The Seven Natural Wonders Of The World

By Alisa Mala on October 3 2020 in Geography

White Water Rafting in the Victoria Falls region, Zambia. Image credit: cordelia bua/Shutterstock.com
White Water Rafting in the Victoria Falls region, Zambia. Image credit: cordelia bua/Shutterstock.com
  • Located in the Himalayas, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, and one of the world's seven wonders.
  • The Great Barrier Reef is one of the richest and most complex natural systems on Earth. It is the world's largest living structure.
  • The birth of the Paricutin volcano was witnessed by humankind in 1943 when it suddenly emerged from the cornfield of a farmer near the city of Uruapan in the Mexican state of Michoacán.
  • Victoria Falls is the world's largest falling sheet of water. 500 million litres of water (equivalent of 200 Olympic-sized pools) cascade down the falls per minute. 

When thinking of the wonders of the world, the Great Pyramids or the Colosseum may spring into mind. While unmistakeably incredulous, the list below describes the wonders that Mother Nature created at its own will to enchant and put humans in awe at the mere sight of these wonders. Some of them have also been designated UNESCO's Heritage Sites, symbolizing how humans and nature can co-exist in this wonderful world. 

The seven natural wonders are

Mount Everest 

Mount Everest from Gokyo valley with tourist on the way to Everest base camp, Sagarmatha national park, Khumbu valley, Nepal. Image credit: Daniel Prudek/Shutterstock.com
  • Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world at 29,029 ft (8,848 m).
  • It is a relatively young mountain (50 to 60 million years old) that is still growing about a quarter of an inch higher a year.
  • Death zone in the mountain above 8,000 m is unsuitable for any life form to survive for long.
  • As of 2018, 295 people died attempting to summit the mountain.

Located in the Himalayas and straddling the border between Nepal and China's Tibet Autonomous Region, Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world measured from the sea level. It has an altitude of 29,029 ft (8,848 m). 

Before the Great Trigonometrical Survey, launched by the British in 1802, the Andes were believed to be the range with the highest mountains in the world. The surveyors, however, despite the challenging conditions of their feat, succeeded in making an accurate topographical map of the Indian subcontinent, coming to a conclusion that the Himalayas were higher. In 1852 the Peak XV, now known as Mount Everest was determined to be the highest of all.

Above 26,000 feet in Mount Everest is the so-called "death zone" where people have unfortunately died, due to a number of different causes: avalanches, rockslides, blizzards, falls, altitude sickness, freezing temperatures, exhaustion, or combinations thereof. Conditions there are extreme and does not support human or any other lifeform. The only living creatures that have been found at 22,000 feet are the Himalayan jumping spiders, the yellow-billed choughs (at 26,500 feet), and migrating bar-headed geese, since the environment and permanent snow at 20,000 feet and beyond does not even support the heartiest algae or mosses. 

Bright yellow tents in Mount Everest Base Camp. Image credit: Slepitssskaya/Shutterstock.com

Visiting Mount Everest

Every year numerous tourists, adventurous travellers and mountaineers from all over the world, flock to Nepal and Tibet, with a dream to visit and to summit the pinnacle of the highest mountain in the world. The preparation for climbing Mount Everest usually takes about a whole year in order to make the climbers fit for climbing and also for withstanding the harsh climatic conditions in the mountainous regions. On the opposite sides of Mount Everest, one can find the two conventionally used Everest base camps. The Everest climbers mainly take rest at these well provisioned base camps for several weeks in order to acclimatize themselves and for reducing the severity of altitude sickness. As per the experienced mountaineers, it typically takes about 12 days to trek to the base camp and from base camp to the summit; it is normally around 40 days. 

The best time to visit Mount Everest is during spring and autumn seasons, i.e – from April-May and from September-November. For those mountaineers who wish to attempt an ascent to the summit, the climbing window is between April and May. 

Harbor Of Rio De Janeiro 

Rio de Janeiro Harbor. Image credit: IrenaV/Shutterstock
  • The harbor of Rio de Janeiro is the world's largest natural deep-water bay based on volume of water.
  • Gorgeous granite monolith mountains border the harbor. The Sugar Loaf Mountain and Corcovado Peak are two of the most famous peaks in the region.
  • Over 130 islands dot the bay.

