If you are like me, you like to go on trips with your family. Maybe you like to go to a local park, the ocean, or a nearby mountain. On these trips, did you ever find someplace that made you go “Wow!” because it was so big or beautiful – something that you had never seen before and was truly spectacular? Well, today we’re are going to talk about amazing places on earth that were made by Mother Nature rather than man; 7 places around the world made by water, wind, and fire, things so big and amazing you can hardly believe them. What do you think they are? We’ve talked about one of them in a previous episode. Can you guess what it is? It is very tall and covered in snow. If you said Mount Everest, you’re right!
So, let’s learn more about the 7 wonders of the natural world – and do it in alphabetical order!
First on our list is the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. This is a fancy name for a beautiful light show in the sky. In very cold places like Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Alaska, Russia, and other places, the night sky can be lit up by beautiful waves of flowing green, pink, red, and yellow colors. Think of an ocean wave and how it ripples with different colors of blue, green, turquoise, and tan when you look at it. Well, that’s what it looks like in the sky, but with bright colors! And you may wonder what causes these amazing ripples of color across the sky. Well, the sun spits out these little particles, called ions. It’s like the sun spitting out little peas. The ions then travel on waves of gas – like spitting peas into the wind! When these little ions (or peas) come near the Earth and our magnetic field, they start to jiggle and shake and glow – causing a glowing light show in the sky! Pretty neat, huh? And these lights can happen all year long in some places. In other places, like Alaska, where they get daylight for 24 hours a day during the summer, it can be hard to see the lights. I have never seen these lights before, but maybe one of our listeners has. I would love to hear from you and learn what you think about them!
The Grand Canyon
The Second wonder of the natural world is the Grand Canyon in the state of Arizona in the United States. You have probably seen pictures of it! It looks like huge, rust-colored mountains with their tops cut off. Everything is flat on top, but the mountains go down deep into a canyon, so deep it is hard to see the bottom! To me, it looks like a giant rock maze from above. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and over a mile deep! That’s a long way down. Scientists estimate that it is about 5-6 million years old and was carved by the Colorado River running through it. Millions and millions of years of flowing water washed away pieces of the rock and cut pathways through the Canyon. During the ice age, there was a lot of rain in this area and the water rushed through the canyon even quicker, cutting away larger pieces of rock and carving caves.
Through the ages, Native American tribes have made the Grand Canyon their home. Some still live there today. These days you can go white water rafting through the canyon, ride a helicopter above it, ride a mule into it, or hike around it. Just be sure to bring plenty of water and warm clothes if you plan to go to the bottom! It’s a long hike down and the temperature can change drastically between the top and the bottom where there is less sun.
The Great Barrier Reef
The third natural wonder is the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia. It is the world’s largest coral reef stretching over 133,000 miles. It is home to 900 islands and three thousand different reefs. It is also home to over 1,500 fish species, 215 bird species, and 134 shark species! I know I’d much rather meet a clownfish there than a great white shark! The reef is over 200 feet deep and can even be seen from outer space! It was created by billions of tiny little coral polyps and is the largest structure in the world built by living organisms. Think of billions of little minions under the sea making coral apartment buildings! The Great Barrier Reef is world famous and many people travel to see it. Unfortunately, it is struggling to survive. It has lost more than half of its coral since 1985 due to climate change. The sun heats the water and bleaches the coral, killing it. It’s like boiling a lobster in hot water. Also, damage from human dumping and attacks by the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish have also damaged the reef. The good news is that a certain type of coral, called Acropora coral, is growing quickly on the reef and has regrown large portions of it. Coral can grow up to 9 inches in height and one inch in width a year – that’s more than you and me! It needs to live at a maximum depth of 490 feet because it needs to be close to the surface – and sunlight- to grow. It cannot grow above the water line. I think it would be incredible to take a boat around the Great Barrier Reef or go scuba diving there one day. What do you think?
