The Giant’s Causeway is an area along the coast of Northern Ireland where up to 40 thousand pillars of black basalt rise up from the sea. These basalts formed as a result of intense volcanic activity during the Paleocene, approximately 50 – 60 million years ago. The pillars obtained their characteristic, mostly hexagonal shape through contraction and horizontal fracturing after cooling of the lava plateau. According to legends, giants walked over these rocks to cross the sea.
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Information source: UNESCO World Heritage Convention
Image: Basalt pillars of the Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Credit: Jal74, Wikimedia Commons.
Pamukkale is a geological site in the Denizli Province in southwest Turkey that is famous for its hot water springs and cascade of travertine terraces. The surreal, crystal-white structures of the site are formed by the rapid precipitation of calcium carbonate minerals from the supersaturated waters of the geothermal springs. As these mineral-rich waters reach the surface, dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) degasses, increasing the pH of the water and eventually resulting in the formation of spectacular travertine deposits. In Turkish, the name Pamukkale means “Cotton Palace”.
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Information source: UNESCO World Heritage Convention.
Image: Pools and travertine terraces of Pamukkale in Turkey. Credit: Antoine Taveneaux, Wikimedia Commons.
Lake Baikal is located in the southern part of eastern Siberia in Russia and is the oldest and deepest freshwater lake on Earth. Containing approximately 20 % of all fresh water at Earth’s surface, it is also the largest freshwater lake in the world by volume. The lake was formed approximately 25 million years ago in an ancient rift valley in the Baikal Rift Zone and is surrounded by mountains on all sides. Lake Baikal is characterized by a very high biodiversity, hosting many plant and animal species that exist nowhere else in the world, such as the Baikal seal or nerpa. In winter, the surface of the lake becomes completely frozen.
Information source: Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Wikipedia
Image: Shamanka, or Shaman’s Rock, along the shores of Olkhon Island in Lake Baikal in southern Siberia, Russia. Credit: Виктория Шерина, Wikimedia Commons.
Dallol is a volcanic explosion crater, or maar, in the Danakil Depression in northeast Ethiopia. It is located approximately 50 meters below sea level and has been formed by the intrusion of magma underneath Miocene evaporite deposits in the Afar Triangle of the East African Rift system, followed by several eruptions. Subsequent hydrothermal activity has led to the formation of hot springs and brines in a landscape with striking red, yellow and green colors related to the presence of iron oxide, sulfur and microbes. Dallol is known as one of the hottest places on Earth, with average temperatures of 35 degrees Celsius throughout the year.
Information source: Smithsonian Institution National Museum of National History Global Volcanism Program
Image: Salt and sulfur deposits near the hot springs of Dallol in the Danakil Depression, Ethiopia. Credit: Ji-Elle, Wikimedia Commons.
Mount Erebus is the southernmost active volcano on Earth and is located on Ross Island in Antarctica. It has an elevation of 3794 meters and is surrounded by three inactive volcanoes, Mount Terror, Mount Bird and Mount Terra Nova. Volcanism on Ross Island is related to the presence of the Erebus hotspot in the deep subsurface and as a result, continuous eruptions occur from the persistent lava lake in the inner crater of Mount Erebus. The volcano is also known for its ice fumaroles, towers of ice that form around gases escaping from vents in its surface.
Information source: Mount Erebus Volcano Observatory
Image: Mount Erebus and the surrounding landscape on Ross Island, Antarctica. Credit: Hannes Grobe, Wikimedia Commons.
Angel Falls, also known as Salto Ángel, is the highest waterfall on Earth and is found in Canaima National Park in the Guiana Highlands of Venezuela. At Angel Falls, the waters of the Churun river fall down the cliffs of the Auyán-tepui mountain from a staggering total height of 979 meters. The waterfall consists of three parts: the main plunge of 807 meters, a section of sloped rapids and a final plunge of 30 meters.
Information source: Canaima National Park Service
Image: Angel Falls flowing down the Auyán-tepui mountain in the Guiana Highlands, Venezuela. Credit: Diego Delso, Wikimedia Commons.
Mount Nyiragongo is an active stratovolcano in the Virunga Mountains in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The volcano has an elevation of 3470 meters and its main crater usually contains a large lava lake. Volcanism at Mount Nyiragongo is related to the presence of the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East African Rift system, where the African tectonic plate is splitting into two.
Information source: Virunga National Park Service
Image: Lava lake in the crater of Mount Nyiragongo in the Virunga Mountains, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Credit: Caj Tjeenk Willink, Wikimedia Commons.
Uluru / Ayers Rock is a massive rock structure located in Northern Territory, Australia. Consisting of red sandstone that is relatively resistant to weathering, Uluru / Ayers Rock prominently rises 348 meters above the surrounding lowlands. The structure has likely been formed by sediment deposition in alluvial fans associated with mountain uplift during the late Neoproterozoic to early Cambrian (~ 550 million years ago), followed by tilting in the Paleozoic (~ 400 million years ago). Subsequent erosion of the surrounding rocks and the formation of iron oxides further shaped Uluru / Ayers Rock into its present state as a majestic red mountain.
Information source: Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park Service
Image: Uluru / Ayers Rock at sunset in Northern Territory, Australia. Credit: Weyf, Wikimedia Commons.
With a summit at 8848 meters, Mount Everest is the highest mountain peak on Earth. It is located in the Himalayas on the border between Nepal and China and is surrounded by several other high peaks, including the Lhotse, Nuptse and Changtse. The lower part of Mount Everest consists of metamorphic rocks such as schists and gneisses, as well as numerous granite intrusions. The middle part of the mountain consists of schists, phyllites and marbles with a lesser metamorphic grade, while the upper part of the mountain is mostly characterized by a succession of limestones and siltstones. Mount Everest and the Himalayas have been formed by the continental collision of the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates in the Cenozoic.
Information source: Sagarmatha National Park Service
Image: Mount Everest in the Himalayas as seen from Tibet, China. Credit: Luca Galuzzi, Wikimedia Commons.
Monte Fitz Roy, also known as Cerro Chaltén, is a mountain in the Andes, located near the village of El Chaltén in Patagonia along the Argentina and Chile border. The summit of Monte Fitz Roy reaches a height of 3405 meters, but is generally covered in clouds. While it is not as high as other mountain peaks in the Andes, it is especially notorious among mountaineers for its jagged peaks and sheer granite faces.
Information source: Los Glaciares National Park Service
Image: Monte Fitz Roy in the Andes along the Argentina and Chile border. Credit: Todor Bozhinov, Wikimedia Commons.