This article was originally published on For What Its Earth and has been republished to The Tea Chat with permission.
Nature’s surprising at the best of times. But all over the world, crazy things are happening that we never would have thought was scientifically possible. Well, it turns out, weird natural wonders and unexplainable phenomenons aren’t just the stuff of science-fiction.
From never-ending lightning to bleeding trees to fire tornadoes, there’s literally a wealth of natural occurrences that we just dont ever hear about. But that ends now, as we’re showing you the most alien-like stuff that goes on on planet Earth. But we must warn you; it’s a dazzling display of nature’s magic.
A Lightning Storm of Nightmares
We can’t think of a more perfectly-timed photo to capture just how surreal mother nature can be. Not only is the Calbuco volcano in Chile mid-eruption, but a violent lightning storm is is taking place right on top of it. This phenomenon has been termed a “dirty thunderstorm”, whereby the two terrifying natural occurences collide.
It happens because of the positive and negative charges that occur when elements from deep inside the volcano are forced up into the atmosphere. Add to that the fact that the Calbuco volcano is considered to be the most dangerous one in Chile, this stunning photo shows us just how crazy nature can be.
A Fairtale Rainbow Swamp
You’d hardly believe your eyes if you stumbled upon this multicolored woodland on a walk through Viriginia’s First Landing State Park. But there’s actually a fascinatingly rare occurence taking place thats causing this magical rainbow-swamp appearance. Don’t worry – no petrol has been leaked!
The rainbow sheen is the result of decomposing leaves sitting on surface of the water. The decaying biomatter releases natural oils that form a film over the lake if it hasn’t rained for a while. And that’s exactly what happened here; two weeks of good weather and the already enchanting resevoir becomes a surreal fairyland.
It might look like the apocalpse has come in this photo, but we assure you it is infact a natural, albeit rare, occurence. Here we have a rolling cloud, a unique formation whereby low sitting clouds, usually not far from the coast, roll into themselves due to a sea breeze or cold front.
If they happen at all, they usually happen after a thunderstorm where the downdraft, wind direction, and pull from gravity create a visual spectacle that is otherwise harmeless. Hard to believe, we know. Clearly, mother nature enjoys messing with our heads.
The Wrath of Zeus
What looks like a scene from ancient Greek mythology is actually a naturally occuring event. Tornadoes are powerful and destructive at the best of times, but throw fire into the occasion and you have yourself an extremely lethal combination. And they have an interesting origin.
There needs to be an existing fire for a fire tornado to come about. The spinning winds then pick it up amidst the chaos, and eventually the fire will spread up along its trail. On top of that, they can get as tall as several dozen feet, wreaking havoc on homes, cars, and trees. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of.
Cotton Candy Trees
Pakistan became home to one truly unique phenomenon back in 2010. The country suffered from flooding over approximately a fifth of its land, which took more than half a year to recede. But people weren’t the only ones having to adapt to the change – spiders took to the trees to escpape the water and were stranded there for months.
The trees eventually ended up looking like a giant mangled cotton candy stick. What was once bright and leafy became cocooned in the webbing, but still allowed for enough light to penetrate to the trees and keep their temporary home healthy. It’s fascinating to see how other living creatures adapt.
The Dome of Doom
Think we’ve photoshopped this image? Thank again. What you are looking at here is known as a lava dome, and it’s possibly the only one to have ever been caught on camera. It’s a natural phenomenon whereby a fountain of lava erupts into an eerily round shape as opposed to the explosive spurts we’re used to seeing.
Pictured is the eruption of Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, which took place in October 1969. Researchers at Oregon State University believe it took on this unusual shape because the lava was too “thick and sticky to flow very far, and thus instead piled up thick and high around the vent.” And there you have it; one of the most surreal moments ever witnessed in nature.
A Sinkhole to Hell
In 2010, the residents of Guatemala City had the fright of their life when a giant sinkhole developed seemingly out of nowhere. It’s a natural but uncommon phenomenon, that looks more like a science fiction nightmare. It was 30 stories deep into the ground, and swallowed ap a three-story building with it when it appeared.