Number four on our list is Mount Everest, which is so big it sits in China and Nepal! Mount Everest is over 29,000 feet tall, meaning it is as high as the cruising altitude of airplanes. That’s a LONG way up! It has other names given to it by the Chinese and Indians, including Sagarmatha and Chomolungma, meaning “Holy Mother.” It is called “Holy Mother” because it is the largest mountain in the Himalayan Mountain Range – and the world! Most of the world knows the mountain by the name Mount Everest. It was named after an early British Surveyor named Sir George Everest, who was surveying – or measuring – mountains in the Himalayans in the 1800s. He didn’t want the mountain named after him because the native Chinese and Indian people couldn’t write or say the name Everest, but it was done anyway. Mount Everest is very dangerous – it has deep crevasses or canyons – plus the Khumbu Ice Fall, an area at the base of the mountain filled with large ice blocks that fall over a lot. It also has a lot of avalanches, which are roaring blasts of falling snow. At the top, it gets very windy and there is very little oxygen. Nothing can live at that height, not even birds. To climb Mount Everest, you need to be in top physical shape, have a lot of climbing equipment, and carry bottles of oxygen to use at the top – similar to what scuba divers do when they go to the bottom of the sea. Most climbers climb Mount Everest with the assistance of Sherpas – or native Tibetan guides – who carry large loads of equipment up and down the mountain and set ropes for the climbers.
There is a big mystery on Mount Everest, too. In 1924, George Mallory and Andrew Irvine from England tried to be the first climbers to summit the mountain. They were last seen near the top, but then disappeared in the fog. They were never seen again. To this day we do not know if they reached the top. But in 1953, Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary reached the top of Mount Everest and made it back down safely, becoming the first documented climbers to reach the top of the world! That is truly incredible!
Moving on to number five on our list is Paricutin, a volcano in Michoacan, Mexico. It was formed in 1948 after erupting out of a farmer’s cornfield. You may think, “There are lots of volcanos around the world. What makes this one so special?” Well, this was the first volcano that modern scientists could track and study from its start! Most of the volcanos on Earth are under the sea or erupted thousands – or even millions – of years ago. This volcano erupted fairly recently and continued to grow and spit out lava for 9 years, reaching a height of 1,391 feet and destroying 90 square miles with lava, stone, and ash. Hundreds of people evacuated, two towns were completely buried and three other towns were damaged, but luckily only 3 people were killed. This volcano sits on the Trans-Mexican belt, a trail of old volcanos running west to east across Mexico. Today, the crater measures approximately 660 feet across and people can walk around the rim and climb up and down its sides. Although it is said to be extinct now, or dead, it is still hot and when rainwater hits it, it spews steam into the air. In 1997, the area experienced 230 earthquakes in quick succession. In 2006, over 300 more earthquakes rumbled near the volcano. This does not sound like it is extinct to me. I think I’ll leave the volcano climbing to others! I’m not wild about being covered in burning lava, are you?
Number six on our list is Rio Harbour in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is also called Guanabara Bay, which means “Arm of the Sea” and it is the world’s largest bay. It is over 19 miles long and boasts 130 islands. Explorer Charles Darwin stated, “It seemed almost unreal” for its natural beauty and stellar surroundings: glistening beaches, granite monoliths, and majestic mountains. Also visible from this bay is the “Christ the Redeemer” statue on Corcovado Mountain. This statute is on another famous list: the 7 Wonders of the World, meaning things made by man. Brazil is very lucky to have two wonders in its own backyard!
And the 7th natural wonder of the world is Victoria Falls, located between Zambia and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa. In its native languages, its name means “The Smoke that Thunders,” “Boiling Water,” or “The Place of the Rainbow.” The falls are so big and so vast that the water roaring over them sounds like thunder and throws billowing clouds of mist into the air – and even makes rainbows. It is one of the largest waterfalls on Earth and measures over 5,604 feet across, and 354 feet tall, and the spray can rise 1,300 feet or more. The spray can even be seen from 30 miles away. So why is it named Victoria Falls? Well, a Scottish missionary and explorer named David Livingstone came across it in 1855 and named it after England’s Queen Victoria. Just like with Mount Everest, early explorers found amazing places and renamed them, instead of keeping their native names.
And where does all the water go after it tumbles over the falls? It tumbles through a series of gorges making various turns and zig-zags while tumbling downstream. At the second gorge, there is a deep pool of water called the Boiling Pot. It measures 500 feet across and at times has enormous swirls and a boiling surface like a witch’s cauldron. Crocodiles, humans, and even hippopotami have been found in these swirling waters or along the Pot’s nearby shores. My advice to you: stay well away from the edge of the falls! You don’t want to go over the brink with a Hippo!
Aren’t these seven natural wonders of the world amazing? Have you seen any of them yet? Which ones would you like to see? Maybe you can make a list and plan trips with your family – or visit them when you grow up. I sure would like to see some of these amazing sites. I’ve seen The Grand Canyon but I sure would like to see more – and take my family with me.
Maybe as a fun project, you can make a rhyme about these wonders to remember them. If you do, I’d like to hear your rhyme. Feel free to send it to me using the link in the show notes. Your name and rhyme might be mentioned in a future episode!