7 Insane Landforms You Won’t Believe Aren’t Photoshopped

For the most part, geography is fairly predictable. Mountains look like mountains, rivers look like rivers, and the ocean is vast and terrifying. But sometimes, the giant muscular space wizard that keeps our planet spinning loses its balance, sending those mountains and rivers and oceans crashing together in unexpected ways. The end result is bizarre geographical wonders that look like James Cameron got hammered while playing SimEarth. That’s how you get things like …

#7. The Eye of the Sahara

ESA via LiveScience

The Gaia hypothesis states that the Earth is actually a sentient being, and that all life forms that inhabit it are connected through that sentience. While there’s no scientific evidence to support the theory that our home planet is a big wet rock with a soul and a heartbeat, it does have a giant freaking eye staring straight out into space:

Lucio Andreetto via Flickr
Objects in the All-Seeing Eye of Beelzebub may be closer than they appear.

Officially known as the Richat Structure, the Eye of the Sahara looks exactly like what its much more appropriate nickname describes. Located in the Mauritania branch of the Sahara, the eye is a 30-mile-wide collection of raised rocks that, for one reason or another, wound up in the shape of an eyeball. A grotesquely infected mummy eyeball, to be sure, but an eyeball nonetheless.

Google Earth via geology.rockbandit.net

It was initially thought to be a meteorite impact zone, but people soon realized that meteorites typically punch craters into the Earth, and don’t just cut a bunch of doughnuts in the sand before launching themselves back into space. Then it was suggested that the ridges might have been formed by a volcanic eruption, but that theory proved to be equally full of wrongness once people realized that there aren’t any volcanic rocks anywhere near the damn thing. Nowadays, the prevalent belief is that the Eye was formed by the gradual erosion of nearby rocks over the centuries, and they just happened to settle into the shape of an eye. While that may turn out to be true, it’s important to note that all of these theories have overlooked the most obvious explanation: magic.

How the rocks randomly managed to take the shape of an eyeball, nestled inside a raised slit that perfectly resembles an orbital socket, is a mystery that will probably never be explained. If it truly is the eyeball of a sentient Earth, it seems wildly disproportionate, and we have yet to find a second one, which suggests either a terrible birth defect or a cosmic motorcycle accident.

Europe does look suspiciously like an eye patch.

#6. The Psychedelic Salt Mines of Russia

Mikhail Mishainik/Caters News via Huffington Post

Six hundred feet below Yekaterinburg, Russia, lies an abandoned salt mine that was apparently once used as a birthday clubhouse by Jefferson Airplane. Nobody knew about it until a Russian photographer named Mikhail Mishainik got a day pass from documenting bleak Eastern European landscapes and took a tour of the place. What he found were miles of 1960s album art wallpapering an endless freakout dungeon.

Mikhail Mishainik/Caters News via Huffington Post
Nope. This doesn’t look like hell’s throat at all.

Neither the colors nor the patterns are Photoshopped — Freakydeakistan up there is 100 percent real. The culprit appears to be an abundance of carnallite, a rare mineral that serves as an alteration product of salt and typically shows up in red, yellow, or blue color tones. After years of miners kicking it up all over the place, the carnallite started layering together along the walls to create the grooviest mine in Russia (despite certain stretches that aren’t so groovy).

Mikhail Mishainik/Caters News via Huffington Post
“It’s starin’ at me, man. It’s got, like, 15 eyes, and they’re all starin’ at me like they know something, man.”

But before you hop a plane to Mother Russia to go trip the mine fantastic, make sure you’re prepared. As we mentioned, this mine is nothing but salt and carnallite, so the air within it is extremely dry. According to Mishainik, that dry saltiness, combined with the sweltering heat that comes with any windowless subterranean bunker, leaves you with a feeling of perpetual thirst. Combine that with the cotton mouth you get from “expanding your consciousness,” and you might want to experience this place sober after all.

Mikhail Mishainik/Caters News via Huffington Post
Otherwise you might become convinced that the dragons in the ceiling are speaking to you, and no one would ever see you again.

#5. The So-Called Frozen Waves of Antarctica

Tony Travouillon/ExclusivePix via Daily Mail

Chances are you’ve seen pictures like this floating around the stronghold of accurate information that is the Internet:

Tony Travouillon/ExclusivePix via Daily Mail
Faaaaaaaake. Dude doesn’t even look real.

The pictures are usually accompanied by some immediately discrediting caption such as “OMG, it’s a frozen wave u guyz!” or “A wave of water just froze in the Arctic. I can’t even.” Because people evidently believe that The Day After Tomorrow is a documentary film and that flash-freezing a tidal wave mid-rip curl is totally a thing that is possible.

Tony Travouillon/ExclusivePix via Daily Mail
Statistically, if Roland Emmerich keeps making random shit up, eventually he’ll come up with something that’s true.

Now, while the fact that those are in no way frozen waves probably doesn’t shock you, you might actually be surprised to hear that those pictures are 100 percent real. What you’re actually looking at are glaciers, turned upside down and partially melted, then refrozen in the most artistic way possible.

Next Trip Tourism
For reference, “Iceman’s pompadour” is the most artistic way possible.

As explained by Tony Travouillon — the scientist responsible for the photographs — during the warm(ish) summer months in Antarctica, some of the nearby sea ice will begin to melt. The thaw is enough to free glaciers that are normally held in place, and many of the glaciers become upended, revealing their crystal blue undersides. The glaciers themselves then gradually melt, sending water running down the sides, and that water freezes again before it gets a chance to hit the ground, like the tears of a yeti. Repeated melting and refreezing forces out any errant air bubbles in the glacier and gives it that flowing “wave” look, which is more than enough to fool absolutely everyone on the Internet into thinking that weather functions like a Batman villain.

#4. The Marble Caves of Chile

Atlas Obscura

Caves aren’t typically made entirely out of marble, and in the rare cases that they are, they certainly don’t end up looking like the pool house in the Fortress of Solitude. However, the Marble Caves of Chile have managed to do exactly that.

Bring your own towels, though.

The Marble Caves are a testament to Nature’s ability to accidentally create humbling works of art. They began as nothing but a giant block of hardened calcium carbonate; in fact, for the most part, that’s what they still are:

annais via Amazing Places on Earth
“Don’t worry, it’s like a loft apartment — way less cool on the outside, totally bitchin’ on the inside.”

Over the millennia, waves beat the bottom of the cube senseless, softening its hard exterior bit by bit until honeycombing caverns eventually formed in the cube’s interior. Now it looks like a frost goblin’s water park.

Or a dolphin nightclub.

As the seawater laboriously carved its way through the rock, it left behind countless layers of turquoise salt residue, painting the walls the color of a pair of board shorts. The end result is a geographical wonder that looks like Aquaman’s garage.

Fimm via Amazing Places on Earth
“Wait, where’s my Ferrari? Did it sink to the bottom of the ocean again?”

Despite the caves’ bright cheeriness, it seems like a good place to drown if you’re not careful during your visit. On the plus side, it’s probably really difficult for sharks to get inside.

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