Check some of the most Amazing Natural Phenomena on Earth.
Antarctica’s Blood Falls
One of our favorite natural phenomena isn’t difficult to see because it happens rarely; the “Blood Falls” at Taylor Glacier are pretty prone to weeping with briny, iron-heavy water teeming with microbial life. But this creepy locale is very hard to visit. Even if you think you can handle Antarctica’s truly frigid temperatures (and cough up the thousands of dollars it takes to go there on vacation), it doesn’t appear that anyone is offering a tour of this particular feature. For now, your best bet is to become a microbiologist who specializes in extreme microbes—which is a course of action we highly recommend.
A Dirty Thunderstorm
It sounds like some kind of delicious alcoholic ice cream thing (which we will soon invent, if it doesn’t already exist) but a “dirty thunderstorm” is actually a very unique kind of lightning. The typical kind happens when electrical charges form between tiny particles of water and ice inside clouds. Volcanic lightning forms inside thick ash plumes. Ash particles rub up against each other and create friction, and when they burst out into the open air and separate, electricity flows.
Goodness, gracious, great balls of lightning! We can only hope that’s what scientists said when they captured this rare electrical phenomenon for the first time in 2012. These orbs can flash in several colors and shine as brightly as a 100-watt bulb. They usually happen during thunderstorms, but it seems like they can show up in other places, too—when gases burped out of marshes suddenly catch fire in the air, for example. According to reports, it’s possible for the stuff to form inside (and sometimes even on airplanes, yikes). There are several proposed explanations currently in the running. Ball lightning can reportedly last for more than a second, which is quite long for lightning in general. But that’s still brief, especially for a phenomenon that’s so poorly understood—so observations are scarce. You’d have to get very lucky (or very unlucky, as the case may be) to see this one without dedicating your life to monitoring thunderstorms—or producing the balls of fire artificially in the lab.
Underwater Crop Circles
Pufferfish courtship is way less messy than the human kind. I mean, literally, look at how intricate this is:
These amazing spirograph patterns are a crucial part of the species’ mating process, so obviously they’re not that rare. Divers around Amami-Oshima Island in Japan see them periodically. But considering that you’d need to get to the right part of the world, get a diving certification, and hope to find a pufferfish love nest before anything disrupted it (they’re made of sand, after all) we’re going to argue that this one is tougher than a total eclipse. Though, again, you could choose to do a PhD on the mating behaviors of Japanese pufferfish. That would be neat.
It might sound worse than watching grass grow, but waiting for rocks to move can lead to a big payoff. Because, like, the rocks might move. Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa is famous for its “sailing stones,” rocks as heavy as 700 pounds that appear to have moved across the ground on their own, leaving trails in their wake. But they’re not exactly speedy. When researchers finally managed to observe the motion in action for the first time in 2013, they found that the phenomenon—which takes place when the playa fills with water deep enough for floating ice to form at night, but shallow enough for rocks to stick out, and when the resulting ice forms and breaks apart just so—can move hundreds of rocks at a time. But since the individual rocks only move a few inches a second, spectators watching from far away might not even notice.