Much of the earth’s wondrous majesty just looks like total bullshit. Here are very real sights that you might have dismissed as terrible fakes, had you seen them from a less trustworthy source:10
There Is No Escaping The Hellmouth
Who is this woman, who can stand and smile upon the droves of blackened husks of those who’ve tried to escape the insatiable, ever-burning mouth of Hell itself (or possibly Hell’s angry red anus)?
Well, much to the disappointment of your fundamentalist Christian aunt whom you keep meaning to unfriend on Facebook, this isn’t an actual photo of Hell’s yawning gate (or unlatched back door), but of what geologists call a “skylight.” That’s a lava formation resulting from the collapse of lava tubes, which you may recognize as a terrifying event that apparently happens often enough to have earned a shorthand nickname. This particular skylight occurred on the western side of Hawaii Island’s Kamokuna lava delta:
Of course, this explanation doesn’t make the woman in the photograph any less hardcore — she’s just standing at the gate of science Hell, rather than Bible Hell.9
Hodge Close Quarry Will Murder You Sideways
At first glance, this picture might not really look like anything — just a pile of rocks, a grotto, and a lake. Other than looking like a go-to body disposal site for serial murders hearing voices that are actually there, what’s the big deal, right?
And we agree with you. That is, until you tilt your head slightly to the left (we’ll rotate the picture for you, so you don’t alarm your classmates/coworkers/fellow private citizens on the bus):
Clearly, clearly, that is the face of a titanic undead ogre who has risen from the dimension of howling bones to devour us all.
In reality, what appears to be the image of death incarnate is Hodge Close Quarry, a massive slate excavation in England’s Lake District. Because having the appearance of the last thing all humans see when they depart this world isn’t enough of a deterrent, the quarry has become a favorite destination of climbers and divers alike, and its icy, 150-foot-deep waters have lived up to the quarry’s lethal appearance on at least three occasions … a tidbit which here means “there are almost assuredly sunken corpses littering the silt beneath the unblinking eyes of this grave lord.”8
Sad Colossus Does Not Approve Of Your Spending Habits
What we see here is an obviously depressed Colossus mourning the evils of capitalism by sticking his gigantic head through the middle of a Sharper Image distribution center.
You may be surprised to learn that this building is actually part of France’s Polygone Riviera, an indoor/outdoor shopping district, inspired by such American shopping destinations as Hollywood’s famous Sunset Strip. Where it differs from many (daresay all) other such locations is the mopey chrome bastard who stares down at you as you lug your purchases back to the car.
Standing watch at the entrance to the mall, sculptor Sacha Sosno’s “Le Guetteur” (“The Watchman”) is a four-story monstrosity comprised of two lower floors of restaurants, a disembodied metal sad face, and two upper floors doubling as the mall’s management offices and the most kickass hat ever constructed, leaving us all asking “With a hat so righteous, how could he be so bummed?”7
The Predator Building
At some point in our lives, we’ve all wished we could make our home vanish at the flip of a switch, whether to terrify unwanted visitors out of ever returning or to play a charming prank on city engineers. Delaware State University’s Optical Science Center for Applied Research — nicknamed OSCAR — appears to have discovered the ability to do just that.
perfected (or, to our knowledge, even begun exploring) whole-home cloaking technology. OSCAR is just a big reflective building, but unique prismatic design allows it to use radiant heating and cooling systems to minimize airflow in sensitive laboratories while maximizing efficiency. They almost make it sound like the near invisibility was an accident.
Otherwise, it’s the perfect structure to house the university’s optical research program, because in addition to being a cute optical illusion, the building also presumably sears the retinas of unsuspecting passersby with each and every sunset.
San Francisco Bay Is Bleeding
If a sea monster suddenly appeared in San Francisco Bay and mulched several dozen victims into a maritime soup of blood and fear, we imagine this is what it would look like during your landing approach to San Francisco International Airport.
What appear to be the collection pools for a humanity-wide ritual sacrifice are in actuality Cargill’s San Francisco Bay salt works, one of only two such facilities in the United States.
Transmogrifying the bay water into salt for your seared cod is a painstaking process: Over a five-year period, water is advanced through a series of increasingly shallow pools. As the water evaporates, the increasing salinity affects the flora and fauna that are able to thrive in it. Greener species of algae give way to ones rich in beta-Carotene, while brine shrimp add their own reddish pigments to the mix.