The Harbor of Rio De Janeiro (also called Guanabara Bay) means the January River. It is located in southeast Brazil. It was named so by the Portuguese explorer, Gonçalo Coelho who discovered it on January 1, 1502 on his cartographic journey of South America. At the time, Gonçalo did not know that he actually came upon a 1,500-mile mountain chain, later named the Serra do Mar, which stretches all along the coast of South America. The bay has a 20-mile long inlet from the Atlantic Ocean and is enveloped by green mountains on one shore, while 130 islands poke out of the bay as the tops of submerged hills. An enchanting granite rock on the shore, named by the Portuguese Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf), reaches 1,299 feet in height, while the tallest mountain in the range, the Corcovado (The Hunchback), reaches 2,300 feet. 

The harbor also goes by the name Guanabara, named so by the Tamoio peoples, which means "arm of the sea." Although the location along the harbor was rocky and full of swamps, it became a rivalled possession by the French, and later by the Portuguese, who took over in 1560. In March of 1565, the Portuguese founded their own city at Rio de Janeiro which they named Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro, in honor of St. Sebastian, where farming, sugarcane, and later gold enriched the economy and caused a population boom. Later, coffee, cotton and rubber became the largest exports from the area. 

The symbol of the city, the Christ monument stands atop Corvocado. Its construction was sponsored by donations from a crusade organized in 1921 by the Catholic Circle of Rio who collected donations and signatures to support the erection of this enormous statue. Completed in 1931, "Christ the Redeemer" was constructed out of reinforced concrete and laminated with soapstone to stand at 130 feet, with a 98 feet arm span, and weighing in 635 tons.

Cable Car to the Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Image credit: Donatas Dabravolskas/Shutterstock.com

Visiting The Harbor

One of the best ways to soak in the beauty of this harbor and its surrounding area is through the skies. For this, one can use the helicopter rides and for the more adventurous tourists there are provisions for hang gliders. Overlooking the harbor, there are the peaks of the Sugar Loaf and Corcovado Mountains; from where one can get a panoramic view of the harbor and the surrounding scenic landscape. From the Sugar Loaf Mountains, the visitors get to see the beautiful beaches which line the harbor. The higher Corcovado mountain peak offers one to witness the famous Christ the Redeemer Monument.

The ideal time for exploring this natural wonder is during the months of September and October. At this time, the weather remains quite pleasant and is not much humid. 

The Great Barrier Reef 

Aerial view of Heart Reef in the Great Barrier Reef, far north Queensland, Australia. Image credit: Deb22/Shutterstock.com

  • The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest living structure.
  • It supports incredible biodiversity. Nearly 10% of the world's fish species inhabit the reef.
  • It is one of the world's most threatened ecosystems due to coral bleaching caused by ocean acidification.

Known as one of the richest and most complex natural systems on Earth, it is no wonder that the Australian Great Barrier Reef is an awe-inspiring natural site not only for its beauty. The life it supports includes 1,625 species of fish, more than 3,000 species of molluscs, 630 species of starfish and sea urchins, 14 species of sea snakes, 215 species of birds, six of the world's seven species of marine turtle, 30 species of whales and dolphins, dugongs (a medium-sized marine mammal), and 133 species of sharks and rays. Sadly, many of these species are endangered. 

For over 40,000 years, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have fished and hunted in the waters of this reef. It is documented that Captain Cook was the first European to sail the Great Barrier Reef in 1770, stopping for six weeks on June 11 to repair his ship, the Endeavour, which got stuck in one of the coral frames. Nevertheless, it also remains widely accepted that the French provided even earlier documentations of the reef. 

At over 115,800 square miles (300,000 square km), this largest reef in the world encompasses over 3,000 reef systems ranging from one hectare to over 10,000 hectares, incorporates 600 islands, and stretches for over 1,864 miles (3,000km) of the Queensland coast. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Act was established in 1975 by the Australian government, imposing regulations on recreational and environmental procedures aimed at sustainability. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has since committed to preserving the rights of the Aboriginal populations, allowing them to continue traditional use of the reef and its biodiversity. It was declared a World Heritage area in 1981 and included in the National Heritage list in 2007.

Scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef. Image credit: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock.com

Visiting The Great Barrier Reef

Every year tourists come to the Great Barrier Reef to experience a great adventure and witness its magic. One can dive and snorkel in the reef and feel this natural wonder among the colourful fishes and turtles; one can also explore its complex beauty through glass bottomed boats and out of the windows of the semi-submersibles. The tourists can also marvel at the pure turquoise waters and the beautiful corals from high above in the scenic flights.

The ideal time for visiting this natural wonder is between June and October. These winter and spring months offer optimum weather and living conditions for the tourists. 

