One of the perks of a Geology blog is checking out the most interesting places on Earth. These are some of my personal favorites.
The Door to Hell, as local residents at the nearby town of Darvaza have dubbed it, is a 70 meter wide crater in Turkmenistan that has been burning continuously for 35 years. In 1971, geologists drilling for gas deposits uncovered a huge underground cavern, which caused the ground over it to collapse, taking down all their equipment and their camp with it. Since the cavern was filled poisonous gas, they dared not go down to retrieve their equipment, and to prevent the gas escaping they ignited it, hoping it would burn itself out in a couple of days. Unfortunately, there was a slight miscalculation as to the amount of gas that was trapped, and the crater continues to burn to this day.
You can see it on Google Earth at 40°15′8″N 58°26′23″E
Mount Roraima is a pretty remarkable place. It is a tabletop mountain with sheer 400-metre high cliffs on all sides. There is only one ‘easy’ way up, on a natural staircase-like ramp on the Venezuelan side – to get up any other way takes and experienced rock climber. On the top of the mountain it rains almost every day, washing away most of the nutrients for plants to grow and creating a unique landscape on the bare sandstone surface. This also creates some of the highest waterfalls in the world over the sides (Angel falls is located on a similar tabletop mountain some 130 miles away). Though there are only a few marshes on the mountain where vegetation can grow properly, these contain many species unique to the mountain, including a species of carnivorous pitcher plant.
Socotra has been described as one of the most alien-looking place on Earth, and it’s not hard to see why. It is very isolated with a harsh, dry climate and as a result a third of its plant-life is found nowhere else, including the famous Dragon’s Blood Tree, a very-unnatural looking umbrella-shaped tree which produces red sap. There are also a large number of birds, spiders and other animals native to the island, and coral reefs around it which similarly have a large number of endemic (i.e. only found there) species. Socotra is considered the most biodiverse place in the Arabian sea, and is a World Heritage Site.
Located on the Parana river the Guaíra Falls were, in terms of total volume, the largest waterfall on earth. 1,750,000 cubic feet of water fell over this waterfall each second on average, compared to just 70,000 cubic feet per second for Niagra Falls. However, the falls were flooded in 1982 when a dam was created to take advantage of this massive flow rate. The Itaipu Dam is now the second most powerful hydroelectric dam in the world, after the Three Gorges Dam. The Itaipu Dam supplies 90% of the power consumed by Paraguay, and 19% of the power consumed by Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.