Then, finally, once all the water is gone, you’re left with pure salt. Well, “pure” except for all the aforementioned (and now deceased) algae and sea monkeys, but we’re sure someone vacuums all of them up or something before it ends up in your shaker.5
The Earth Has A Crack In It
In this view from the International Space Station, we can see what appears to be indisputable evidence that the Earth has suffered a hairline fracture running clear across Asia, through which the molten center of our Pale Blue Dot has begun to seep. Either that, or giant aliens have begun dividing up the planet amongst themselves before the invasion.
In actuality, what you’re looking at is the 1,250-mile border wall between India and Pakistan, “one of the few places on Earth where an international boundary can be seen at night.” It’s unclear why anyone felt the wall needed to be visible from space, but its powerful luminescence definitely prevents an international incident being triggered by accident.
The Garden That’s A Living Painting
Here we see an incredibly detailed piece of street art spray-painted onto the side of a building next to a bench, and/or a painting into which impoverished children would magically disappear in a Roald Dahl novel.
In actuality, this is a real-life, untouched photograph of Japan’s Kawachi Fujien botanical garden. Each year the 2.5-acre facility transforms into a veritable explosion of color, courtesy of flowering wisteria trees which have been carefully cultivated over more than a century into the shape of tunnels, domes, and trellises, because old-timey gardeners in Japan had their shit together.
Depending on the color and lighting, the experience of standing beneath one of the garden’s many topiaries can range from crossing the rainbow bridge into Barbie’s Asgard to prepping for some vigorous ponytail sex beneath Avatar‘s Tree of Souls.
This Was One Of The Planets In Interstellar, Right?
Below we see what happens when Planet Earth suddenly decides to attempt an interpretative dance of a Magic Eye picture. If you stare at the picture long enough, you’ll see an ocean. Or a desert. Or the arctic.
It’s the second one, sort of. What you see here is in fact a vast sea of lily-white sand dunes, evenly interspersed with pools of perfectly blue water.
Brazil’s Lencois Maranhenses National Park is the symphony of confusion that occurs when a vast, moisture-hating desert collides with the sea, much like a vocal opponent of LGBTQ rights being confronted by a shirtless Luke Evans. And that’s because Lencois Maranhenses isn’t technically a desert — it gets a good five times too much rain each year for that.
During the latter part of each year, strong winds blow sand from the Atlantic coast inland, forming an arid sea of mountainous dunes. Then, during the rainy season — i.e., the entire first half of each year — torrential rains sweep in to transform the valleys into crystal clear lagoons, some of which can reach depths of 10 feet. If you’ve ever dreamt of doing a cannonball in the middle of the desert, Lencois Maranhenses is your dream destination.
The Earth’s Bounciest Landscape
This is either a video production diary of the Swamp of Sadness from an upcoming The NeverEnding Story reboot, or someone laid a bunch of sod on top of a pool cover (perhaps both).
Haha, nope! That’s the actual ground in actual Russia, because of course it is. Researchers discovered more than 15 three-foot pockets of gas hidden beneath the long-frozen soil of Belyy Island in northern Siberia. Shortly thereafter, said researchers’ heads jumped clear off of their bodies and loped away on crab legs.
In all seriousness, there is a perfectly logical explanation: As rising global temperatures thaw the Siberian permafrost, carbon dioxide and methane are released, only to become trapped beneath the sod and create a literal ground bubble. When the grass layer is pierced with the heel of a boot or a largish pin, the bubble pops and the gas rushes out — hopefully with the hilarious sound of a slowly deflating party balloon, and not with the scuttling of a thousand prehistoric hellbeasts being birthed from the underside of the world.
And while we’re on the subject of bubbles…1
This Lake Is Full Of Snowballs And Or Larvae
Here, we see the countless aborted Olaf prototypes Elsa manifested before landing on the perfect one to delight her sister, trapped beneath a glass prison of ice, waiting for the blissful release of Armageddon.
What looks like Hugh Jackman’s back room in an all-snowman version of The Prestige is actually a frozen Lake Abraham in Alberta, Canada. The “snowballs” you see above aren’t snow, either, but rather bubbles of gas trapped within the ice. And they look even cooler at night, as discovered by photographer Rachel Jones Ross (with a slight assist from an auger and a waterproof light):
Beautiful as the bubbles may be, their source is less so: Dead things beneath the surface of the lake rotting and releasing methane (aka doing what dead things do) create the gas pockets. As said methane rises, it becomes trapped within the ice, patiently waiting for some photographer to come along and capture its good side in a well-lit photo or, alternatively, for a band of heroes with a grill lighter.