Victoria Falls 

A scenic view of the Victoria Falls. Image credit: Shutterstock.com

  • It is the world's largest falling sheet of water. 500 million litres of water (equivalent of 200 Olympic-sized pools) cascade down the falls per minute. 
  • Victoria Falls is one of the best sites to watch a spray moonbow.
  • The waterfall and its surrounding highly biodiverse habitat is protected by two national parks - the Victoria Falls National Parl and Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park.

Victoria Falls, located on the Zambezi River on the Zimbabwe-Zambia border, is, by some standards, the grandest waterfall in the world at 5,500 feet at its widest point and with a drop of 355 feet. Its flow is 33,000 cubic feet per second, spilling 600 million cubic litres of water over the precipice every minute. This natural wonder, named a World Heritage Site in 1989, was a scene to behold that no Europeans had ever witnessed before 1855. Originally named the Mosi-oa-Tunya by the locals, which means "The Smoke That Thunders," it was renamed by David Livingstone, a British explorer, after England's Queen. During his travels to the African continent, he also earned himself the honour of having the nearby city named after him. 

The various species of the region's wildlife can be found in the neighboring Chobe National Park, including the acacia, teak, ivory palm, fig, and ebony composing the flora in the forests of the region. The flatlands are dominated by mopane trees featuring distinct leaf shapes that look as if the leaves have been intentionally cut in half. The region is also home to the only rainforest in the world where rain falls every day. 

Near the falls, it is common to see klipspringers from the family of Alcelaphinae (antelopes), as well as hippopotamuses. The nearing forests and grasslands of the region are home to elephants, giraffes, zebras, horned gnus (or wildebeests), lions, and leopards.The best view of the falls is reserved to the winged representatives, including buzzards, falcons and eagles that can often be caught flying over the falls, having inhabited the rock cliffs at higher altitudes. 

Tourists fly over the Victoria Falls on the trikes. Africa, Zambia, Victoria Falls. Image credit: Gudkov Andrey/Shutterstock.com

Visiting The Victoria Falls

The falls are best viewed from the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park and the Zambezi National Park that border the falls.

Tourists can marvel at the scenic beauty of the Victoria Falls from the air; as water from the Victoria Falls dives into a parallel running gorge, with spray going up in the air. This also leads to the formation of rains, rainbows and the famous “smoke” which is visible from a distance. 

The Victoria Falls area can be visited throughout the year, but one gets to experience the scenic beauty differently, depending upon the season in which one visits. The falls would look more dramatic with high volume of water during the rainy season from December-March. 

Paricutin Volcano 

Paricutin. Image credit: Rubi Rodriguez Martinez/Shutterstock
  • The birth of the volcano witnessed by humankind in 1943 when it suddenly emerged from the cornfield of a farmer near the city of Uruapan in the Mexican state of Michoacán.
  • It allowed scientists to document the full life cycle of a volcano from its beginning days for the first time ever.
  • It was active for a while, now extinct, and now a major tourist attraction in the region.

Standing almost 10,000 feet tall in West-central Mexico, the cinder cone volcano, Paricutin, is a natural world wonder for being the youngest volcano: its birth was witnessed by humanity. It grew three-fourths of its size in its first year before human eyes in 1943. 

Composed mainly of magma and ash in various proportions, volcanoes grow by two processes: intrusion and extrusion. Intrusion moves the magma from the ground up the volcano, causing balloon-like growth to occur from the inside. Extrusion happens following an eruption, when hot lava spills out and solidifies in ashes (cinder) on its slopes.  

Paricutin began spurting lava in 1943, burying two villages and destroying hundreds of homes, as it grew to 1,475 feet in its first year. With the eruptions continuing periodically until 1952, Paricutin experienced significant growth to reach its maximum height. The volcano remained dormant ever since.

Town site of Paricutín — buried under the volcanic debris of an eruption of Paricutin Volcano, in Michoacán. Image credit: Rolf Cosar/Wikimedia.org

Visiting The Paricutin Volcano

One can visit the Paricutin Volcano with the help of a guided trek from the Angahuan village. One can also take a horse trek around the fields at the volcano base and then hike to ascend the crater of the volcano. At the top it is possible to walk around the crater and be a witness to this natural wonder. 

The ideal time for exploring it is between January to April, when there are ideal weather conditions with less rainfall. 

The Grand Canyon 

Grand Canyon. Image credit: Galyna Andrushko/Shutterstock
  • It is the world's most spectacular canyon. Its sheer size and grandeur makes it the world's most famous canyon.
  • Contrary to popular belief, it is not the world's deepest canyon. That title goes to the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon of Tibet.
  • The Grand Canyon creates its own weather. The weather varies significantly and suddenly from one part of the canyon to another.

