One of the most wonderful things about the natural world is that it’s entirely unpredictable. Just when you think you have seen all there is to see, nature presents you with something totally surprising that you couldn’t even imagine.
You could travel the entire globe and still not witness the scope and majesty of what the natural world has to offer. Thankfully, there are photographers who make it their full-time pursuit to capture all of this wonder on film!
Here are 22 amazing images of the unique, beautiful—and downright weird—things that can happen on this planet. Get ready to hold your breath in awe of these natural phenomena!
1. If you’re afraid of lightning and thunder, add this to your list of places you’ll never want to visit! At the mouth of the Rio Catatumbo in Venezuela, thunder and lightning flash upwards of 160 days a year! That is about 159 storms too many.
2. Christmas Island, which is located in the Indian Ocean, is home to more than 120 million crabs. In late autumn, they all migrate from the woods all the way to beach where they mate and reproduce. People visiting the island love to snap photos, like this one.
3. Tourists visiting Christmas Island during the great crab migration can’t seem to get enough of these wacky little creatures. They even go so far as to pose their children amidst the sea of crabs. This little girl’s face says it all!
4. If you were pass this strange lump on the beach, you would probably just think it was an interesting-looking rock and keep going. But these marine creatures found off the coast of Chile are hiding an incredible secret…
5. It turns out this is no rock at all, but a pyura chilensis! This strange sea creature is a member of the sea squirt family. It might not look that pretty, but it is actually a main source of food for marine life in the Chilean region.
6. In Pakistan, rising flood waters make it difficult for spiders to maintain their nests on the ground level. When the waters rise, the spiders climb to the tops of trees and almost completely wrap the trees up in their webs to build homes that keep them safe from storms.
7. It’s an ingenious way for these spiders to keep their homes safe, even if it does cause damage to the trees over time. Check out the ghostly appearance! It almost looks like netting, but those leaves are bound up in spiderwebs. It’s spooky, but it’s also very cool.
8. This image of beautiful layered swaths of clouds over this mountain might look like it has been Photoshopped, but it’s entirely real! The truth is that this is a naturally occurring cloud formation is created when the clouds are affected by the strong wind currents coming off the mountain.
9. If you were to stumble across this strange sight while hiking you might think that someone’s granddad was missing his hairpiece! However, what you are seeing are actually very thin needles of ice infected by a bacterium called pseudomonas syringae. The bacterium gives the ice its odd appearance.
10. The Northern Lights are one of the great wonders of the natural world. They occur when wind particles increase their velocity and escape into the atmosphere through the magnetic field. Once freed, they come into contact with gas atoms, which is what creates this stunning dance of light.
11. These photos taken in Mexico might not look very exceptional… until you realize that they were all taken underwater! Dense matter sinks to the bottom of the river, creating an underwater flow or a river inside of another river.
12. One plucky diver decided to take the ultimate photograph and got a friend to snap an image of him “fishing” in the second river. If only his flippers and other diving gear didn’t totally spoil the illusion! Still, it’s a pretty darn cool idea.
13. While it might look like this beach is dotted with LED lights, the beautifully starry appearance is actually triggered by the plankton that live inside the water. A light is emitted whenever they move, which is what causes this stunning show on the beach.
14. How intense is this next image? This natural gas crater in Turkmenistan is also known by another name: the “Gate to Hell.” Flames were first spotted inside of this crater in 1971, and since then, they have never gone out. Does this look supernatural or what?
15. While the first photo of this so-called “hell gate” kind of looks like a fire pit that just got out control, this second image shows you just how intense the fires beneath this pit really are. Can you imagine walking anywhere near that thing?
16. When a volcano erupts, people expect to see smoke, ash, and piping hot liquid magma. But what about something like the electrical storm pictured during the eruption below? Apparently, when volcanoes give off too much energy, it can result in storms like this one.
17. In Death Valley, California, these giant rocks glide through the sand even though no one touches them. How do they do it? Here’s the secret: the desert gets so cold at night that it forms a layer of frost. This is what makes the rocks slip and slide across the sand on their own.
18. You aren’t dreaming—this is an actual tree! This tree is calld a rainbow eucalyptus. It grows in the Philippines and Indonesia, and when its bark dies, portions of it do so at a different rate. The bark then turns different colors creating this amazing effect.
19. Here’s another rainbow tree that almost doesn’t even seem like it’s real! It looks closer to a sculpture or a painting you might find in a museum than something naturally occurring. Can you imagine what it must be like to see something like this in real life? Talk about a memorable sight.
20. This volcano on the Indonesian island of Java might look like its lava is blue, but it is actually caused by a chemical reaction between the sulfur of the volcano and the oxygen as it immediately ignites the magma. So you see, it isn’t blue at all—it’s simply covered in flames.
21. The salt content of this lake in Australia is so high that, when animals sit in it or near to it, they almost immediately turn into calcified versions of themselves. Birds are the most common victims of the lake. It is a macabre, albeit unspeakably captivating, sight to behold.
22. Look at this eerie image of a bird frozen on the lake, transformed into a veritable pillar of salt. While there’s nothing remotely cute about what this lake can do to living creatures, there is no denying the tragic beauty of what it leaves behind.
Most people appreciate the natural world, but that appreciation doesn’t go much beyond sunsets and marveling over the beauty of freshly fallen snow. Who knew there was so much more shocking beauty that the natural world was capable of producing?
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