Apparently, it can be attributed to the tropical storm Agatha, but some scientists believe it to have been years in the making. However it came to be, it has got to be one of the strangest natural occurrences around. If you were to accidentally fall in, you would fall from a height of approximately 60 feet… and not live to tell the tale.
Beam Me Up!
You’d be forgiven for thinking for a second that you were suffering from astigmatism, or that the camera behind this photograph absorbed too much exposure. But none of the above is true; these are light pillars – an optical phenomenon caused by tiny ice crystals in the atmosphere refracting light.
It can only happen when the tempature is around freezing point, but they can happen anywhere in the world. They also come from any light sources – so weather it’s a street lamp or a traffic light, these long thin beacons can make an appearance. How magical.
Geometrically Satisfying Ice
Antarctica is home to some pretty out-there stuff, including this thing which you dont see in the documentaries – stripey ice blocks. It’s mother nature’s very own work of art, proving just how impressively she can make straight, vertical lines. The truth is, these lines aren’t cuts into the ice block, but colored stripes within the glacier itself.
Stripes in Antarctic ice occur due to different layers forming in different conditions and at different times. The mid-blue stripes are formed when ice freezes especially fast, meaning bubbles aren’t formed and trapped. It gets us thinking… just how old are some of these ice blocks?
The Tree That Bleeds
Don’t worry, there’s no dark magic happening here. Yemen’s unique and spectacular dragon tree doesn’t just look incredible, but it also has this scary-looking feature. The Dracaena cinnabari produces a bright red sap which look exactly like human blood. So if you cut into its trunk, you have this terrifying image.
And the sap is actually made up of extremely beneficial proporties. Not only can it be used to make a resin, but it’s also favored for its medicinal qualities and is used to fight infection and inflammation. Understandably, its one of the rarest trees on earth, so that sap will cost you a pretty penny.
Flowers as Clear as Ice
Meet the skeleton flowers, AKA Diphylleia grayi, with the most intersting looking petals. It would be easy to think they were made out of crystal, but they are in fact usually white. When the rain comes and soaks its petals, they lose their opacity and simply turn completely see-through.
They’re native only to Japan, China, and the Appalachian Mountains in the United States. One thing that is still disputed in the botany community is whether or not the skelton flower’s ability to become transclent is an advantage in nature. They’re tiny at any rate, so perhaps they like to fade out of sight.
Cave of Secrets
Miners in Mexico made an astonishing find in 2000 when they were deep underground searching for metal-bearing minerals. They stumbled upon on an enchanting cave full of giant crystals, that had been growing uninterupted for over half a million years.
300 meters underground, several of the crystal “beams” are wide enough for humans to walk across. The white-tinted selenite crystals were able to grow because of the specific growing conditions they had under a mountain. It was insufferably humid for the researchers who went down to study the phenomenon.
Beluga Love Handles
In this photo we can see the underside of a beluga whale, which looks supiciously as though it has a human trapped inside it. It is a bizarre phenomenon that has puzzled people for years, going back to the 19th century. In the past, sailors have even mistaken beluga whales for mermaids because of their deceptive curves.
It may not of comfort to hear, but this image is totally real. People have commented on their “human-like knees,” which actually aren’t knees at all. It’s actually just extra blubber deposits, formally called “rails,” that hold fatty insulation for cold Arctic waters. No mermaids here, then.
The Strawberry Milkshake Lake
Feast your eyes on this bubblegum pink spectacle. This is Lake Hillier in Western Australia, and was discovered back in 1802. Its bizarre rosy hue is actualy still a bit of a mystery, but scientists have come up with a probable theory. Specific microalgae, Dunaliella Salina, is thought to be responsible.
Not only is it a naturally occuring color in this body of water, but its totally stable too. It’s permanent, meaning that if you collected some in a jar it would stay its unique vibrant color. On top of that, its completely safe for humans to swim in, just so long as you dont accidentally drink it.
Goats Grow On Trees
Think this is a joke? Morocco is home to some pretty weird goats that climb on trees, and we can hardly believe our eyes. They have a unique hoof structure that splits in two, allowing for their “toes” to spread out and keep them balanced on the tree branches.
