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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]

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science
Human Activity Has Permanently Altered Earth, for Better or Worse (Mostly Worse)
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Modern humans have roamed Earth for just a few hundred thousand years. In the grand scheme of things, that's a very short period. But in that time, we’ve triggered mass extinctions of plants and animals, polluted the planet, and developed nuclear weapons—and our legacy will linger in both nature and the geologic record long after historical records have been lost, according to Ted-ED’s video below.

Modern humans have altered the Earth’s landscape and atmosphere so profoundly that some scientists say we’ve ushered in a new epoch called the Anthropocene, or "new age of humankind," from anthropo (human) and cene (new). Before this, we were living in the Holocene (meaning “entirely recent”), which began around 11,700 years ago and faded sometime around 1950.

The 1950s ushered in both the plastics revolution and the atomic age, both of which permanently introduced chemicals into Earth’s fossil record. Meanwhile, humans have also shaped long-term plant and animal evolution with agriculture, fishing, and hunting. In short, our actions have long-term consequences, even if the human species ends up being a blip on the geologic time scale. Remember that the next time you drink from a plastic bottle, or see a cloud of smoke billowing through the sky.

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This Just In
Spelunkers Discover New Caverns in Montréal's Ancient Cave Network
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An ancient cave system beneath a Montréal park is much more vast than experts believed, the National Post reports.

In 1812, a farmer discovered a cave underneath his property in Montréal’s present-day Saint-Léonard borough. Once used to stockpile ammunition and conceal soldiers during the Rebellions of 1837, the Saint-Léonard cave system in Parc Pie XII is today a tourist attraction and historical landmark. But some speleologists (cave experts) suspected there was more to the natural wonder than met the eye.

Beginning in 2014, two amateur explorers named Daniel Caron and Luc Le Blanc began searching for undiscovered passages in the Saint-Léonard caverns, according to National Geographic. By 2015 they had some leads; in October 2017, they used drills and hammers to break down a cave’s wall to reveal a new cavern.

The stalactite-filled chamber has soaring 20-foot ceilings, and it's connected to a serpentine network of underground tunnels. These passages formed during the Ice Age around 15,000 years ago, when glacier pressure splintered underground rock.

So far, Caron and Le Blanc have explored between 820 to 1640 feet of virgin cave passage, and expect to find even more. They believe the vast network sits atop an aquifer, and ultimately leads to the Montréal water table.

Spelunking the Saint-Léonard cave system is challenging—some passages are filled with water or require special climbing or rock-breaking equipment. The explorers hope that the caves will be easier to investigate during the dry season, and that the receding waters will allow them to reach new depths below Montréal’s surface.

[h/t National Post]

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