Friday, 28 October 2016

Pobiti Kamani: The Stone Forest of Bulgaria

Well, there’s almost 18 km to the west of Varna, Bulgaria, on the road to the capital of Sofia is an amazing natural area named “Pobiti Kamani” or the Stone Forest. In the first glance, it looks like the ruins of an ancient temple, but these broken stone pillars are all natural. The stone columns are scattered in lesser groups across an 8 km long belt along the northern Bulgarian Black Sea coast. 

Although they’re varying in height with some reaching 5 to 7 meters tall, and thickness ranges from 30 centimeters to 3 meters across. Therefore the most inquisitive thing about these pillars is that they are mostly hollow and filled with sand. They don’t have a firm foundation or attached to the bedrock. In its place, they’re insecurely stuck into the surrounding sand as if someone had hammered them into the earth. Moreover, these stones have been identified since the ancient times but in 1828, these were first documented by the scientific community.

Hence, since then, dozens of theories have attempted to clarify their formation, ranging from coral growth to Eocene bubbling reefs, to limestone concretions. Though, one of the most believable explanations comes from the Bulgarian geologist’s brothers Peter and Stefan Bonchev Gochev. The brothers trust that the columns date back to the Cenozoic Era, about 50 million years ago, when much of Eastern Europe was covered by oceans. Sediments and sludge settled to the bottom of the seabed, and were compressed into limestone. However, sometime later methane gases from ancient deposits taking place seeping from the sea bed. As the results they pressurized gases made their way up through the limestone layer, they left behind long tubes. 

Further, millions of years later after the sea receded away; the erosion process of the limestone layer left the tall columns stuck into the ground. The gas-seepage theory doesn’t explain everything, but it’s the best we have. The “Pobiti Kamani” was designated a natural landmark in the late 1930s. Therefore, it was nominated for the “UNESCO World Heritage Site” status in 2011, but hasn’t been able to make the cut.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Frozen Ice Balls of Lake Michighan

Winter is just approaching to the Lakeshore, and with it, all of nature's cold-weather beauty. West Michigan is no stranger to naturally occurring spectacle in the winter months. In the every winter, on the shores of Lake Michigan and on Stroomi beach in northern Tallinn, Estonia, myriads frozen ice balls form naturally.

Ice caverns form along its several piers and lighthouses, gusting wind and ice form strange sand formations on its beaches, and waves repeatedly pummel the shoreline, freezing anything close by in place. Thus, the Ice balls range from a few inches to more than feet across. So, the ice balls form when chunks of ice break off the huge ice sheets that coat parts of the lake in the winter, and as the waves toss the ice blocks around the lake, additional ice forms around them in layers and the ice blocks gets bigger and bigger just like snowballs or hailstones.

The pounding of the waves shape the ice into spheres. Moreover, a related phenomenon is seen on Stroomi beach on the Gulf of Finland. The ice balls can be seen tumbling in the waves, and gradually merging with each other to form larger pieces. If the phenomenon continues, waves will ultimately push the larger, fully-formed ice balls to shore. According to the German news portal Spiegel Online, a very precise condition is required for ice balls to form. Because the sea must also be flat, and the base must not drop precipitously. These surroundings prevail on the Gulf of Finland against Estonia. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

The Colored Pebbles of Lake McDonald

In The Glacier National Park of U.S. state of Montana, close to the border with Canada, is home of over 700 lakes. However, out of them only 131 of these lakes have names and about 200 lakes are over five acres in size, and a dozen of them surpasses thousands of acres, which in rare for mountain lakes. Moreover, the lakes waters are extraordinarily clear, owning to the yearlong low temperatures that forbid the growth of planktons. It is not rare to see details on the bottom of the lakes at depths of 30 feet or more. 

Furthermore, the one of most prominent feature of some lakes is the existence of a variety of colored rocks and pebbles just beneath the water surface and on the shores. Thus the rocks series color varies from maroon to dark red, and from blue to green. However, colored pebbles are seen in plenty on the shores of Lake McDonald on the western side of the park. The stunning lake McDonald is the largest of the lakes of Glacier National Park with a surface area of 6,823 acres, also the longest, at over 15 kilometers, as well as the deepest lake at 141 meters. The Lake McDonald is home to various native species of trout, and other game fish. However, catchable species include, but are not limited to west-slope cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, bull trout, lake trout, Lake Superior whitefish, mountain whitefish, kokanee salmon, and suckers.

The beautiful green rocks can be seen at “Otokomi Lake”, whereas the dark-colored rocks found at the upper end of Lake McDonald, along McDonald Creek and around Trout Lake are the result of subjecting the red and green iron-rich rocks to heat and pressure. These natural rocks are actually all around Glacier National Park, and were created at different eras. Because, when the glaciers came, it broke down the rocks into miniature fragments and the rivers washed them away. Several of these got deposited onto the lakes and "tarns" lakes formed by filling the bottoms of ice-scoured amphitheaters. Although the water erosion then rendered them into smooth pebbles!

Quoting from the book “Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park” by Vicky Spring and Tom Kirkendall:

The rock color is determined by the presence or absence of iron and the bright red rocks found along the Grinnel Glacier trail were deposited in a shallow ocean environment where the iron was oxidized by the tidal exposure to the air. Further, rocks with this coloration frequently have old ripple marks or ancient mud crack lines. The rich green-colored rocks were shaped in deeper water than the red rocks. Though these rocks comprise the same quantities of iron-bearing minerals, they did not have the same revelation to oxygen and the amount of oxidization was limited.