Water is one of the world’s most intriguing wonders. It’s vital to existence but deadly if contaminated. The body immediately relaxes when engulfed in warm water but if there’s too much of it or there’s an undertow, water can kill you. It evaporates when heated and becomes solid when chilled to a specific temperature.
Whether you love it, hate it or fear it, water is phenomenal, and in certain spots around the globe, it’s more astounding than others.
Beppu Hells, Japan
These eight hot spots that emanate from the heat at Earth’s core are called Hells based on the bloody red hue of some of the water as well as the swells of steam that rise above them, and the crushing odor of sulphur they emit.
The geysers in Beppu spew throughout the day to the delight of visitors who can consume the water of a few as well as eat snacks cooked in the water or partake in Beppu foot and hand baths. The geysers each have disturbing names that include Shaven Monk’s Head Hell, Boiling Hell, Demon Mountain Hell, Blood Pond Hell and Monster Mountain Hell, the latter of which is a crocodile breeding ground.
Lake Nyos, Cameroon
If you’ve always thought water was your friend, this crater lake in the Northwest Region of Cameroon in Africa will have you reconsider your choice. The exceptionally deep lake borders an inactive volcano and is situated on top of a magma pocket that leaks so much carbon dioxide that it makes the lake water carbonic. In1986, the lake produced a cloud of carbon dioxide so toxic that it suffocated 1700 people and 3500 livestock in a16 mile radius. After that disaster, Lake Nyos was supposedly equipped with siphons to prevent further eruptions but if an earthquake hits the region, all bets are off.
The Aral Sea, Kazakhstan
Despite its once-impressive designation as one of the world’s four largest lakes, The Aral Sea has been slowly disappearing since the 60s. The 26,000+ square mile lake started vanishing when a massive Soviet irrigation project rerouted the rivers that fed the sea, with no regard for the impact. The once masterful body of water that was once full of fish and helped control the climate in the area is less than 10 percent of its previous size and is now a desolate basin of sand and salt devoid of vegetation. Efforts to remedy the disaster are ongoing but it will likely take a century before significant progress is made.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
On a brighter more optimistic note, the Plitvice Lakes in Croatia are the picture of water health. The 16 lakes cascade, one into the other, creating an astounding landscape of tiered, narrow waterfalls in shades of green and blue. The lakes are separated by natural barricades formed by travertine.
You can see the colors in the lakes change as the sunlight hits the chalk and limestone beds from different angles, illuminating the various underwater depths and bounty of organisms and minerals in the lake water. Surrounded by trails and caves, Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the jewels of Croatia.
Taal Lake, Philippines
Similar to Russian nesting dolls, Taal Lake is actually a lake within a lake within a lake within a lake – 4 lakes in all. The “lakes” are actually islands in the centers of gradually diminishing volcano craters formed from eruptions that took place between 50,000 and 100,000 years ago. Taal Lake has an island in it called Volcano Island, which has a crater lake that contains another island named Vulcan Point and…well, you get the idea but seeing it is mindboggling, especially when you consider that although Taal Lake is in a crater about 15 miles wide, it’s less than 10 feet above sea level.
Jellyfish Lake, Palau
Most swimmers and divers who exercise their aquatic skills in salt water have suffered from jellyfish stings, so venturing into waters named for the lovely, irritating creatures seems crazy. Granted, this lake, located on an almost deserted island in Palau’s Southern Lagoon, is swarming with hundreds of jellyfish but they’re a special species. Golden jellyfish, close relatives of the spotted jellyfish, sting so lightly and gently you don’t even feel it. If you want to try to avoid them altogether, keep in mind that the jellyfish instinctively avoid shadows that in turn protect them from anemones, so avoid swimming and diving in areas the sun casts shadows on.
Pitch Lake, Trinidad
People accused of having delusions of grandeur can silence their critics by walking on the water at Pitch Lake in Trinidad. The lake has the largest natural accumulation of asphalt in the world, exported regularly to pave surfaces all over the world. Pitch Lake was discovered in 1595 by Sir Walter Raleigh who was delighted to find an endless source of material to repair and maintain his ship. Scientists remain baffled at precisely why this particular spot has so much asphalt, as well as exactly how asphalt is formed. A popular theory is that two faults in the earth force deep deposits of oil upward where bacteria attacks the lighter oil as it evaporates and forms the thick layers of asphalt.
Boiling Lake, Dominica
The name of Boiling Lake is not hyperbole; the center of the lake never stops boiling at minimum temperatures of 212 F degrees. The outlying areas are not much cooler, usually maintaining heat levels between 180 and 197 degrees, so even though the lake looks enticing as the sun sets and the cool temperatures cover the lake with a layer of seductive mist, don’t even stick your toe into this lake. The phenomenon is simple to explain: the deadly giant hot tub is the result of water flooding over a fumarole, a significant crack in the earth’s crust.
Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
Looking more like a painting than a natural wonder, Laguna Colorada’s water appears bright red from the algae pigmentation and red sediment on the lake’s bed. The red water looks even more stunning with the sprinkling of white borax islands that cover it. Laguna Colorada is located in the Eduardo Abaroa Andean National Reserve and at 4000 feet above sea level, one of the highest in the world. Salar de Uyuni, the largest and highest salt flat on record, is nearby and a favorite summer hangout for pink flamingoes. Always stand upwind from flamingoes as their practice of urinating on themselves to stay cool makes them emit a foul odor.
Lake Vostok, Antarctica
One of the most intriguing and arguably the oldest lake on earth, freshwater sub-glacial Lake Vostok may contain water nearly 30 million years old. The surface of the lake is 13,000 feet below the ice surface and around 1600 feet below sea level. Russian scientists drilled into the lake in 2012, completing the longest ice core in history at 12,400 feet.
The first core of freshly frozen lake ice was removed in 2013 and is awaiting analysis. Hypotheses abound that strange and never-before-seen life forms will be found in the liquid layer of the lake called a fossil water reserve. The environment of Lake Vostok located below the ice is theorized to bear a resemblance to the ice-covered Europa, the planet Jupiter’s moon.