Mysterious Shadow Giants Nearly Stop Hikers’ Hearts
You come to sunny California and go for a hike in the Santa Lucia mountains. There, you have a strange, unpleasant feeling. As if... someone’s watching you... You look around but don’t see a single soul. That’s when you glance at the tops of distant mountain in front of you, and your heart skips a beat... Up on the peaks, you can see the outline of a giant humanoid figure. Arms stretched out with a magnificent full rainbow circling it. This mysterious figure is dressed in all black. You can’t make out any facial expressions or detail, but you can see it moving! Then, it vanishes right before your eyes!
Congrats, you’ve just witnessed the “Dark Watchers” — a phenomenon that’s been terrifying hikers in the California mountains for over 300 years! Even now, scientists can’t give an exact explanation for this mysterious appearance. What we do know is... it’s completely natural!... Probably. One theory claims that there are no silhouettes at all. The human brain just thinks up images created by shadows the clouds cast on the mountains. Over the centuries, people share stories about this legend, and their minds begin to show it, building recognizable images.
The same can happen to you, like when you see the contours of a human face on a burnt piece of toast or the shape of a dog in a passing cloud. The most accepted scientific explanation is what’s called a Brocken Spectre. It’s when the sunlight gets bent by drops of fog or clouds. That explains the rainbow surrounding these figures. As for the shadow, it’s only your own being stretched and projected on the mountains before you! After all, these figures usually show up when the sun is behind the witness.
Natural or not, the vanishing mysterious figures scared the wits out of you! So you head east and find yourself in the desert. The blazing sun beats down on your back. There’s nothing for hundreds of miles around. Hard to believe this dry lifeless plain was once the bottom of a lake! You notice a long trail in the sand as if someone was pushing or pulling something really heavy across the ground. You follow the strange trail, and at the end, you find... a single large stone. But why would anyone drag a heavy rock across the middle of the desert? But nothing touched this stone. It moved by itself!
It’s a phenomenon called Sailing Stones. Every winter, ice covers the ground here. When a strong enough wind blows, the stone starts to glide across the slippery surface! Once the ice melts, all that’s left is a winding trail behind a single lonesome rock. Well, for some relief from the scorching California sun, we head to Antarctica! Snow, ice, and... more blinding sun. Yep, it’s a desert too! The light is almost blinding. You squint and off in the distance, you see something red sticking out from all the surrounding endless white.
As you get closer, you realize it’s a waterfall! An ominous red cascade flowing from the glacier! Splashes fly in all directions and stain the white snow. Don’t worry, these so-called Blood Falls are nothing of the sort! Millions of years ago, I wasn’t around then, a glacier formed over a pond and blocked access to sunlight, heat, and oxygen. Then, the pond managed to break through the glacier with a little trickle of water. When such salty water with high levels of iron meets oxygen, it creates that scarlet rust color. This is the only waterfall of its kind in the world.
Now, in the town of Taos, New Mexico, locals hear a strange hum every day. But not all of them! For some reason, only about 2% of the residents can hear the sound. Some theories propose it’s caused by the location’s unusual acoustics. Others put it down to some strange auditory hallucination or even something more sinister. Unexplainable sounds happen in other worlds as well. In 2020, the Mars rover recorded a strange hum coming from the Red Planet. It’s a quiet, continuous drone that sometimes fluctuates because of Marsquakes.
Back on Earth, we head to the warm rainforests of Southeast Asia. You see a tree that looks as if someone poured paint all over it! But the Rainbow Eucalyptus was painted by nature! Its unusual bark changes colors over time like a kaleidoscope. It starts off as a bright green shade, then red, orange, purple, and finally brown. Then, the colorful cycle starts again.
One of the biggest mysteries of nature is ball lightning. It’s a glowing blue, orange, or yellow sphere that appears during a thunderstorm. Many witnesses say they hear a hissing sound and detect a strong odor with it. The first mention of ball lightning described it breaking through a window and disappearing. As with any mystery, scientists can’t explain the exact cause. A popular theory is that ordinary lightning strikes the ground and causes a reaction between oxygen and vaporized soil elements. Ball lightning often occurs during earthquakes, when it usually takes the form of a blue flame coming out of the ground. The ball lightning phenomenon happens all over the world, but so far, nobody’s been able to snap a picture of it!
There’s an extremely unusual volcano in Java. If you go there at night, you’ll see an electric blue flame burning from the ground, along with oozing bright blue lava! It’s incredibly hot, but that’s not actually lava! All this unusual blue is sulfur gas escaping from crevices in the volcano and catching on fire. It also condenses into a liquid form and looks like blue lava flowing down.
As soon as you come to the Namib Desert, you immediately notice something very strange. Sprinkled among the dry grasslands are almost perfect circles of dirt where nothing grows. These massive polka dots are called Fairy Circles, and — you guessed it! — nobody really knows what causes them. The likely culprit is termites eating the grass around their underground colony. That could also explain the circles’ differing sizes. The bugs continue to eat as the colony expands outwards. But they stop before they encroach on a neighboring colony! The patches where you do see grass show a sort of boundary separating different termite populations. So goes the theory.
Heading down under to Australia’s Lake Hillier. Your eyes don’t deceive you. Yes, that lake is bubble gum pink! And it’s perfectly safe to swim in! The giant pink puddle is a salt lake, and it’s not the only one of its kind in the world. Salt lakes are pink because of a kind of algae and other microorganisms living in them. They produce a red pigment to protect themselves from the sun. What’s unique about Lake Hillier, though, is the water is still pink even if you scoop it up into a glass. And it remains bright pink all year round! The same can’t be said about other pink lakes.
Japan is home to one of the most famous active volcanoes in the world. It’s special because it creates an incredible natural phenomenon: a dirty thunderstorm. The volcano regularly spews out a black cloud of smoke, ash, and... lightning! During an ordinary storm, ice crystals collide with each other and cause discharge, creating lightning. In a dirty thunderstorm, particles of volcanic ash collide instead of ice.
A peaceful night on the beach. The waves wash up on the shore and glow neon blue. But it’s not the water that’s glowing — it’s the creatures living in it! This phenomenon is called bioluminescence. Plankton and algae release this glow when waves disturb them. Some fish, squid, and crustaceans can emit neon light as well to lure prey. No time to walk along the shore enjoying the natural light show. Hurry, we’re heading out to the open sea! There’s no storm or wind at all. Which is why it’s so surprising when you see a massive wave 5 stories high suddenly sweep across the calm waters! It nearly overturns your boat! But just as soon as it arrives, it vanishes in an instant. What. Was. That?!?
This unpredictable and still unexplained danger is called a rogue wave. One theory of how they form is from the sea’s surface encountering a strong headwind. But remember, you didn’t feel any wind blowing!
Theory #2 and the most accepted one: different waves combine to form one large one. It’s something called “kinetic vampirism.” Under certain natural conditions, waves accumulate and exchange kinetic energy. Among all the waves, there will be one that absorbs the energy from the others, like a vampire. When a lot of energy is accumulated, it releases itself in the form of a giant wave!