But these goats aren’t running away from predators, they’re simply drawn to the Argan tree tops for the fresh fruit that’s produced on them. It’s not without its obstacles though, as there are thorns along its knobbly twisted branches. But after thousands of years, these impressive goats have learned how to adapt.
Rocks Making Waves
This looks like a scene from some sort of epic blockbuster, but it’s actually a real place in Hyden, Australia. Known as the wave rock, it stands at 110 meters tall and features grey and red granite stripes along with its huge wave-like shape. We don’t know how that little girl isn’t running the other way!
It has taken a long time to become so beautiful to behold. The wave rock is 27 million years old and is actually located near some aboriginal paintings. Interestingly, the stripes can change color throughout the seasons and also appears different depending on the time of day.
A Terrifying Crimson Tide
One of most eerily biblical things we’ve ever seen, these coastal waters appear to be a deep red color, kind of similar to blood… But dont worry, its origins are far less grizzly than you might imagine. Its a natural occurence, albeit a very rare one. And its not a permanent fixture.
The tide only becomes red when a certain type of algae population explodes onto the scene. They are so tiny that we can’t see the individual red particles, so the sea waters just appear to be a totally different hue. The only downside is that these algae create a high-toxin environment. We’ll stay on land, thanks.
It’s Raining Bears
Bears can climb trees surprisingly well. Believe it or not, this black bear wandered into the campus of the University of Colarado and climbed up high into the treetops of a tree. Wildlife experts came to take the place back to the Rocky Mountains where it had come from, but they had to go about it safely.
After tranquilizing the bear they brought out large pads to catch it safely. And this amazing photo captures that moment when the bewildered mountain beast is mid-air. It fell from a height of 15 feet, but it was totally ok. That being said if you ever happen to spot a bear in a tree, chances are, they’re meant to be there.
The World’s Largest Mirror
Wow… this incredible sight definitely looks too good to be true. This is the world’s largest mirror, the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, and it’s completely natural. That’s because it’s a salt flat, the largest of its kind, that’s been around since prehistoric times.
Reflecting the sky view, the salt lake creates the illusion that it is infinitely wide. It’s quite dessert-like due to its vast emptiness, but there are some signs of life at the great Salar de Uyuni. Flamingoes, cacti, and a rare species of hummingbird all live in this unique formation.
Something magical happens in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. For a two week period, a particular species of firefly glows in the dark, all at the same time. Also known as lightning bugs, they are the only American species that can individually synchronize their flashing light patterns.
For those who witness it in person, it looks like a million tiny stars all pulsing in unison. Believe it or not, it’s their own unique mating ritual. The males flash first, waiting for the female to respond. From the looks of it, the dazzling display does its job.
A Psychedelic Geyser
Nevada has seen some crazy happenings over the years, but arguably none are as strange as this rainbow geyser. It is a thermal spring that continuously spurts out water, reaching five feet in the air. This action deposits minerals and encourages the growth of different colored algae.
It is a natural phenomenon, but it only came about due to a human accident. A drilling machine accidentally struck boiling water at the temperature of 200 degrees, leading to the geyser formation. It definitely looks like it belongs on another alien planet if you ask us.
The Fires of Modor
Introducing the real fires of Mordor – well, not quite, but close enough. These onlookers stand at the mouth of the Darvaza gas crater in Derweze, Turkmenistan. It’s casually referred to as the “Door to Hell” or ”Gates of Hell”, which should tell you all you need to know about how deadly it can be.
The truth is, it was a natural gas field that had collapsed into a cavern underground, and it was releasing a huge amount of methane gas. In 1971, Geologists decided to set the cavern on fire to prevent the spread of the gas, and it has burning ever since. Would you believe, it’s become a popular camping site?!
Friendly Looking Giants
We’re well aware that New Zealand is home to some pretty amazing creatures and places. But one particular natural formation has everyone scratching their heads, and that’s the Moeraki boulders on Koekohe Beach. They’re huge, heavy, incredibly round, and as big as smart cars.
