Brücke-Osteuropa via Wikimedia Commons
Brücke-Osteuropa via Wikimedia Commons

China’s Forest Made of Stone

Brücke-Osteuropa via Wikimedia Commons
Brücke-Osteuropa via Wikimedia Commons

The Shilin forest has existed in China’s Yunnan Province for over 270 million years. That’s because instead of trees, this “stone forest” is made up of towering, pillar-like rock formations.

The limestone formations (known as karst) stretch across 100,000 acres and were formed by millennia of erosion and seismic activity. Today they are a popular sight-seeing spot for tourists, offering plenty of caves, crevices, and waterfalls to explore. Like something out of a fairytale, Shilin even features a lake with a small island.

One popular attraction is the Ashima Stone, which legend has it was at one time a beautiful Sani girl who ran into the forest after being forbidden to marry the love of her life. Every year on June 24, the Sani people hold their annual Torch Festival at the forest. Visitors celebrate with wrestling, bull-fighting, and traditional dance performances. If you're interesting in visiting the forest at night, these festivities make the hulking formations seem much less creepy. 

Olga via Flickr //CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Olga viaFlickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Shang Ning via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Stephen Zopf via Flickr //CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

[h/t: Travel China Guide]

Interactive Map Shows Where Your House Would Have Been 750 Million Years Ago

Your neighborhood traveled a long way over several hundred million years to reach the spot it occupies today. To trace that journey over the ages, check out Ancient Earth, an interactive digital map spotted by Co.Design.

Ancient Earth, a collaboration between engineer and Google alum Ian Webster and Paleomap Project creator C.R. Scotese, contains geographical information for the past 750 million years. Start at the beginning and you'll see unrecognizable blobs of land. As you progress through the ages, the land mass Pangaea gradually breaks apart to form the world map we're all familiar with.

To make the transition even more personal, you can enter your street address to see where it would have been located in each period. Five hundred million years ago, for example, New York City was a small island in the southern hemisphere isolated from any major land mass. Around the same time, London was still a part of Pangaea, and it was practically on top of the South Pole. You can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through the eras or jump from event to event, like the first appearance of multicellular life or the dinosaur extinction.

As you can see from the visualization, Pangaea didn't break into the seven continents seamlessly. Many of the long-gone continents that formed in the process even have names.

[h/t Co.Design]

Yellowstone's Steamboat Geyser Keeps Erupting, and Scientists Aren't Sure Why

An eruption from Steamboat Geyser in Yellowstone National Park is normally a rare sight, but guests were treated to the geothermic show seven times in the past three months, according to the USGS. The last time the geyser spouted at least three times in a year was 2003, and scientists are still struggling to find out the cause behind the sudden spike in activity.

Old Faithful has garnered fame in Yellowstone and beyond for its regular eruptions that blow every one to two hours, but Steamboat is less reliable. Geysers occur when magma heats up the water and gases trapped in pockets under the ground. If enough pressure builds up, the steam and boiling water will escape through cracks in the earth and shoot past the surface. The reservoir beneath Old Faithful is fairly simple, as geological maps have shown us, and that explains the frequent eruptions. But the structure beneath Steamboat is likely more complicated, leading to eruptions that result from a combination of hard-to-predict factors.

Steamboat's last eruption before this recent marathon of spurts was recorded in September 2014. The geyser's water columns have been know to reach up to 300 feet, making it the tallest active geyser in the world.

Geologists have come up with a few explanations for the phenomena, one being that it was caused by thermal activity in the park's Norris Geyser Basin. Another possibility is that the geyser is having these smaller eruptions closer together in place of one large one. While they haven't come to a consensus on the cause, experts do agree that the frequency of the eruptions is unlike anything they've seen at this geyser before.

While the geyser activity remains a mystery, it shouldn't be taken as an indication that a catastrophic volcanic event is coming to Yellowstone anytime soon. The last volcanic eruption on the park's land took place 70,000 years ago.

[h/t NPR]


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