Located in Arizona, the Colorado Plateau was once the floor of a shallow sea, where today one can still find fossilized snails, corals and shellfish from 20 million years ago, when the sea retreated. Six million years ago, the Colorado River changed its course to flow through the Plateau; empowered by the melted ice from the ice age, it eroded the stone, as well as gained more tributaries which caused other indents in the region. Two million years ago, the Grand Canyon formed at over 6,000 feet deep. Today it is only 500 feet higher than its bottom.

Having only been marvelled at for thousands of years by the Indigenous, who even occupied one if its gorges, the Cataract Canyon, it was García López de Cárdenas from Spain who told the Europeans about the Grand Canyon after his expedition in 1540 to find gold in Cibola, or present-day New Mexico. 

Later, in 1868, an American geologist and explorer, John Wesley Powell, began his trip from the Green River in Wyoming, making way into the Colorado River to end up in the famed gorge, where he and his crew had to battle more than 200 rapids. Having already lost many instruments and much of the food supply along the way, it was difficult to take scientific data, while the crew's morale was also running low. Some men gave up and left the boat, climbing the steep canyon walls, and it appears they were killed by the Indigenous whose territory they came upon. Powell finished this first expedition of the region on August 13, 1969, but commenced more trips to gather the data. 

Tourists at Grand Canyon. Image credit: Maridav/Shutterstock.com

Visiting The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon National Park is split into The South Rim and The North Rim. By car the distance between the two rims is about four hours. The South Rim is the most visited part because of its more viewpoints, an expansive view of the canyon’s great depth etc. For the visitors who would want to hike as well as photograph this natural wonder, The North Rim might be best suited for them. The most popular attraction of The Grand Canyon happens to be the Skywalk – a glass bridge that extends about 70 feet over the canyon. 

The best time for visiting this natural wonder is during March-May and from September – November. Much of the park remains closed during the winter months (including the North Rim), whereas the South Rim can be visited throughout the year. 

Aurora Borealis 

Aurora Borealis. Image credit: Sylvie Corriveau/Shutterstock
  • It is a unique and enchanting natural phenomenon caused by the interaction between the Earth's magnetic field and charged particles from the sun. 
  • Different ions are responsible for the different colors.
  • The phenomenon can be witnessed at the Earth's magnetic poles. It is called Aurora australis in the southern polar region.

These colorful patches, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays in shades of green, pink, red, yellow, blue, and violet appear above the north pole, and are called the Aurora borealis. The same phenomenon is called Aurora australis in the south, meaning dawn of the north and south, respectively, after Aurora as the goddess of the dawn in Roman mythology. In medieval times, these lights signalled war or famine, while the Inuit believed them to be the spirits the seals, salmon, deer and beluga whales which they hunted for survival. 

The connection that the light from the sun entering the Earth's atmosphere was the culprit of this display was made back in 1880. Electrically-charged particles of freed electrons and protons, also known as solar wind, escape through the holes in the sun's magnetic field and are catapulted from the sun's rotation, towards the Earth's atmosphere, where they collide with gaseous particles to emit the phenomenon seen from the Earth as dancing lights in an irregularly shaped oval centred over each of the magnetic poles.

Scientists determined that northern and southern auroras most often occur at the same time, and are mirror images of each other, both in shapes and colors. The variations in color are determined by the type of particles most present in these collisions. The common yellowish-green light is emitted from the oxygen molecules colliding about 60 miles above the earth's surface. The rare red lights are also oxygen produced, but at altitudes of up to 200 miles, while nitrogen produces blue, purple and magenta shades.

Amazing northern lights dancing over the tepees at Aurora Village in Yellowknife. Image credit: Ken Phung/Shutterstock.com

Witnessing The Aurora Borealis

Aurora borealis is best seen in Yukon, Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Alaska. It has been determined that auroras peak every 11 years, with the next peak period in 2024. 

The ideal time to witness the Northern Lights is during cold, dark nights with clear skies. So the best months to enjoy this magic of nature are from September-mid April. 

The Beauty of the Natural World

These seven natural wonders demonstrate nature's true power: marvels, such as the Paricutin, resilient through times, and immortal, if unmarked by humans. Even the beauty of something as untouchable as the Aurora Borealis, can be diminished by human pollution.

These places also retain the essence of the natural world thousands of years ago: untarnished and unmodified in any way by the human touch. Humanity can only be given credit for enforcing environmental and recreational regulations for the seven natural wonders in the world to preserve their innate beauty for generations to come.

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