Sitting along the coast where the water meets the beach, they look like they could be a nest of dragon eggs. Each stone weighs several tons, and has acquired its spherical shape after millions of years of rock erosion from the water. They truly are a geological marvel.
An Army of Crabs
Here’s an image we’d sooner forget. Every year, millions of huge red crabs make their way out of the forest and into the ocean in Australia’s Christmas Island. As soon as the first rainfall occurs, usually sometime between October and November, male crabs make their way to the sea shortly followed by the females.
But this isn’t a calm stroll along the shore for the red crabs. They’re in a rush to get to the ocean and start mating, crawling quickly so as to avoid the next rainfall. For those who have seen this natural occurrence in person, it’s a trippy experience. Just ask naturalist Sir David Attenborough, who filmed this phenomenon for The Trials Of Life in 1990.
Not as Toxic as It Seems
What looks like some sort of toxic waste pool is actually a collection of lakes in craters at Flores Island, Indonesia. Known as Kelimutu, it contains three lakes of entirely different and unusual looking colors, namely turqoise, chocolate brown, and bright blue. We’re certainly not used to seeing water in such vivid shades.
Actually, they change color all the time depending on the underwater fumaroles, i.e. cracks in the Earth’s surface that expel gases of naturally occurring chemicals. But from a less scientific stand point, some believe these pools to contain the souls of abandoned ancestors.
Leaf, Gecko, or Something Inbetween?
Can you spot him? This little lizard is the satanic leaf-tailed gecko (we didn’t make that up) indigenous to Madagascar, who has incredibly camoflage abilities. Adapted to the rainforests, this nocturnal animals has evolved to look identical to the crispy brown dead leaves on a tree.
They also have an exceedingly flat tail which helps them blend seamlessly into their barky environment – they hardly create any shadows. It’s fascinating to think about the natural selection that took place for these little guys to thrive. When in doubt, play dead (leaves!).
A Thunderstorm Tantrum
Is it the end of the world? Or is it just some bonkers weather? Here we have a thunderstorm microburst exploding over Phoenix in 2016, whereby strong jets of wind from the thunderstorm rush southwards and escape off to the sides. A truly terrifying display of Mother Nature’s power.
This microburst is formed by the combination of falling rain or hail, and evaporation. But the gusts of wind that spread out from the ground produce pretty brutal winds, some of which can travel up to 150 mph. But this could just as easily have been a scene in Independence Day.
A Bear Tree in Full Bloom
It’s true that black bears can climb trees exceptionally well. They manage to climb faster than other bear species’ and use all four legs to do so. Even grizzly bear cubs can climb. In this photo, a sleuth of young black bears have taken every inch of real estate available on this tree.
It’s not uncommon for bears, especially young ones, to want to group together on the same tree. But it’s an extremely rare occurrence to see 15 crowded together at once. Black bears are known to climb when faced with a predator, which begs the question: what on earth was out to get these guys while they were on the ground?
Stop and Smell the Desert Roses
We often think of the desert as barren land fraught with harsh living conditions and barren land. But the desert rose begs to challenge these assumptions with its glorious designs. Meet the desert rose – ancient relics that take over 10,000 years to form.
They’re not actually roses at all, or even living things for that matter. They are aggregated crystal clusters of minerals that can form all over the world, providing the conditions of course. And they have such a beautiful and intricate pattern, it’s no wonder they were nicknamed after a gorgeous flower.
A Ghostly Arctic Region
These alien-like figures are seen darted around Finland’s arctic region, but they’re not half as intimidating as they might appear in photos. These monstrous piles of ice are actually just trees! When the snowfall because so thick during the winter period, it completely envelopes anything and everything in its way, including the local flora.
All trees, plants, and rocks turn into a graveyard of snow, lending it quite a tranquil feeling. And these drooping statues go on for miles and miles on end. It’s crazy to think that these trees will survive such harsh weather conditions, but somehow they just wait it out with dormancy.
The Most Electric Place on Earth
Think this is fake? Think again! Here we have a phenomenon known as the Beacon of Maracaibo AKA the most electric place on earth. It’s situated at the Catatumbo River in west Venezuela, and is a thunderstorm that simply never lets up. It produces lightning for 10 hours a night, 260 nights a year.
