Saturday, October 22, 2011

Natural Wonders of the World

1. Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided canyon carved by the Colorado River in the United States in the state of Arizona. It is largely contained within the Grand Canyon National Park, the 15th national park in the United States. President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of preservation of the Grand Canyon area, and visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and enjoy the scenery. It is considered a Wonder of the Natural World.

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, up to 18 miles (29 km) wide and attains a depth of over a mile (6,000 feet / 1,800 metres) Nearly two billion years of the Earth's geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. While the specific geologic processes and timing that formed the Grand Canyon are the subject of debate by geologists, recent evidence suggests the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. Since that time, the Colorado River continued to erode and form the canyon to its present-day configuration.

Before European immigration, the area was inhabited by Native Americans who built settlements within the canyon and its many caves. The Pueblo people considered the Grand Canyon ("Ongtupqa" in Hopi language) a holy site and made pilgrimages to it. The first European known to have viewed the Grand Canyon was García López de Cárdenas from Spain, who arrived in 1540.

2. The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,600 kilometres (1,600 mi) over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres (133,000 sq mi). The reef is located in the Coral Sea, off the coast of Queensland in north-east Australia.

The Great Barrier Reef can be seen from outer space and is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms. This reef structure is composed of and built by billions of tiny organisms, known as coral polyps. This reef supports a wide diversity of life and was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981. CNN labeled it one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The Queensland National Trust named it a state icon of Queensland.

A large part of the reef is protected by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which helps to limit the impact of human use, such as fishing and tourism. Other environmental pressures on the reef and its ecosystem include runoff, climate change accompanied by mass coral bleaching, and cyclic population outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns starfish.

The Great Barrier Reef has long been known to and used by the Aboriginal Australian and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and is an important part of local groups' cultures and spirituality. The reef is a very popular destination for tourists, especially in the Whitsunday Islands and Cairns regions. Tourism is an important economic activity for the region, generating $1 billion per year.

3. The Harbour of Rio de Janerio, Brazil
The Harbor of Rio de Janeiro is located in Brazil and was created by erosion from the Atlantic Ocean and is also known as Guanabara Bay. The Harbour is surrounded by gorgeous granite monolith mountains that include the famous Sugar Loaf Mountain at 1,296 feet (395 m), Corcovado Peak at 2,310 feet (704 m), and the hills of Tijuca at 3,350 feet (1021 m). Visitors will also experience numerous islands including Governor's island, Fundao and Snakes Island.

The best ways to see the Harbor of Rio de Janeiro are to get above it. Some visitors will seek to discover and view the harbor and surrounding area by taking to the skies. This can be done either through helicopter or for the more adventurous through the use of a hang glider.

The most common means of seeing tthis wonder are to travel to the tops of the surrounding granite peaks that overlook the harbor. Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado both offer panoramic views of the harbor and surrounding landscape. Sugar Loaf Mountain is actually in the harbor and provides views back over the city and into mountains. Additionally, visitors will have great views of the beautiful beaches that line the harbor.

Corcovado peak is much higher and looks east over the harbor and back towards Sugar Loaf Mountain. Corcovado peak also offers visitors with an opportunity to see the famous monument - Christ the Redeemer.

4. Mount Everest, Nepal
Mount Everest is the world's highest mountain, with a peak at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) above sea level. It is located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas on the Nepal side of Nepal-China (Tibet) border. Its massif includes neighboring peaks Lhotse (8516 m), Nuptse (7855 m) and Changtse (7580 m).

In 1856, the Great Trigonometric Survey of British India established the first published height of Everest, then known as Peak XV, at 29,002 ft (8,840 m). In 1865, Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical Society upon a recommendation by Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India. Waugh named the mountain after his predecessor in the post, Sir George Everest. Although Tibetans had called Everest "Chomolungma" for centuries, Waugh was unaware of this because Nepal and Tibet were closed to foreigners.

The highest mountain in the world attracts many well-experienced mountaineers as well as novice climbers willing to hire professional guides. While not posing substantial technical climbing challenges on the standard route (other eight-thousanders such as K2 or Nanga Parbat are much more difficult), Everest presents dangers such as altitude sickness, weather and wind.

