locals have known about this hidden gem since its formation, the Asik-Asik Falls remained, for the most part, undetected until a contest-winning photo catapulted it into the limelight in 2012. What makes this majestic waterfall especially eye-catching is that the water does not spring from a body of water above, but rather from cracks in the cliff’s wall. It was formed in 2008 after a typhoon uprooted a large tree attached to the cliff, creating those cracks.

    Since the waterfall’s discovery, the government has worked to make it accessible to the public, but it’s still hard to reach. The ride from Midsayap to Barangay Upper Dado in Alamada takes three hours, and then it’s another hour from Upper Dado to the village of Sitio Dulao, from where you must trek by foot for another hour and a half to the falls.

  • 3El Castillo Cave, Puente Viesgo, Spain

    AP

    Decorated with the world’s oldest known cave paintings, El Castillo gives us an unprecedented look into the past. The cave paintings were discovered in the 1870s, but it wasn’t until 2012 that researchers determined one of the paintings — a red sphere — to be at least 40,800 years old. Red hand stencils, created by blowing or spitting paint onto the cave walls, accompany the sphere and date back almost as far. The cave artwork is so old that some scientists believe it could be the work of Neanderthals. If you’re interested in visiting the site, tours are available Wednesday through Sunday for about $4, but you must book in advance. You can book online here.

  • 4Kamil Crater, Sahara Desert, Egypt

    Luigi Folco- Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università di Pisa

    The Kamil Crater might never have been found in 2008 if not for the virtual map, Google Earth. Two years after spotting the crater on satellite, researchers visited it and found what could be the best preserved crater on earth. It measures 147 feet wide and is believed to have formed a few thousand years ago when an iron meteor traveling over 7,000 miles per hour blasted into the Sahara Desert. Small craters as pristine as the Kamil Crater are a rare find on Earth, since our planet’s weather system tends to erode them. Typically, craters that pristine are found only where there is little atmosphere, such as on the moon.

  • 5Cape Melville Rainforest, Cape York Peninsula, Australia

    The State of Queensland (Department of Environment and Heritage Protection

    Perched atop the Cape Melville mountain range and surrounded by house-sized granite boulder fields, it’s no surprise that this 9-mile-long rainforest went undetected for so long. Researchers discovered the lush rainforest early last year with the help of satellite imagery, and they have since made some groundbreaking discoveries. Because the rainforest is so isolated, scientists have so far identified three new rainforest species, one of which is a leaf-tailed gecko. Although there are no official tours through the rainforest, Cape York is a national park and is open to tourists from July to November.

  • 6Temple of the Night Sun, El Zotz, Guatemala

    Edwin Román

    During the discovery of the El Diablo pyramid and the royal tomb atop it in 2010, researchers spotted a structure that would, two years later, shed some light on Mayan culture. The 1,600-year-old structure, now known as the Temple of the Night Sun, features some unusually well-preserved 3D stucco masks that represent the stages of the Sun God. They paint a clear picture of what the Mayas thought of the sun — as an icon that symbolized royal power. As of now, visitors cannot access the temple, but there are tours that allow tourists to climb to the top of the El Diablo pyramid.

  • 7Mahendraparvata, Siem Reap Province, Cambodia

    Archaeology and Development Foundation–Phnom Kulen Program)

    Some 1,200 years ago, Mahendraparvata functioned as a city under the Hindu-Buddhist Khmer Empire, and although researchers knew about its existence from ancient records, they did not realize its complexity until 2013. Mahendraparvata is deep in the jungle and almost all underground, so to find it, researchers used Lidar laser technology.

    After a year of analyzing the data, they were able to verify last year that there was a vast landscape full of canals and roads underground. The discovered city is believed to have been active in 802 AD, making it 350 years older than the neighboring Angkor Wat temple. The site remains closed to tourists as researchers continue to excavate it, but Angkor Wat (which is believed to be connected to Mahendraparvata) is open year-round.

  • 8Mount Mabu Rainforest, Mozambique, Africa

    Julian Bayliss

    With the help of Google Earth yet again, scientists discovered an untouched rainforest in South Africa that has yielded a treasure trove of new animal and plant species, including a new type of viper snake. In 2005, while trolling Google Earth, researchers spotted a green patch on Mount Mabu that they believed to be an undocumented rainforest. Led by researchers from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the first expedition through the 17,000-acre rainforest took place in 2008. Not long after, scientists determined that the rainforest was the largest one in southern Africa.

Nature’s fury: See Mount Sinabung erupt

 

Spewing hot lava, ash and dust into the air for miles in all directions, Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra, Indonesia continues to reveal its force. The volcano has sporadically erupted since September, forcing thousands of people who live around its slopes to flee their homes.

Asia

  • Watching ... and worrying
  • Nature on nature
  • Sinabung stirs
  • The dust settles
  • Watching and waiting
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Sinabung stirs

Thousands of people who live around the slopes of 8,350-foot high Mount Sinabung in Sukanalu, North Sumatra, Indonesia, have been forced to leave their homes, fearing spewing ash and lava from the rumbling volcano. Sinabung has sporadically erupted since September. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)