And would you believe, scientists arent entirely sure why it even exists. There have been some theories but it’s ultimately still a mystery. In 2010 it actually ceased all lightning, completely out of the blue. Everyone thought that was it for the storm until it started up all over again six weeks later. It’s clearly got a mind of its own.
Who Needs Space When You Have This
It might come as a surprise to learn that this isn’t another planet or a faraway land, it’s actually found in the Southwest region of the United States. This incredible terrain is definitely more like something we’d expect to see in outer space. But it’s actually within reasonable reach to everyone, on public land near Nevada.
The terrain is peculiar and looks more like scales or a type of lizard skin than it does mountain rock. It’s an amazing texture that has to be the stuff science-fiction is made of. Who would have thought that something so out of this world was on our very doorstep?
The Steamy Spring That’s Bursting With Color
This truly sublime hot spring is the largest one in the entire United States. Situated in the Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, it’s a gorgeous bright cobalt blue body of water that features all the colors of the rainbow along its rim. It’s referred to as the Grand Prismatic Spring and it’s easy to see why.
For that magnificent color, you have the spring’s heat-loving bacteria to thank. Come to find out, each different color is created by a different type of heat-loving bacteria. The outer-most ring you see is where the most bacteria diversity occurs. It really is a marvel to witness.
Deadly Rotating Air
Brave photographers got out of their cars to capture this spectacular tornado. As a violent rotating column of air, it’s heavily discouraged to go near. But some people don’t mind dicing with danger to get that perfect shot. Let’s just hope these storm chasers got the hell out of there as soon as they got their pictures.
Pictured in Campo, Colorado circa 2010, this particular tornado proves to be especially wide in circumference. Luckily, it doesn’t appear to be taking place in built up area so the destruction would have been minimal. But either way, it’s a phenomenal natural occurence that instills a tremendous amount of terror.
The Tunnel of Dreams
This little natural wonder is called the Glowworm Tunnel, located in Australia. At the turn of 20th century, a long tunnel was built as part of the infrastructure of the mining industry. But since then, the miners have left, and the glow-worms, the bioluminescent larvae of fungus gnat, have moved in.
Under the right conditions, when the hikers walking the tunnel are quiet, and when people turn off their lights, you can see the fungus gnat glow a bright hue of blue. In these insects, as in other bioluminescent fauna, the light is a result of a chemical reaction happening inside their bodies.
Jaws of Death
It’s hard to believe that this photo isn’t some CGI masterpiece, but it is in fact a geniune photograph. Great white sharks are fearsome predators of the sea and this picture shows us exactly why. They’re known for having beady eyes and a dead expession, but that’s not even the most terrifying part of them.
Seeing a great white shark from this point of view shows you their razor sharp teeth and fleshy pink mouth. Perhaps most terrifying of all is the dark infinite hole that promises you a first class ticket to hell. It truly is the jaws of death. We’re just glad we’re not in the photographer’s position.
A Lake Unlike Any other
This beautiful marvel of nature is known as the Spotted Lake, in British Columbia. This particular region contains extraordinarily high concentrations of minerals, such as calcium and sodium sulfates. Minerals are also deposited after the winter when the snow melts. When it warms up, a lot of the minerals rise to the surface.
It truly looks like a landscape a beautiful alien landscape. Spotted Lake also has a rich history. For centuries, it has been revered by many as a sacred spot, it was thought that its waters could have a therapeutic benefit. And during World War I, when Canada’s weapons production industry was on overdrive, minerals from this lake were used.
A Manmade Ceiling Could Never
Located in Alaska, The Mendenhall Glacier is a 12-mile-long, partially hollow glacier. There are lots of places that are (for now) safe to explore and offer guided tours. Inside the caves formed by the glacier, you will find yourself blown away by the spectacular blue ice ceiling and the pristine water flowing on and under the rocks.