By the end of the 2010 climbing season, there had been 5,104 ascents to the summit by about 3,142 individuals. Climbers are a significant source of tourist revenue for Nepal, whose government also requires all prospective climbers to obtain an expensive permit, costing up to US$25,000 per person. By the end of 2010 Everest had claimed 219 lives, including eight who perished during a 1996 storm high on the mountain. Conditions are so difficult in the death zone—altitudes higher than 8,000 metres (26,000 ft)—that most corpses have been left where they fell. Some of them are visible from standard climbing routes.

5. Northern Lights
An aurora (plural: auroras or aurorae) is a natural light display in the sky particularly in the high latitude (Arctic and Antarctic) regions, caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere (thermosphere). The charged particles originate in the magnetosphere and solar wind and are directed by the Earth's magnetic field into the atmosphere. Aurora is classified as diffuse or discrete aurora. Most aurorae occur in a band known as the auroral zone which is typically 3° to 6° in latitudinal extent and at all local times or longitudes. The auroral zone is typically 10° to 20° from the magnetic pole defined by the axis of the Earth's magnetic dipole. During a geomagnetic storm, the auroral zone will expand to lower latitudes. The diffuse aurora is a featureless glow in the sky which may not be visible to the naked eye even on a dark night and defines the extent of the auroral zone. The discrete aurora are sharply defined features within the diffuse aurora which vary in brightness from just barely visible to the naked eye to bright enough to read a newspaper at night. Discrete aurorae are usually observed only in the night sky because they are not as bright as the sunlit sky. Aurorae occur occasionally poleward of the auroral zone as diffuse patches or arcs (polar cap arcs) which are generally invisible to the naked eye.

In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis (or the northern lights), named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621. Auroras seen near the magnetic pole may be high overhead, but from farther away, they illuminate the northern horizon as a greenish glow or sometimes a faint red, as if the Sun were rising from an unusual direction. Discrete aurorae often display magnetic field lines or curtain-like structures, and can change within seconds or glow unchanging for hours, most often in fluorescent green. The aurora borealis most often occurs near the equinoxes. The northern lights have had a number of names throughout history. The Cree call this phenomenon the "Dance of the Spirits". In Europe, in the Middle Ages, the auroras were commonly believed a sign from God (see Wilfried Schröder, Das Phänomen des Polarlichts, Darmstadt 1984).

Its southern counterpart, the aurora australis (or the southern lights), has almost identical features to the aurora borealis and changes simultaneously with changes in the northern auroral zone and is visible from high southern latitudes in Antarctica, South America and Australia.

Aurorae occur on other planets. Similar to the Earth's aurora, they are visible close to the planet's magnetic poles.

6. Paricutin Volcano, Mexico
Parícutin (or Volcán de Parícutin, also accented Paricutín) is a cinder cone volcano in the Mexican state of Michoacán, close to a lava-covered village of the same name. It appears on many versions of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Paricutín is part of the Michoacán-Guanajuato Volcanic Field, which covers much of west central Mexico.

The best way to experiencing Paricutin is by taking hikes through the sandy banks and lava fields that surround the volcano.  To make the most of your Paricutin adventure, plan on staying overnight at least one if not two days.  The 12 mile roundtrip journey can be taken as an adventurous hike or can be made easier by riding horses.  It makes for a long day either way.

On this journey you will traverse past lava fields, buried village homes and a church reaching the top of Paricutin.

7. Victoria Falls, Zambia - Zimbabwe
Victoria Falls is a spectacular waterfall located in southern Africa on the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Zambezi River serves as the fall's water source. With the collective height and width of the falls, it is attributed as the largest sheet of falling water in the world. The name Victoria Falls was given by the Scottish explorer Dr. David Livingstone.

Victoria falls is accessed through either Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. It is recommended that which ever city serves as the entry point that visitors take advantage of the complete natural wonder experience and cross over to border to see what Victoria Falls has to offer from the differing perspective.

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