Unfortunately, the Mendenhall Glacier is reacting to the effects of climate change. The glacier has retreated almost two miles in the last 60 years. True, it’s a big chunk of ice, but with oceans levels on the rise, it might become inaccessible. Also, many communities in Alaska rely on glaciers for their fresh drinking water. So the melting glaciers can affect the water supply.
A Procession of Feathered Friends
Ducks enjoy taking a stroll just as much as anyone else, it seems. Pictured in the Zhejiang province of China, 5000 ducks walked through the middle of a busy road, leaving drivers beside themselves. They all belonged to one farmer, who led his flock through a main street using only a cane.
He needed to transport the birds over half a mile to another pond, which posed a problem. So he thought, why not let them stretch their legs and march on over there. It’s a rare sighting indeed, and it’s made even funnier considering how we can only spot one male in the foreground among a sea of females.
Adaption That Leads To Innovation
The Crystal Channel, or in Spanish, the Caño Cristales, is one of Columbia’s natural beauties. Remarkably, it’s located at the crossroads between three ecosystems: those of the Andes, the Amazon Rainforest, and the Easter Llanos. Yet despite the bio-diversity we see there today, a long long time ago, the flora and fauna found there had a hard time surviving.
The riverbed is solid rock (mostly reddish quartzite), so it was hard for plants and animals to find nutrition. They had to adapt to the harsh conditions. As a result of that adaptation and the will to live, the place is now teeming with all sorts of life. Every year in November, after the rainy period, the riverbed is overrun by the bright red algae. With the crystal clear water and the reddish rock, the place looks like it’s on fire.
A Python Meets Its Prickly End
If you didn’t already have ophidiophobia – a fear of snakes – then this photo might just spark it. Snakes have a deadly reputation to begin with, but this image proves just how mighty they can be. This particular African rock python is a large constrictor that has just swallowed a mature porcupine whole.
Unfortunately, this python made a fateful mistake in choosing to eat a porcupine. As you might imagine, the porcupine didn’t go down easy due to the spikes. If a snake regrets the meal it’s chosen they usually regurgitate their food back up, but the quills would have made that an impossible task. And the porcupine turned out to be the African rock python’s last meal.
Glow in the Dark Beach Waves Are a Thing
The Republic of Maldives is beautiful enough, but it went and got a whole lot more dreamlike with these bioluminscent beach waves. You might be feeling confused as to how something like this can even come to be, but there’s a perfectly reasonable explaination for all of this sorcery.
It’s not the water that glows in the dark, its the phytoplankton within that gives it the amazing blue hue. Their light is used as a defense mechanism to ward off hungry predators who might be scared or dazzled. Which kind of makes sense to us – that glow does look a little bit “unnatural”.
A Rainbow To Remember
Think we’re pulling your leg with this one? Clearly, Mother Nature just went wild with imagination when forming the Rainbow Mountain of Peru. Known locally as the Montaña de Siete Colores AKA Mountain of Seven Colors, it’s situated in the Andes in the Cusco region of Peru.
The mighty mountain got its crazy colors from the erosion of sedimentary mineral layers packed inside. After thousands of tectonic shifting and volcanic activity, it’s created what is sure to be one of the great wonders of the world.
A Tornado Party
Tornadoes don’t always appear one at a time. You can often find something called a tornado family, which is made up of a series of tornadoes that have come from the same supercell thunderstorm. If you thought that one was scary enough, how would you react if you saw a bunch of them altogether?
All we know is, we wouldn’t be a calm spectator like the lady above. Tornado families are not to be confused with a multiple-vortex tornado which, as you might imagine, also contains several rotating air columns. Whatever it is, we’re just thankful to see it ravaging open fields rather than a densely populated area.
Deceiving Sand Dunes
This magical location exists in Brazil’s Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, in a remote and hardly accessible area. But if you ask us, it looks more like the view from a plane, when you’re looking through the gaps between clouds when flying over an ocean. It’s hard to believe this isn’t a man-made formation.
For those who make it there, it’s a labyrinth of sand and water in a vast and open location. It took thousands of years of erosion to become the sweeping sand dunes it is today. And while it looks like a dessert, it couldn’t be farther from one. Nature’s simply playing tricks with us.